Essential Fish Habitat in Alaska

Habitat necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity.

Pregnant rockfish inside a glass sponge.

Pregnant rockfish inside a glass sponge.

Essential Fish Habitat (EFH)

Fish and other marine species depend on habitats comprised of the biological and physical properties required for survival and successful reproduction. In Alaska, we work to identify and protect essential fish habitat - habitat necessary for marine species to complete their lifecycles - in the waters of the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans off Alaska, as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and other legislation.

Descriptions and Identification

Essential Fish Habitat in Alaska is identified in Fishery Management Plans developed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and approved by the Secretary of Commerce. EFH descriptions are comprised of text and maps. (If there are differences between the descriptions of EFH in text and maps, the textual description is ultimately determinative of the limits of EFH.)

Descriptions

EFH text descriptions are the legal definition for EFH and serve as the "basis" for effect determinations. EFH text describes the physical and biological environment and the location of EFH for each species by life history stage, if known. Species profiles and habitat assessment reports  within the Fishery Management Plans provide information about each species, including any known habitat associations, reproductive traits, predator prey relationships, and species-specific literature citations.

Maps

EFH maps complement EFH text descriptions and spatially depict the area of EFH for each life stage of fish managed under a Fishery Management Plan within the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and the Arctic.

Consultations

Federal agencies must consult with NOAA Fisheries regarding any action authorized, funded, or undertaken, or proposed to be authorized, funded, or undertaken that may adversely affect EFH.

Consultation Resources

Habitat Assessments

Habitat Areas of Particular Concern

Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs) are smaller habitat areas within EFH that meet at least two of the four considerations: 1)The importance of the ecological function provided by the habitat; 2) The extent to which the habitat is sensitive to human-induced environmental degradation; 3) Whether, and to what extent, development activities are, or will be, stressing the habitat type; 4) The rarity of the habitat type. (Rarity is a mandatory criterion of all Council HAPC proposals.) 

Regulations

Resources

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Essential Fish Habitat in Alaska - An Overview Presentation

Essential Fish Habitat is defined as ‘those waters and substrates necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity.’

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Alaska Essential Fish Habitat Web Application

ArcGIS Web Application with spatial data and maps of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for species managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in...

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ShoreZone - Maps, Video, Images

The ShoreZone mapping system has been in use since the early 1980s and has been applied to more than 120,000 km of shoreline in Alaska, Oregon, Washington...

Publications

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Model-Based Essential Fish Habitat Definitions for Aleutian Island Groundfish Species

The 1996 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) mandates NMFS to identify habitats essential for managed...

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Model-Based Essential Fish Habitat Definitions for Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Species

Essential fish habitat descriptions consist of maps of EFH and text descriptions. In Alaska, most EFH descriptions for groundfish have been limited to...

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Model-Based Essential Fish Habitat Definitions for Bering Sea Groundfish Species

In Alaska, most EFH descriptions for groundfish have been limited to qualitative statements on the distribution of adult life stages (i.e., based on presence-absence...

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on August 22, 2018

Essential Fish Habitat