Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing
Symposium Abstract: Decision Framework for Describing and Identifying EFH, Mitigating Fishing Impacts, and Designating HAPC in Federal Fishery Management Plans
G. B. Parkes, H. B. Lovett, and R. J. Trumble
Environmental impact statements (EISs) require development of a range of reasonable alternatives for the proposed action and a comparative analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of the alternatives. This analysis is a type of risk assessment. In the case of designating essential fish habitat (EFH), three separate ranges of alternatives are required: those to designate EFH for each species and life stage managed by the region in question; methods to reduce or mitigate adverse fishing impacts; and alternatives for the designation of habitats of particular concern (HAPC). A decision framework was designed to (a) facilitate the appropriate identification of alternatives for each of the three suites of actions; (b) incorporate the required criteria (per the EFH Final Rule); and (c) to frame the comparative assessment of the alternatives. The decision framework thus incorporates the following factors. For EFH, four levels of information: (1) distribution data for some or all portions of the geographic range of the species; (2) habitat-related densities of the species where available; (3) growth, reproduction, or survival rates within habitats where available; and (4) production rates by habitat. For methods to reduce or mitigate adverse fishing impacts: (1) does the fishing activity have an adverse impact; (2) is the adverse impact minimal; and (3) is the adverse impact temporary? For designation of HAPC: (1) the ecological importance provided by the habitat; (2) the sensitivity of the habitat to human-induced environmental degradation; (3) the extent that development activities are or will be stressing the habitat; and (4) the rarity of the habitat type.