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Essential Fish Habitat: A Smart Investment for Sustainable Fisheries

Q&A with the head of NOAA Fisheries about the importance of fish habitat and the law protecting it

Fish Habitat Protection Reaches Milestone in 2016

In the ocean, home is where the fish are. Expert fishers and scientists know that fish gather in certain places, and keeping those habitats healthy can result in more fish to catch. For marine engineers and developers, finding ways to protect fish habitat can become a win-win situation, because their smart development creates both economic and environmental benefits. This type of thinking, while logical, is still in its early stages.   

Fortunately, more and more people are recognizing that habitat is extremely important for maintaining healthy fish stocks and the jobs that depend on them. Congress recognized its importance in 1996 by adding Essential Fish Habitat requirements to the nation’s main fisheries law, the Magnuson Stevens Act, which is now celebrating its 40th year (#MSA40). The update supports responsible economic growth while protecting our nation’s natural infrastructure.

We welcome you to join us in celebrating 20 years of Essential Fish Habitat (#EFH20). Browse the stories here to discover what makes fish habitat so “essential.”
Pat Montanio, Director of Habitat Conservation

Read a Leadership Message about Essential Fish Habitat from Pat Montanio, Director of Habitat Conservation at NOAA Fisheries


Whatís the future for Essential Fish Habitatís science and management?


Why should we be excited about the 20th anniversary of Essential Fish Habitat?

Sustaining Fisheries through Healthy Habitats in Southern California

Fishermen Connect with Habitat Researchers in Alaska
NOAA scientist Bob McConnaughey gets on board.

Flounder Guru Connects with Habitats
Q&A unpacks NOAA’s Dave Packer.

Protecting Habitat: Going Where the Wind Blows
Offshore turbines meet essential fish habitat.

Conserving skate nursery habitat in the Bering Sea
Fantastic fish grow slowly in Alaska.

Fish and Ships Get Safe Harbor
Habitat protected during New York's big dig

Largest National Summit on
Essential Fish Habitat Conservation Unites Practitioners

elliott bay

Elliott Bay Seawall Project
Surf into downtown Seattle in this virtual tour.

trawl gear

Shallow Coral Reefs ó Essential Fish Habitat
of the Pacific Islands

Dive into gorgeous, essential habitat.

elliott bay

Protecting Shorelines and Habitat on Craney Island
Blue crabs and fishes find homes in living shorelines.

trawl gear

6 reasons habitat matters to fish, and people too
Fish need homes too.


Saving Seagrass Meadows: Working Together
to Protect Essential Habitat
You decide what stays alive.

sand mining

NOAA Fisheries input on sand mining
helps protect key fish habitat

New “gold” diggers face the fish.


Wetland Mitigation Case Study - Indian Street Bridge,
Palm City, Florida

Building a swamp requires many hands.

EFH Regional Map West Coast Alaska Pacific Islands Greater Atlantic Southeast

Discover Essential Fish Habitat in Your Region
Click the map to go there.

Essential Fish Habitat 101

what is EFH

What is Essential Fish Habitat?: Get the scoop from the Habitat Protection Division.


Essential Fish Habitat Mapper: Choose your fish or place of interest.

Our Living Oceans: Habitat: Review the first comprehensive national summary of ocean habitat.

Healthy Habitat: The Foundation of America's Seafood and Fisheries
: Starring cute summer flounder!


Essential fish habitat includes all types of aquatic habitat, such as—

Wetland Coral seagrasses rivers
Wetlands Coral Reefs Seagrasses Rivers

— where fish spawn, breed, feed, or grow to maturity.

For more EFH success stories, visit here.