Habitat Conservation

Essential Fish Habitat

Congress defined EFH as "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity" (16 U.S.C. 1802(10)). The EFH guidelines under 50 CFR 600.10 further interpret the EFH definition as follows:

Finger Coral Photo: Finger Coral by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA

Waters include aquatic areas and their associated physical, chemical, and biological properties that are used by fish and may include aquatic areas historically used by fish where appropriate; substrate includes sediment, hard bottom, structures underlying the waters, and associated biological communities; necessary means the habitat required to support a sustainable fishery and the managed species' contribution to a healthy ecosystem; and "spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity" covers a species' full life cycle.

The 1996 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) established a new mandate for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), regional fishery management councils (FMC), and other Federal agencies to identify and protect important marine and anadromous fish habitat.

The Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act support one of the Nation's overall marine resource management goals - maintaining sustainable fisheries. As outlined in the implementing regulations (Federal Register Vol. 67, 12), Federal action agencies which fund, permit, or carry out activities that may adversely impact EFH are required to consult with NMFS regarding the potential effects of their actions on EFH, and respond in writing to NMFS or FMC recommendations.

EFH Consultation Guidance
EFH Factsheet (pdf 696 kB)