Globally, marine biodiversity and fish stocks face multiple threats. Unsustainable fishing practices pressure some fish stocks. Increased temperature and acidification of ocean waters caused by climate change impede development or compel habitat migration of fish and shellfish. Land use policies that do little to prevent shoreline real estate development compromise sensitive marine ecosystems. Eutrophication and pollution caused by runoff impacts plant and animal species diversity, water quality, and vitality of the aquatic ecology.
Agencies including EOEEA’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), and MassDEP are responsible for marine fishing regulations and conservation efforts that balance economic activity in the seafood industry with aquatic species and habitat management, preservation, and restoration. Significant conservation efforts by these agencies and others have helped maintain the remarkable biodiversity of the State.1 Sustainable fishing operation practices also contribute to improved biodiversity. The small scale of these operations naturally limits the impacts on species stocks, and expanding markets for underutilized species means that more by-catch is landed. Increasingly, the benefits of shellfish habitat restoration are being recognized as important to habitat restoration and a growing industry. Restoration projects improve water quality, remove excess nutrients from coastal ecosystems, and provide spawning habitat for commercial fishing species. In the face of the complex pressures to species stocks and habitat in Massachusetts waters, ongoing efforts must be supported to anticipate impacts and work proactively to protect marine ecosystems.