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NOAA Next Generation Strategic Plan—Healthy Habitat Objective
Healthy Oceans—Marine fisheries, habitats, and biodiversity sustained within healthy and productive ecosystems.
Healthy habitats that sustain resilient and thriving marine resources and communities.
Healthy marine, coastal, and riverine systems provide valuable habitats for the species that humans value for economic and non-economic uses. Humans use these places for renewal, for swimming, recreational fishing, and a host of other activities. And habitats provide the basis of many other ecosystem benefits, such as control of pests and pathogens, protection of coastal areas from storm damage, and nutrient cycling. Thoughtful and appropriate management of these areas is vital to ensuring that treasured locations maintain their value and ecosystem functioning remains intact in the face of human and natural changes to these systems.
Healthy habitats are critical for sustaining healthy marine ecosystems. NOAA has broad habitat conservation responsibilities that include protecting and restoring essential fish habitat under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and the critical habitat of species listed under the ESA. These requirements are intended to ensure that key habitats are identified, protected, and restored to support important species. However, in carrying out these and other conservation mandates, NOAA is not only sustaining healthy marine ecosystems, but also supporting other valuable ecosystem services. Recreational opportunities, stabilized shorelines, reduced erosion, and buffered impacts of hurricanes and flooding are all benefits of healthy habitats. NOAA will increase the scale and effectiveness of habitat conservation to improve marine, coastal, and riverine habitats and the ecosystem services they provide.
To achieve this objective, NOAA will apply robust habitat science to develop effective policy measures, strengthen collaboration among all NOAA programs engaged in habitat conservation, and enhance capacity to support conservation actions. NOAA and its partners will use rigorous assessments of habitat quantity, quality, and integrity to prioritize marine, coastal, and riverine habitats that support Federal trust species (that is, threatened or endangered species, interjurisdictional fish, marine mammals, and other species of concern) for conservation actions.
NOAA will also focus protection and restoration efforts in key geographic areas. Measuring social and economic impacts of habitat conservation and restoration efforts will provide policy makers with key information to develop effective management plans. Working with NOAA’s own climate service information, as well as academic and Agency partners, NOAA will develop and implement habitat adaptation strategies to reduce the effects of a changing climate on habitat conditions. This will support fishery management, ecosystem, and recovery plans that incorporate appropriate habitat conservation measures, and will ensure financial and technical assistance for on-the-ground conservation projects.
During the next five years, evidence of progress toward this objective will include:
- Increased protection and restoration of habitats to enhance vital ecosystem services
- Habitat conservation targets and evaluation protocols set to focus and improve habitat protection and restoration actions in priority areas
- Essential fish habitat designations that encompass key habitats as informed by habitat assessments
- Increased use of partnerships, scientifically sound conservation measures, coastal and marine spatial planning, and regional ecosystem conservation approaches to protect and restore priority habitats
- Climate change impacts addressed in conservation actions to promote long-term habitat resilience and adaptation