Essential Fish Habitat

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Essential Fish Habitat is defined as: "… those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity." -- Magnuson-Stevens Act §3(10).

Mandates established through the Magnuson-Stevens Act task the regional Councils to identify, describe, map and protect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH).

  • The general distribution and geographic limits of EFH for each life history stage should be presented in the form of maps.
  • Ultimately, these data should be incorporated into a GIS to facilitate analysis and presentation.

These mandates were established to facilitate the conservation of EFH and to effectively portray this information to fishing industries, regulatory agencies and the public at large. You can access available maps of EFH and HAPCs in the South Atlantic region on the Habitat and Ecosystem Internet Map Server on the Mapping/GIS page.

A requirement for FMPs is to include maps that display the geographic locations of EFH or the geographic boundaries within which EFH is found. Also FMPs should include maps of Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs). HAPCs are subsets of EFH which are rare, particularly susceptible to human-induced degradation, especially ecologically important, or located in an environmentally stressed area. Mapping EFH-HAPCs will make it easier to focus conservation efforts on those areas.

The South Atlantics EFH designations and EFH-HAPCs and Coral HAPCs can be viewed below:
Users Guide to Essential Fish Habitat Designations by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (November 2016)