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Protecting Essential Fish Habitat


Through consultations, NOAA recommends ways federal agencies can avoid or minimize the adverse effects of their actions on the habitat of federally managed commercial and recreational fisheries.

Managing Fishing Impacts to Essential Fish Habitat

Because marine fish depend on habitat for survival and reproduction, it is important to protect the habitats that sustain and enhance commercial and recreational fisheries. NOAA and the regional fishery management councils are charged with ensuring that fishing activities have a minimal impact on fish habitat.

Since 2004, NOAA and the regional councils have protected more than 700 million acres of essential fish habitat from detrimental fishing practices by:

  • Restricting bottom trawling in important cod and scallop habitats in New England
  • Prohibiting the use of bottom-tending fishing gear in several submarine canyons in the Mid-Atlantic
  • Protecting coral habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean from damaging bottom-tending gear
  • Prohibiting the use of dredge gear in 117 million acres of sensitive deep-sea coral and seamount habitat off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California
  • Prohibiting dredging in 360 million acres in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and off the Aleutian Islands designated as high-density, deep-sea coral areas