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How We Conserve

NOAA Fisheries conserves habitat to sustain fisheries, recover protected species, and maintain resilient coastal ecosystems and communities.
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Advancing a Comprehensive Approach to Gulf of Mexico Restoration

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. It impacted many natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, including sea turtles, marine mammals, fish, wetlands, and water quality.  We are leading a comprehensive approach to restore habitat and other natural resources affected by the spill.

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Defending Our Coasts

Communities and businesses around the country are vulnerable to natural disasters and long-term adverse environmental changes. Hurricanes, floods, and other weather events can have devastating effects on coastal areas. We are dedicated to providing tools and resources that communities can use to become more resilient, which makes our nation safer and our economy more secure.  

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Focusing on NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint

Protecting our natural infrastructure—our global life support system—is vital to protecting our communities and their economies as well as fisheries and recreational opportunities along our coasts. With continued widespread loss and deterioration of coastal and marine habitats, we are in danger of losing this infrastructure. The NOAA Habitat Blueprint is a framework to increase the sustainability and productivity of our fisheries, by focusing on the habitat that fish need to spawn and grow, as well as protecting coastal resources on which our communities depend.

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Improving Fish Migration at Hydropower Dams

Large dams that generate power create challenges for fish. When they seek a license, hydropower dams are required by law to consult with NOAA Fisheries. The desired outcome is to allow native, migrating fish to move upstream and over the dam in an effective manner. NOAA Fisheries also offers recommendations for the protection and enhancement of fish populations.

Learn how we improve fish migration at hydropower dams

 

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Promoting a Healthy Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, is home to more than 18 million people and more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, including fish and shellfish. Human impacts have led to a sharp decline in some of the Bay’s keystone species, including the native oyster. We improve the health of the Bay and ensure its sustainable use for generations to come.

Learn more about our efforts in the Chesapeake Bay

 

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Protecting Essential Fish Habitat

“Essential Fish Habitat” is officially mandated by Congress and includes all types of aquatic habitat needed for fish spawning, breeding, feeding, and growth. It specifies where a certain fish species lives and reproduces. Without these prime locations, these fish would not be able to survive. We work with partners and use the best available science to identify, describe, and map Essential Fish Habitat for all federally-managed fish species. These consultations ensure that projects funded by your tax dollars do not destroy habitat.

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Researching Deep Sea Coral Habitats

Deep sea corals can live for hundreds or thousands of years. They have been discovered  throughout U.S. marine waters, yet they are some of the least-explored places on Earth. Along with deep sea sponges, they support valuable fisheries including commercially important snapper, rockfish, shrimp, and crab. Our scientists use underwater robots to find deep-sea corals in previously unexplored areas of the ocean. Discoveries include chemicals with great potential for biomedical uses. We combine science and information-sharing to help ocean managers make conservation decisions.

Learn more about the deep-sea coral program

 

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Recovering Habitats after Disaster

Every year, NOAA responds to as many as 150 oil and chemical spills across the nation. When these disasters occur, NOAA restores habitat to recover the ecosystem. Our experience and capacity allows us to mobilize quickly and efficiently. Our goal is to restore the environment to the state it was in before the incident.

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Restoring Habitat Strategically

Degraded habitat is one of the largest obstacles to rebuilding sustainable fisheries and recovering protected marine life populations. We provide technical and financial assistance to partners across the country to improve and expand the habitat that fish need throughout their life cycle. Our restoration projects range from improving access to habitat by removing dams and other barriers to fish passage, to restoring coral and oyster reefs, to rebuilding coastal wetlands.

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Restoring Louisiana’s Wetlands

We have spent decades restoring wetlands and barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, which has some of the richest nursery habitats in the United States. These habitats also serve to protect the Gulf’s coastal communities—making them more resilient to extreme weather and changes in climate. We fund and implement large-scale wetland restoration projects to ensure healthy and sustainable coastal habitat for Louisiana’s fisheries.

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Restoring the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on Earth and support industries and natural resources that are highly valuable to our economy. The Great Lakes also face many threats, including habitat degradation, overfishing, invasive species, and pollution from oil and chemicals spills. We work with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to implement habitat conservation projects that will improve toxic “hotspots” called Areas of Concern.

Learn more about our efforts in the Great Lakes

 

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