Alaska Fisheries Science Center Essential Fish Habitat Data Inventory, Processed Report 2009-01
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is the primary law regulating marine fisheries management in the United States. This Act includes a requirement to define the essential fish habitat (EFH) of all federally managed species. Since passage of the Act in 1996, scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) have conducted diverse research projects that address this requirement. In many cases, these studies have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. However much of the data have not been assembled in a readily accessible and centralized location, thereby limiting their overall utility.
In July 2005, the newly formed Habitat and Ecological Processes Research (HEPR) Program convened a meeting of AFSC staff to discuss EFH research in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), Bering Sea (BS), and Aleutian Islands (AI) regions. Meeting participants identified creation of an AFSC habitat data inventory as a high priority. In particular, participants felt that a habitat data inventory would be useful for communicating AFSC habitat research and would also facilitate future data analyses and EFH research.
A workshop was held 20-21 September 2007 at the AFSC in Seattle, Washington. Workshop objectives were to: (1) inventory habitat data sets; (2) promote collaborative use of these data through greater awareness and accessibility; and (3) informally discuss EFH research and management issues. The workshop was attended by 27 individuals representing five AFSC Divisions, the Alaska Regional Office, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the environmental group Oceana. The workshop conveners were Bob McConnaughey, John Olson and Jon Heifetz. The meeting agenda, participants and minutes are found in Appendix A.
Meeting participants presented summaries of the habitat data sets. Next, Eric Boerner of the AFSC’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory presented lessons learned and practical insights from a similar exercise to catalog and share terrestrial environmental data among various scientific and public user groups (Appendix B). This presentation was followed by a structured group discussion that was specific to the needs for improved awareness of and accessibility to Alaska EFH data. Finally, participants discussed practical issues such as the need for more and better metadata, the desirability of greater research collaboration, and possible methods for integrating habitat studies conducted at substantially different spatial scales.