Essential Fish Habitat

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), defines essential fish habitat (EFH) as “…those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity.”

The 2006 reauthorized MSA, Section 303, Contents of Fishery Management Plans, states that “Any fishery management plan which is prepared by any Council, or by the Secretary, with respect to any fishery, shall … describe and identify essential fish habitat for the fishery based on the guidelines established by the Secretary under section 305(b)(1)(A), minimize to the extent practicable adverse effects on such habitat caused by fishing.”

Click here for – Essential Fish Habitat Descriptions for Western Pacific Archipelagic and Remote Island Areas Fishery Ecosystem Plan Management Unit Species.

Click here for – Essential Fish Habitat Descriptions for Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan Management Unit Species

MSA Section 305(b) 3 states that the Council—

  • (A) may comment on and make recommendations to the Secretary and any Federal or State agency concerning any activity authorized, funded, or undertaken, or proposed to be authorized, funded, or undertaken, by any Federal or State agency that, in the view of the Council, may affect the habitat, including essential fish habitat, of a fishery resource under its authority; and
  • (B) shall comment on and make recommendations to the Secretary and any Federal or State agency concerning any such activity that, in the view of the Council, is likely to substantially affect the habitat, including essential fish habitat, of an anadromous fishery resource under its authority.

MSA Section 305 (b) 4 provides the process for recommendations made by the Council:

  • (A) If the Secretary receives information from a Council or Federal or State agency or determines from other sources that an action authorized, funded, or undertaken, or proposed to be authorized, funded, or undertaken, by any State or Federal agency would adversely affect any essential fish habitat identified under this Act, the Secretary shall recommend to such agency measures that can be taken by such agency to conserve such habitat.
  • (B) Within 30 days after receiving a recommendation under subparagraph (A), a Federal agency shall provide a detailed response in writing to any Council commenting under paragraph (3) and the Secretary regarding the matter. The response shall include a description of measures proposed by the agency for avoiding, mitigating, or offsetting the impact of the activity on such habitat. In the case of a response that is inconsistent with the recommendations of the Secretary, the Federal agency shall explain its reasons for not following the recommendations.”

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