Habitat Consultations

When fish and their habitats interact with human-caused activities, we start conversations about how to solve such conflicts. These consultations involve experts getting together to figure out how to achieve the best outcome for all parties involved. Working with federal, state, and local officials, we engage in national-level consultations about fishing activities and non-fishing activities (e.g., power plants, ports, fill, and pollutants). With a clear understanding of how human activities might affect fish and other species navigating their habitat, we can strike a balance between the natural and the human-induced environment.  

Our main habitat consultations include:

  • Essential fish habitat under the Magnuson-Stevens Act

  • Hydropower relicensing and fish passage under the Federal Power Act.

  • Activities that result in modification of streams or other water bodies under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.

Magnuson-Stevens Act—Essential Fish Habitat

Section 305 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires us to identify and conserve essential fish habitat for federally-managed fish. Federal agencies, including the military and even other NOAA offices, must consult with us on any action that might adversely affect essential fish habitat. When a determination is made that an action might adversely affect essential fish habitat, we identify measures to avoid, reduce, or compensate for adverse impacts to fish habitat.

Learn more about the essential fish habitat 

Federal Power Act and Hydropower Relicensing

The Federal Power Act requires hydropower owners to obtain a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. As part of this process, the act authorizes NOAA Fisheries to issue mandatory improvements for fish passage and to recommend other measures to protect salmon, steelhead, and other fish listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Learn more about fish passage 

Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act

The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act gives NOAA an important advisory role to review and comment on proposed federally permitted activities that could affect living marine resources. As amended in 1964, the act requires that all federal agencies consult with NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state wildlife agencies when proposed actions might result in modification of a natural stream or body of water. Federal agencies must consider how these projects would affect fish and wildlife and provide for improvement of these resources.

The act allows NOAA Fisheries to provide comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during review of projects under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (concerning the discharge of dredged materials into navigable waters) and section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (obstructions in navigable waterways). NOAA Fisheries comments provided under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act are intended to reduce environmental impacts to migratory, estuarine, and marine fisheries and their habitats.