Stories From The Field

Creating Fisheries Regulatory Boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico

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Issue

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service assesses and predicts the status of fish stocks and enforces regulations to promote sustainable fisheries. The Southeast Regional Office (SERO) of NOAA Fisheries works closely with a number of regional fishery management councils to develop fishery management plans. Developing geographic files to show the spatial extent of any closures or other regulatory boundaries in the plans is important so the public and coastal managers can analyze the boundaries with other relevant layers. SERO needs authoritative ocean data to develop the spatial footprints for the closure areas.

Process

To fill this need, SERO uses authoritative federal data from MarineCadastre.gov to develop geographic representations of fishery closure areas in the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is used as the outer boundary and the state Submerged Lands Act line of three to nine nautical miles is used as the inner boundary for many closure areas. These authoritative data are critical in creating GIS layers for regulatory boundaries for fisheries. The closure data for the Gulf of Mexico have been integrated into the Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas, which is designed to help provide answers to questions related to the physical environment, marine resources, and economic activity in the Gulf. The information includes physical, biotic, and living marine resources; economic activity; environmental quality; and jurisdictional data. Maps and GIS data pertaining to SERO are available.

Impact

The GIS-based maps of fishery closure areas provide a quick and easy way for commercial and recreational fishermen, fishery managers, enforcement agencies, and the U.S. Coast Guard to visualize the closures without having to interpret the complex Code of Federal Regulations.

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The Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas using MarineCadastre.gov data.
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