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Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Rolls out New Geographic Information for Public Use

Screenshot of a potential search. Photo credit: NOAA

The management and conservation of marine resources relies on geographically-based data. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) help resource managers and others capture, store, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. GIS also provides us with the tools to communicate the information contained within the system through the use of graphics. 

If you use GIS, you know what a shapefile is. But if you don’t, you may not be familiar with the term. Simply put, a shapefile makes it possible to display complex geographic information easily. Geographic features in a shapefile can be represented by points, lines, or polygons (areas). 

On May 1, NOAA Fisheries released shapefiles containing geospatial data for 80 regulated areas in New England and Mid-Atlantic waters - approximately one third of all regulated areas managed by our regional office.  You can access these files on our GIS Data & Charts Homepage

“We produced these files because an increasing number of people, both inside our agency and in academic institutions and other government agencies work with GIS data,” said John Bullard, regional administrator, NOAA Fisheries. “This will be a valuable tool for people who are engaged in activities like marine spatial planning or other research, permitting or management activities. They will be able to better determine where their own activities overlap with NOAA Fisheries’ regulated areas.”

Users of GIS information now are able to download GIS shapefiles, metadata, and reference maps of these areas (to allow for ease of locating needed information) for the following:

To better understand how the shapefiles are working for users, we plan to take a phased approach to rolling out shapefiles for all of our regulatory areas. Over the next several months, we will provide access to expanded information for other fisheries and protected species including:  American Lobster; Atlantic Large Whales; Harbor Porpoise; Monkfish; and Groundfish.

Ultimately, we anticipate making public shapefiles for more than 240 regulated areas. We will continue to add new shapefiles when regulations change.   

An important reminder for users of these shapefiles -- they are not a substitute for actual regulations.  Shapefiles provide a general depiction of a subset of applicable fishing regulations, restrictions and requirements, not the complete set of regulations. As a result, users are encouraged to read the applicable regulations in conjunction with use of these data.