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Welcome to EcoSpecies

The intended audience for this site includes Fishermen, Scientists, Fisheries Managers, Coastal Zone Managers, Consultants, Public Outreach, and Media.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), which was reauthorized and amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996, requires the eight regional fishery management councils to describe and identify essential fish habitat (EFH) in their respective regions, to specify actions to conserve and enhance that EFH, and to minimize the adverse effects of fishing on EFH. Congress defined EFH as “those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity.”

NOAA Fisheries has taken a broad view of habitat as the areas used by fish throughout their life cycle. Fish use habitat for spawning, feeding, nursery, migration, and shelter, but most habitats provide only a subset of these functions. Fish may change habitats with changes in life history stage, seasonal and geographic distributions, abundance, and interactions with other species. The type of habitat, as well as its attributes and functions, are important for sustaining the production of managed species.

NOAA Fisheries provided guidance to the regional fishery management councils for identifying and describing EFH of their managed species. Consistent with this guidance, the species reports require information on current and historic stock sizes, geographic range, and the period and location of major life history stages. The habitats of managed species should be described by the physical, chemical, and biological components of the ecosystem where the species occur. Information on the habitat requirements for each species are required for each life history stage, and include, where available, habitat and environmental variables that control or limit distribution, abundance, growth, reproduction, mortality, and productivity. Updating and review of the EFH components of the councils’ Fishery Management Plans is required at least every 5 years by the NOAA Fisheries Guidelines for meeting the Sustainable Fisheries Act/EFH Final Rule.

The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) has compiled available information on the distribution, abundance, and habitat requirements for many of the species managed by the Council (SAFMC 1998). Further information about benthic habitats and species important for the recreational and commercial fisheries were compiled in the Fisheries Ecosystem Plan (FEP) created for the South Atlantic Region (SAFMC FEP2009). Information about the various fisheries in the Region are also summarized.

The SAFMC contracted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to create an Internet Map Server (IMS) linked to the SAFMC web site. The IMS serves maps of benthic habitats and species distributions for fish and invertebrates fished in the U.S. South Atlantic Region over the Internet. The IMS also provides maps concerning the spatial distributions of catches and landings within the Region.

To further enhance the information needed to support EFH and the FEP, the SAFMC contracted FWC-FWRI in 2012 to create a database called Ecospecies. Ecospecies builds on an earlier database created by FWRI called the Florida Estuarine Living Marine Resources (FLELMR) system (Rubec et al. 1997). FLELMR was created in collaboration with the NOAA/NOS Strategic Environmental Assessments Division as a statewide application of NOAA’s Estuarine Living Marine Resources (ELMR) system. FLELMR has comprehensive species life history (SLH) profiles that summarize information from both primary and secondary (gray) literature. In addition to fish-habitat information, it includes information about population status and stock assessments for species that were not part of the ELMR SLH profiles (Patillo et al. 1997). FWC-FWRI has created a web-enabled Ecospecies database that includes SLH profiles organized by the FLELMR SLH outline. It presently included over 90 SLH profiles for fish and invertebrates important to the fisheries and the food-webs supporting the fisheries in the U.S. South Atlantic.

Major components that Ecospecies provides include the following: Taxonomy, Geographic Range, Benthic Habitat, Water Column Habitat, Food Habits, Reproduction, Growth, Value and Status, Stock Enhancement, Population, Ecological Interactions, and Human Impacts. Citations and references are available for each database entry.

Fishermen will be interested in sections that indicate where fish might be located, both for fishing and for nursery areas. Scientists can use the basic information and the citations to locate more in-depth data in a particular area. Managers can have rapid access to concise summaries, as well as the ability to correlate proposed actions with species likely to be affected by those actions. Short summary and overview information is provided for more casual readers.

Patillo, M.E., T.E. Czapla, D.M. Nelson, and M.E. Monaco. 1997. Distribution and Abundance of Fishes and Invertebrates in Gulf of Mexico Estuaries Volume II: Species Life History Summaries. Estuarine Living Marine Resources Report Number 11, NOAA/NOS Strategic Environmental Assessments Division, Silver Spring, Maryland, 377 pp.

Rubec, P.J., M.E. Monaco, and J.D. Christensen. 1997. The FLELMR Spatial Decision Support System for Coastal Resources Management. Pages, 135-138, In: GIS ‘97, 11th Annual Symposium on Geographic Information Systems, held 17-20 February 1997 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

SAFMC. 1998. Habitat Plan For The South Atlantic Region: Essential Fish Habitat Requirements For Fishery Management Plans Of The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Charleston, South Carolina.

SAFMC FEP. 2009. Fishery Ecosystem Plan of the South Atlantic Region Volume I: Introduction and Overview, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, North Charleston, South Carolina, 46 pp.

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