In 1976, Congress passed into law the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) which authorized the United States the rights to manage its fishery resources out to 200 miles off its coast. Regional Councils were established and charged to prepare fishery management plans (FMPs) for every fishery that required management. The Gulf of Alaska (GOA) FMP, established in 1978 and the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) FMP, established in 1981, were two of the earliest FMPs in the country. Since then, the GOA and BSAI FMPs have been amended more than 50 times, each requiring a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and depending on the significance of the issue, either an Environmental Assessment (EA) or a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared and approved.
In the early 1990s, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) began to recognize that the original GOA and BSAI EISs were severely out of date because in Alaska, scientists were documenting changes to the physical and biological environments since the EISs were prepared. In 1999, NMFS undertook a comprehensive review of the FMPs for the GOA and BSAI regions and initial findings were summarized in 2001 in the Draft Programmatic Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (PSEIS).
Chapter 3, volume II Section 3.2 “Fishing Gear Effects on Substrates and Benthic Communities” sets the baseline that the PSEIS uses to describe the effects of alternative fishing gears on benthic habitat and thus build a rationale for the benefits it ascribes to the habitat protection alternatives in the PSEIS.