Alaska Essential Fish Habitat Research Plan: A Research Plan for the National Marine Fisheries Service's Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Alaska Regional Office

April 03, 2012

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) mandates NOAA to identify habitats essential for managed species and conserve habitats from adverse effects on those habitats. To meet these mandates, NOAA’s research must identify habitats that contribute most to the survival, growth and productivity of managed fish species and determine science-based measures to best manage and conserve these habitats from adverse effects of human activities. The NOAA Essential Fish Habitat Research Implementation Plan (AFSC 2006) for Alaska guided research to meet EFH mandates in Alaska during the last several years. This document revises and supersedes the initial Implementation Plan (AFSC 2006), and similar to the first plan is expected to guide the next several years of EFH research. The revision process began with a coordination meeting between Alaska Region habitat managers and Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) habitat scientists to determine the scope of the revised EFH research plan with a smaller group of 11 AFSC and Alaska Region staff subsequently completing the revision.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) mandates NOAA to identify habitats essential for managed species and conserve habitats from adverse effects on those habitats (NMFS 2010). These habitats are termed “Essential Fish Habitat” or EFH, and are defined as “those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity” (NMFS 2010). Further, the MSFCMA requires federal agencies to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service when their actions may adversely affect EFH. These consultations occur for both fishing and non-fishing activities.1 National Standard 2 of the MSFCMA requires NOAA Fisheries to conserve and manage fishery resources based upon the best available scientific information. To meet these mandates, NOAA’s research must identify habitats that contribute most to the survival, growth, and productivity of managed fish species and determine science-based measures to best manage and conserve these habitats from adverse effects of human activities. The NOAA Essential Fish Habitat Research Implementation Plan for Alaska (AFSC 2006) guided research to meet EFH mandates in Alaska during the last several years. This document revises and supersedes the initial Implementation Plan (AFSC 2006) and similar to the first plan is expected to guide the next several years of EFH research.

The revision process began with a coordination meeting between Alaska Region habitat managers and AFSC habitat scientists in September 2010, which included a goal to determine the scope of the revised EFH research plan. The previous plan had focused on allocation of EFH funds, which while a major component, does not cover all EFH research conducted by the AFSC. The group recommended that the revised plan set priorities for all EFH research, which this plan does.

A smaller group of 11 AFSC and Alaska Region staff subsequently met during 2011 to revise the first EFH research plan. The group consisted of experienced habitat scientists and managers, as well as members of the AFSC’s Habitat and Ecological Processes Research (HEPR) Team. The HEPR Program was established in 2005, consists of a Program leader and a HEPR Team with team members from each division of the AFSC and is tasked with facilitating EFH research.

The review was based on the group’s EFH research and stock assessment experience, the 2006 EFH research plan and four recent documents: 1) the NOAA Fisheries Habitat Assessment Improvement Plan, which identified approaches for improving habitat science (NMFS 2010); 2) the AFSC science plan, which identified habitat research priorities (AFSC 2010); 3) the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region 5-year EFH review, which identified habitat research priorities and also summarized recent EFH research (NPFMC 2010); and 4) the proceedings of the 1st National Habitat Assessment Workshop (Blackhart 2010). As of 2009, 17 AFSC scientists within several different research programs were conducting EFH research (NMFS, 2010). During 2005-2009, NOAA Fisheries spent $2.28 M on 49 EFH projects in Alaska (NPFMC 2010). Data from these and other projects were subsequently listed in a 2009 EFH inventory document for Alaska (McConnaughey et al. 2009). This research effort (number of habitat scientists, annual spending) has remained approximately level since then. In addition, during our review, the NOAA Fisheries Habitat Blueprint was advanced by NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab (Schwaab 2011).
 

Last updated by Alaska Fisheries Science Center on 04/03/2019

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