Federal ocean regulators say they have approved most of a proposal to change the rules about how they manage New England ocean habitat.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has spent more than a decade working on the changes, which mean significant changes for the way the agency regulates valuable species such as scallops. A spokeswoman says the agency approved the changes on Wednesday.

The changes apply to the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and southern New England waters.

Some environmentalists say they are glad the government ultimately balked at part of the proposal that would have opened part of Georges Bank that has been closed to commercial fishing for more than 20 years.

The habitat changes still need to be finalized and are expected to go into effect this year.

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