MMO requires information on essential fish habitats to support marine management. Information on spawning and nursery areas exists for a number of fish species, however there are gaps for some species and some geographic locations. This has been highlighted by the development of marine plans at a regional scale for English waters. MMO contracted IECS at the University of Hull to develop a model of essential fish habitats which was produced in 2013. This was updated with new data and the use of it was discussed with partner agencies in 2016.
Knowledge of essential fish habitats would also support licensing decisions. Currently information on particular fish stocks is provided in applications and advised on by our statutory advisors however, information is lacking on some locations and fish stocks. A dynamic model using best available evidence whose use is agreed with experts and government bodiescould provide some evidence to inform this gap.
This evidence could also be used to inform management of habitats within marine protected areas.
MMO would like the model to become operational by securing the support of stakeholders and ensuring the model has the latest data incorporated. It is also required that the model become dynamic so that as more data becomes available the model can be updated.