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How We Protect Essential Fish Habitat

Marine fish depend on habitat for survival and reproduction. It is vital to protect these life support systems that sustain and enhance our commercial and recreational fisheries. NOAA Fisheries, the regional fishery management councils, federal partners, and non-governmental organizations work hard to ensure that fishing and other activities have a minimal impact on the habitat of federally managed fisheries.

Together, we have protected more than 800 million acres of essential habitat by managing fishing impacts and advising coastal development.

Managing Fishing Impacts

NOAA Fisheries works with the regional councils to prevent fishing gear from harming bottom habitats. Examples include:

  • Restricting or prohibiting contact with the seafloor in:
    • important cod and scallop habitats in New England
    • several submarine canyons in the Mid-Atlantic region
    • coral habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean
  • Prohibiting the use of fishing dredge gear in sensitive bottom habitats in:
    • 117 million acres off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California
    • 360 million acres around Alaska

Advising Coastal and Marine Development

Through EFH consultations, NOAA Fisheries helps federal agencies to avoid or minimize adverse effects on the habitat of federally-managed fisheries. In many instances, these recommendations support the coexistence of infrastructure and habitat. Projects have included: