Fishery regulators are remapping the federal waters off New England’s coast to protect sensitive habitat.

Some areas that have long been closed to fishing could be reopened, while other fishing grounds could be closed. In some places, specific fishing gear, such as trawl nets that are dragged on the ocean floor, would be banned.

Federal law requires the designation of protected habitat, and those areas must be updated to reflect the most current research, said Michelle Bachman, an analyst with the New England Fishery Management Council.

That panel will have to weigh the interests of competing groups and values, she said.

Not only do conservationists and fishermen disagree, Bachman said, but some groups of fishermen stand to benefit while other groups could suffer, depending on the gear they use and the fish they catch.

“It’s a matter of perspective on where you are coming from,” she said. “It’s going to be a matter of finding out who the winners and losers should be.”

Researchers have been working on the controversial project for a decade, and a draft proposal is expected to be published in September. After a public comment period, the New England Fishery Management Council will make a recommendation to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The new regulations could take effect in the fall of 2015.

The council, which oversees commercial fishing in federal waters off New England, includes state and federal representatives. Its current chairman is Terry Stockwell, director of external affairs for the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Bachman presented an overview of a draft proposal Wednesday in Portland. The council is meeting at the Holiday Inn By the Bay this week.

The proposal, in a binder that’s about 6 inches thick, is called the Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2 because it would affect every fishery under the council’s control, including herring, Atlantic salmon, skates, red carp, scallops and groundfish.

The areas off Maine that are being considered for designation include Jeffreys Bank, Cashes Ledge and Bigelow Bight.

Off Massachusetts, the areas include Jeffreys Ledge and Stellwagen Bank, Georges Bank and the Great South Channel.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and other conservation organizations are concerned about the proposals, which they believe could slash habitat protections by as much as 70 percent.

Last year, when the council proposed eliminating protection for some closed areas, more than 100 prominent scientists signed a letter of protest, said Jeff Young, a spokesman for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Scientists have made it clear that such a reversal on habitat would be detrimental,” Young said.

One area proposed for designation is the easternmost waters of the United States, just offshore from Machias. The area, known as the “gray zone,” is disputed territory because both United States and Canada claim jurisdiction.

Kristan Porter, 44, who fishes for scallops in those waters, drove from his home in Cutler to Portland to tell Bachman not to interfere with fishing in the gray zone.

He said he sees Canadian fishermen there every day, and they wouldn’t be affected by the new rules because they don’t recognize U.S. authority.

“All we would do by closing that is give that over to Canada,” he said. “I don’t know why we would be doing that.”

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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