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New Maps Highlight Where Fishing Communities Use the Mid-Atlantic Ocean

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Exciting new data was recently released for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal that provides decision-makers and ocean users with a greater understanding of commercial fisheries.  Specifically, new maps show Communities at Sea that highlight specific ports, fisheries, and gear type that are important in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. These maps are based on the methodology developed by Dr. Kevin St. Martin of Rutgers University and are more than two years in the making.

A federal agency staffer or state decision-maker can now click on the Communities at Sea data layers to understand, for example, where gillnetters from a particular port location fish.  As any fisherman will tell you, the fish they follow don’t know or care about state boundaries. Fishermen, whose home port is in Newport News, Virginia, are also likely fishing in federal waters off the coast of New York.  That means the decisions made off the coast of New York also affect communities and ports in other locations.  This new tool developed to support the Mid-Atlantic regional ocean plan ensures fishermen, and the space they occupy on the water, are represented in the data and as part of the ocean plan.

As part of the ocean planning process, fishermen also requested that the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal include maps that highlight the fishery management zones including those for ocean quahogs, surf clams and scallops.

Additional datasets added to the Portal use the Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) on board fishing vessels, which tracks vessel movement, to show where commercial fishing activity occurs. Datasets are grouped by specific categories such as scallops, herring, or monkfish.  This Mid-Atlantic VMS data is used courtesy of Northeast ocean planning colleagues and can be found on both the Northeast Ocean Data Portal and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal.

The collective value of these new maps is extensive. This data can help guide engagement with specific fishing communities when a potential management or permitting process occurs in the waters where they fish. This type of targeted engagement is a step to ensure fishermen have a voice in the development activity affecting their fishing grounds and a crucial step to avoid future ocean use conflicts.

Read the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal team’s blog for more information on the methods behind the Communities at Sea data.  A guided tour of the new datasets and other fishing-related maps available on the Portal is set for June 21, click here for more information.

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