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

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch157

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.