Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Symposium Abstract: Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) in Alaska: Issues in Consistency and Efficiency When Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to Evaluate Effects to EFH

R. F. Reuter, C. C. Coon, J. V. Olson, and M. Eagleton

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch127

The NMFS Alaska Region is presently drafting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives to develop the mandatory Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) provisions. The process of updating habitat definitions and creating maps that describe EFH have led to basic questions about the standardization of map criteria. Although national EFH GIS standards are suggested, there are regional differences, which will require specific standards for map criteria, such as projections, map features, and categories. Currently within the Alaska Region, research and GIS data are summarized by management areas (e.g., Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands), which share common features such as depth, but do not necessarily overlap between areas. For an Alaska Region project, such as the EFH EIS, an overall standard to make map production efficient is needed. Therefore, interpretation of the data sets and maps will be consistent. The standardization will assist NMFS scientists delineate EFH habitat types, depth strata, and species distributions. Additionally, the overlays will provide background layers to assist fishery resource managers in identifying possible effects to EFH. Thus, the completed GIS EFH product will allow NMFS to visually present how management decisions may appear in a geographic reference. This poster presents an example of resolving these issues.