The New England Fishery Management Council is developing an action to consider revisions to the Habitat Management Area on the Northern Edge of Georges Bank. The Council prioritized this work in December 2022 when it established 2023 priorities. On April 18, 2023, the Council approved the goal and objectives for this work and initiated a joint habitat-scallop framework action. On April 16, 2024, the Council approved two spatial concepts for further development as scallop access areas.

The fishing gear restrictions associated with the Habitat Management Area on the Northern Edge are intended to minimize the impacts of fishing on essential fish habitats (EFH) for numerous species. As such, this framework would amend each of the New England Council’s fishery management plans (FMPs) that have a connection to the Habitat Management Area in terms of designated EFH. The affiliated FMPs include scallops, groundfish, herring, monkfish, and skates.

Concept Areas 2 and 4 Advance in Framework for Further Development

Above, Concept Areas to be developed as rotational scallop access area alternatives in the Northern Edge framework. Concept Area 2, top, encompasses dense scallop aggregations along the edge of the bank, north of a section of the HMA with particularly high complexity substrates and dense seafloor fauna. Concept Area 4, bottom, also includes additional areas of scallop biomass to the southwest of the high complexity area. – New England Fishery Management Council graphic

The Northern Edge is roughly defined as the area encompassed within the Closed Area II Habitat Management Area (HMA) and the adjacent portion of the Northern Flank of Georges Bank. – New England Fishery Management Council graphic

The map above shows approximate area sizes for productive scallop grounds (blue outlines) with recent Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data, which is representative of scallop fishing between April and June 2022. The size of the Northern Edge is similar to areas that have experienced concentrated fishing, such as Stellwagen Bank. Area sizes are based on the boundaries used in the Scallop Area Management Simulator (SAMS) model, which is used to project scallop biomass. – New England Fishery Management Council graphic