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Whatís the future for Essential Fish Habitatís science and management?

We asked, experts answered. Current and former NOAA Fisheries staff members discuss the future of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) conservation, which became part of the nation’s main law for marine fisheries in 1996.

"Tighter links between stock assessments and ecosystem-based fishery management are getting off the ground, and integrating habitat science into that is going to be really crucial. I see it happening in the Greater Atlantic Region already.”

David Stevenson
Habitat Specialist
NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office
Gloucester, Massachusetts

"Stock assessments drive fisheries management decisions, and getting EFH and other environmental information more integrated into stock assessments is an important step towards ecosystem-based fisheries management. Implementing ecosystem-based fisheries management is another great opportunity for accruing benefits to fisheries through EFH conservation.”

Karen Abrams
Fishery Management Specialist
NOAA Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries
Former NOAA Fisheries National EFH Coordinator
Silver Spring, Maryland

"One hope or vision for the future is that the fundamental, foundational nature of habitat is recognized.”

Lee Crockett
Former NOAA Fisheries National EFH Coordinator
U.S. Oceans, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Washington, DC

"We observe fish populations moving north as global warming occurs, but are they going to find suitable habitat in these new areas? Will there be some fundamental change in their abundance driven by changes in temperature? To address those issues requires a fundamental understanding of their habitat requirements.”

Bob McConnaughey
Research Fishery Biologist
NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center
Seattle, WA

“EFH can be an even stronger tool in the next 20 years if we keep making advancements in identifying the most important habitats for growth, reproduction, and survival of managed species, as well as the way we evaluate the effects of fishing on EFH. We need to keep working to be more specific and targeted over time. Habitat conservation will continue to become increasingly important for sustainable fisheries."

Jon Kurland
Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources
NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office
Former Alaska Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation, National EFH Coordinator, & Northeast Region EFH Coordinator
Juneau, Alaska

“We need to evaluate the effectiveness of fishery closures and gear restrictions in allowing habitats and fisheries to recover. The Pacific Fishery Management Council and others have the same question: Did closing these areas make a difference to habitat and fish stocks, and do we have more fish because of it?  Answering these questions will allow fishery managers to make informed decisions on how best to conserve habitats that contribute to productive and sustainable fisheries.”

John Stadler
EFH Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region
Lacey, Washington


 “The Arctic – should conditions change rapidly over the next 20 years, that could be big. The coastline, the way fisheries respond, and predator-prey interactions would undergo change. Putting an Arctic Fishery Management Plan in place and prohibiting commercial fishing North of the Bering Strait, until scientific assessments would support sustainable fisheries, was really good foresight by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries – so that the Arctic and its species will be here for many more years.”

Matthew P. Eagleton
Deputy Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation & EFH Coordinator
NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office
Anchorage, AK

“Climate change is going to be the big thing. These essential fish habitats are going to change as fish distributions change and ocean temperatures shift. Climate change may be one of the biggest habitat impacts we'll have to deal with in the next 20 years.”

Dave Packer
Marine ecologist
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Sandy Hook, New Jersey


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Learn more about Essential Fish Habitat and its 20th anniversary.