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Protecting Essential Fish Habitat in the Nationís Busiest Ports

Southern California has some of the highest commercial fishery landings and the highest spending on marine recreational fishing in California. It is also home to two of the nation’s busiest ports. Cargo valued at $350 billion passes through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach each year. Through essential fish habitat consultations, we provide recommendations on how to implement economic development projects without causing damage to habitats that support our fisheries.

We work with government agencies and ports to develop mitigation agreements, which provide a way to offset unavoidable impacts to habitat for fish and other wildlife. They also streamline permit processing, ensure adequate consideration is given to fisheries and their habitats, and facilitate environmentally-responsible port projects.

We worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port of Long Beach on a project to construct a new 345-acre marine terminal. This $1.31 billion  economic development project benefited from one of these mitigation agreements. It allowed the Port to develop one of the world’s most technologically-advanced and greenest port facilities, while offsetting impacts to fish habitat.

We also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority of Los Angeles on a project to redevelop the San Pedro Bay waterfront. The project developed three new harbors and public open spaces, including promenade areas, plazas, and parks. Our coordination ensured that port operations and public access to the waterfront improved, while protecting approximately 1,350 acres of bay, seagrass, and tidal wetland habitat.

Through these and other economic development projects in California, NOAA Fisheries has conserved:

  • hundreds of acres of seagrass and rocky reef habitat,
  • thousands of acres of lagoon/bay habitats, and
  • tens of thousands of acres of shallow coastal marine habitat

In addition to benefits to commercial fisheries, these habitats are home to highly-valued bass, halibut, and sheepshead, which support the state’s $1 billion recreational fishing industry.

Posted June 23, 2015

A cargo ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles.
California halibut are using the newly restored Bolsa Chica wetlands, one of the mitigation sites from the Port of Long Beach development. Credit: Merkel and Associates, Inc.