WASHINGTON, D.C. / ACCESSWIRE / November 2, 2022 / Data presented to the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) last month provide the latest evidence that long-closed areas of the Northwest Atlantic can be sustainably opened to the scallop fishery. The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF), which represents the vast majority of full-time Atlantic sea scallop fishermen, has long believed that these areas can be safely opened, and supports efforts to do so in light of this new evidence.
The Northern Edge of Georges Bank (more formally known as Closed Area II Habitat Area of Particular Concern), has been closed to all commercial fishing activity since 1994. Beginning in 2016, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, with assistance from members of the fishing industry, conducted a long-term, before and after experiment, fishing certain areas of the Northern Edge, and comparing their recovery over a six year period with areas that had not been disturbed. The study focused on the recovery of prominent habitat features, as well as the abundance and diversity of species in the fished areas.
The findings of that study were presented this month to the Council and the results were clear: there is little long-term impact on most habitats from scallop fishing in these areas. After only two years, sand and gravel habitats had recovered fully to their pre-fished state, and by the six-year mark more complex habitats showed virtually no difference compared to unfished areas. In some metrics, the recovered areas actually rated higher than untouched areas.
"This is some of the strongest evidence you can get that resuming fishing in the Northern Edge will not cause long-term damage to the environment," said Andrew Minkiewicz, an attorney with the Fisheries Survival Fund. "The science fully supports moving forward with a limited opening of these areas."
The study specifically looked at the impacts of fishing on things like epifauna (species like sponges and mussels that are integral to complex habitats), species abundance, and species diversity. In some of the areas fished, the abundance of one of the monitored species, monkfish, had increased, and was more abundant in the fished areas than the unfished areas.
The conclusions of the report itself suggested that some form of limited opening may be appropriate, while still providing protections for more complex habitats, stating that it "may be possible to target specific low complexity homogenous habitats for opening a limited fishery where scallop abundance is high." FSF urges the Council to consider this conclusion and to move forward on opening the area.
The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF) was established in 1998 to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Atlantic sea scallop fishery. FSF participants include the vast majority of full-time Atlantic scallop fishermen from Maine to North Carolina. FSF works with academic institutions and independent scientific experts to foster cooperative research and to help sustain this fully rebuilt fishery. FSF also works with the federal government to ensure that the fishery is responsibly managed.
Stove Boat Communications
SOURCE: Fisheries Survival Fund