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New datasystem introduced to map Atlantic fishing areas

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is announcing a new process for making public Geographic Information Systems (GIS) files. NMFS is announcing in the Federal Register of Monday, May 5, 2014 that it is how it plans to make the files available through its Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO). The GIS system collects, keeps analyzes manages and presents all types of geographic data.

NMFS, an office of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, says that over the last decade, requests for the data and requests for geospacial information have steadily increased. So GARFO standardized it for areas it manages. The office uses the Federal Geographic Data Committee Standards to compile metadata.

It puts the files in an ESRI shapefile format, using straight lines to determine boundaries between regulatory areas. While the system uses coordinates, errors may occur in the boundary areas if endpoints are used. So NMFS developed a tool that uses a formula to minimize errors.

The data will be presented as zipped files. The take the form of ESRI shapefiles for each region. NMFS will make them public on its website as soon as they are available. Files will include the shapefile and metadata. Information will also be available via PDF.

NMFS will provide a reference map so enquirers can pinpoint the areas they are interested in. For questions, contact Geographic Information Specialist Dean Szumylo, (978) 281-9479, dean.szumylo@noaa.gov. NMFS said it would accept public comments at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0049. But strangely, it took the information down at least temporarily from the site. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon. Or send comments by mail to NMFS, GARPO, 55 Great Republic Dr., Gloucester, MA 01930, ATTN: GIS Committee.

The information will be publicly available on the website. The site shows in which areas which fishing activities are prohibited or allowed in the Atlantic Region. It maps locations of threatened and endangered species and critical habitats.

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