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You are here : Background  >  Natural Resources  >  Commercial Fishing & Recreational Interests
Ensuring Access and Public Safety
Many people near the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico use and depend on the ocean for commercial and recreational purposes. The ocean areas within the Study Area are used for a variety of recreational activities, such as charter and tour boats, surfing, fishing and diving. Waters all along the coast in the Study Area are popular for commercial and sport fishing, recreational diving, and other recreational activities, which are important social and economic activities. These industries support large numbers of fishermen, boat operators, and recreational boaters. The ocean areas of the range complexes also support other important activities related to shipping, scientific, cultural, and institutional purposes.
Public Safety Measures

While commercial and recreational activities are important, it is also important for Navy personnel to train realistically to protect themselves, the United States, and its allies. The Navy strives to conduct its activities in a manner that is compatible with commercial and recreational ocean and airspace users. The Navy is committed to providing continued access to surface water areas and airspace off the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico. However, for the public’s safety, the use of certain ocean areas may need to be temporarily limited during some training and testing activities. With the exception of exclusive use or restricted areas, the public has access during periods when military activities are not scheduled.

The Navy provides advance notice of their training and testing schedules to federal regulatory agencies, which helps the public to plan accordingly and ensures safety. Ocean users are able to access the U.S. Coast Guard’s Local Notice to Mariners website. The published schedules notify the public and allow them to adjust their routes to avoid temporarily restricted areas. Temporary access restrictions (usually lasting between two to six hours) occur when the Navy restricts public use of certain ocean areas during training or testing activities for the safety of commercial and recreational users.

If civilian vessels are within a restricted area at the time of a scheduled activity, Navy personnel will continue activities and avoid the vessels if it is safe and possible to do so. If avoidance is not safe or possible, the Navy activity may relocate or be delayed. In some instances where safety requires exclusive use of a specific area, civilian users in the area will be asked to relocate to a safer area for the duration of the activity.

Favored fishing areas change over time with fluctuations in fish populations and communities, preferred target species, or fishing modes and styles. Popular fishing sites are characterized by relative ease of access, ability to anchor or secure the boat, and abundant presence of target fish. Commercially, fishing efforts in the Study Area include lobsters, crabs, scallops, shrimp, squid, and fish. The number of pounds of fish caught has been decreasing since 1994, although the total value of fish caught has increased. Recreationally, the most commonly caught non-bait fish from the Atlantic coast states were summer flounder, bluefish, Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, and scup. In the Gulf of Mexico, the most commonly caught non-bait fish were spotted seatrout, red drum, sand seatrout, Atlantic croaker, and Spanish mackerel.

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