Frequently Asked Questions about Essential Fish Habitat in the Pacific Islands
Resource essential fish habitat consultations FAQ.
What is Essential Fish Habitat in the Pacific?
Essential fish habitat (EFH) is defined as those waters and substrate necessary for federally managed species to spawn, breed, feed, and/or grow to maturity. The U.S. Congress created EFH by statute; it is a tool that NOAA Fisheries uses to manage marine habitat,ensuring that the federally managed species identified by the fishery management councils have a healthy future. You can find the descriptions and identification of EFH in the Pacific in each of the five Pacific fishery management plans and more detailed information about EFH in the EFH regulatory guidelines.
Why has EFH been designated?
Species require healthy habitat to survive and reproduce. In 1996, Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to establish a new requirement to identify and describe EFH and to protect, conserve, and enhance EFH for the benefit of the fisheries.
Where has EFH been designated?
EFH has been designated for all the federally managed species referred to as the “management unit species” in the Pacific Islands region. You can find official descriptions of EFH designations in the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council’s Pelagic and Hawaii Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan. Additionally, NOAA Fisheries provides two useful online tools: 1) an EFH Habitat Mapper, and 2) a data portal serving spatial EFH-related datasets.
What is a Habitat Area of Particular Concern?
Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) are subsets of EFH that merit special attention because they meet at least one of the following four criteria:
- Provide important ecological function
- Are sensitive to environmental degradation
- Include a habitat type that is/will be stressed by development
- Include a habitat type that is rare
HAPC are afforded the same regulatory protection as EFH and do not exclude activities from occurring in the area, such as fishing, diving, swimming or surfing.
|Management Unit Species||EFH for Eggs and Larvae||EFH for Juveniles and Adules|
|Bottomfish||Water column down to 400 meters depth from shoreline out to the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary.||Water column and all bottom from shoreline down to 400 meters depth.|
|Seamount Groundfish||Water column down to 200 meters depth of all EEZ waters bounded by 29 degree–35 degree North and 171 degree East –179 degree West.||Water column down to 200 meters depth of all EEZ waters bounded by 29 degree–35 degree North and 171 degree East –179 degree West.|
|Pelagics||Water column down to 200 meters depth from shoreline out to EEZ boundary.||Water column down to 1,000 meters depth from shoreline out to EEZ boundary.|
|Precious Corals||Known precious coral beds in the Hawaiian Islands located at: Keāhole point, between Miloliʻi and South Point, the ʻAuʻau Channel, Makapuʻu, Kaʻena point, the southern border of Kauaʻi, Wespac bed, Brooks bank bed, and 180 Fathom Bank.||Known precious coral beds in the Hawaiian Islands located at: Keāhole point, between Miloliʻi and South Point, the ʻAuʻau Channel, Makapuʻu, Kaʻena point, the southern border of Kauaʻi, Wespac bed, Brooks bank bed, and 180 Fathom Bank.|
|Coral Reef Ecosystems||Water column and all bottom down to 100 meters depth from shoreline out to EEZ boundary.||Water column and all bottom down to 100 meters depth from shoreline out to EEZ boundary.|
Lobsters/crab: water column down to 150 meters depth from shoreline out to EEZ boundary.
Deepwater shrimp: outer reef slopes between 300-700 meters depth.
Lobsters/crab: bottom from shoreline down to 100 meters depth
Deepwater shrimp: outer reef slopes between 550-700 meters depth.
Who Should Consult with NOAA Fisheries on EFH?
Federal agencies which fund, permit or undertake activities that may adversely affect EFH are required to consult with NOAA Fisheries regarding the potential effects of their actions on EFH and to respond to the agency’s conservation recommendations.
What is an "Adverse Effect" to EFH?
An "adverse effect" to EFH is anything that reduces the quantity and/or quality of EFH. It may include a wide variety of impacts such as:
- Direct impacts (for example, contamination or physical disruption)
- Indirect impacts (for example, loss of prey, reduction in species’ fecundity)
- Site-specific /habitat wide impacts, including individual, cumulative, or synergistic consequences of actions
What is an EFH Assessment?
An EFH Assessment is a document that evaluates the effects of a proposed action on EFH. It should include:
- A description of the proposed action. An analysis of individual and cumulative effects of the action on EFH, the managed species, and associated species such as major prey species, including affected life history stages
- The action agency’s view regarding effects on EFH
- A discussion of proposed mitigation, if applicable
The EFH assessment can be provided to NOAA Fisheries within an existing environmental document (such as an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement) or as a standalone document. The level of detail in the EFH Assessment should be commensurate with the level of impact to EFH.
What are EFH Conservation Recommendations?
NOAA Fisheries provides EFH conservation recommendations to a federal action agency for its action that may adversely affect EFH. These recommendations are intended to help an action agency avoid and minimize impact to EFH, and when there is unavoidable impact, offset this impact.
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions below, your agency is required to consult with NOAA Fisheries regarding the potential effects of your actions on EFH.
- Is your Federal agency funding an activity that may adversely affect EFH?
- Is your Federal agency permitting an activity that may adversely affect EFH?
- Is your Federal agency undertaking an activity that may adversely affect EFH?