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Largest National Summit on Essential Fish Habitat Conservation Unites Practitioners

“We have a lot to celebrate!” said Carrie Selberg, deputy director for the Office of Habitat Conservation, kicking off the National Essential Fish Habitat Summit. The Summit was the largest gathering of essential fish habitat (EFH) scientists and managers since the program’s inception in 1996. The Summit provided an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on 20 years of habitat conservation under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Nearly 100 habitat scientists and managers shared EFH conservation approaches and explored successes, challenges, and new opportunities to benefit our nation’s fisheries.

Ecosystem-based fisheries management was a common theme throughout the Summit’s discussions. Participants saw EFH conservation as a complementary tool to these management approaches. “Habitat conservation is a key part of ecosystem-based fisheries management,” said Steve Brown, with NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology.

Many fishery management council participants expressed interest in having a stronger voice in coastal development activities that affect their fisheries. This was especially important given the outsized role that nearshore habitats play in fishery productivity. According to Bill Tweit, vice chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, EFH authority has the most influence on marine activities but the least Council engagement. Tweit also said that “each fishery management council, NOAA Fisheries’ regional office, and science center can be an innovator for EFH.”

Participants also discussed how climate change will affect habitat and fisheries, and how best to adapt management strategies to it. Other Summit discussion topics included:

  • partnership and collaboration across NOAA, and with federal, state, industry, and academic stakeholders,
  • advances in habitat science, and
  • how councils can determine whether conservation actions are practicable and effective.

The EFH Summit was facilitated by the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum, based at Duke University.

Did you know?

The 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act recognized the value of habitat conservation to rebuilding and maintaining sustainable fisheries, and it added a key provision for identifying, protecting, and restoring essential fish habitat. NOAA Fisheries is celebrating 20 years of Essential Fish Habitat conservation. #EFH20


EFH Summit
Steve Brown, chief of the Assessment and Monitoring Division from NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology, reports on his breakout group's discussion on practicability and effectiveness.
EFH Summit
Representatives from the nation’s regional fishery management councils discuss how to identify and review essential fish habitat.
EFH Summit
Roger Pugliese, senior fishery biologist with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, explains how his council designates Habitat Areas of Particular Concern.
EFH Summit
Carrie Selberg, deputy director of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Habitat Conservation, opens the EFH Summit.