When a federal agency authorizes, funds, or undertakes an action that may adversely affect essential fish habitat (EFH), they must consult with NOAA Fisheries on that action. An adverse effect of EFH is any direct or indirect effect that reduces the quality and/or quantity of the habitat and range from large-scale ocean uses to small-scale projects along the coast. NOAA Fisheries provides advice and recommendations to the federal agency to avoid, reduce, or offset these adverse effects.
As part of the EFH consultation, federal agencies must submit an EFH assessment to NOAA Fisheries. The EFH assessment must include:
- A description of the proposed action.
- An analysis of the potential adverse effects of the action on EFH, and the managed species.
- The federal agency's conclusions regarding the effects of the action on EFH.
- Proposed mitigation if applicable.
Additional information, such as an analysis of alternatives, the results of on-site inspections, literature reviews and the views of recognized experts may also be necessary depending upon the scale and nature of the adverse effects to EFH.
Our EFH Assessment Worksheet is designed to assist in determining whether a consultation is necessary and help in preparing the EFH assessment. This worksheet should be used as your EFH assessment or as a guideline for the development of your EFH assessment. At a minimum, all the information required to complete this worksheet should be included in the EFH assessment. If the answers in the worksheet do not fully evaluate the adverse effects to EFH, we may request additional information in order to complete the consultation. Project plans should also be included with the EFH assessment.
Your analysis of adverse effects to EFH under the Magnuson-Stevens Act should focus on impacts to the habitat for all life stages of species with designated EFH, rather than individual responses of fish species. Fish habitat includes the substrate and benthic resources (e.g., submerged aquatic vegetation, shellfish beds, salt marsh wetlands), as well as the water column and prey species.