Essential Fish Habitat


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"The term essential fish habitat means those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity." -- Magnuson-Stevens Act §3(10)

"...each Council should include EFH considerations within the FEP, using the ecosystem approach to describe such habitat based on the EFH descriptions from existing FMPs." -- Ecosystem Report to Congress, 1999

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.

Click the link for a table of the South Atlantic Council's EFH Designations and the Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) they pertain to.

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.

Review the Council's EFH-HAPCs and Coral-HAPCs for applicable protection measures under current FMPs.