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Essential Fish Habitat on the West Coast

Essential fish habitat is the habitat necessary for fish to spawn, breed, feed, or grow to maturity.

“One of the greatest long-term threats to the viability of commercial and recreational fisheries is the continuing loss of marine, estuarine, and other aquatic habitats. Habitat considerations should receive increased attention for the conservation and management of fishery resources of the United States."

— United States Congress, as noted in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 1996.

Fish depend on healthy habitats to survive. Throughout their lives they use many types of habitat including seagrass, salt marsh, coral reefs, kelp forests, rocky intertidal areas, rivers, and streams. Various activities on land and in the water threaten to alter, damage, or destroy these habitats. NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council work together to address these threats by identifying Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) for each federally managed fish stock on the West Coast and developing conservation measures to protect and enhance these habitats. Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC), discrete subsets of EFH, have also been identified under the MSA for groundfish and salmon.

Federal agencies must consult with NOAA Fisheries regarding any action authorized, funded, or undertaken, or proposed to be authorized, funded, or undertaken that may adversely affect EFH. Programmatic consultations and general concurrence agreements simplify the consultation process for multiple project types with similar degree or method of disturbance. The resulting agreement increases the speed that projects move through the permitting process, decreases the consultation burden on consulting agencies, and promotes improved habitat conservation. Programmatic consultations also enable consistent response on similar project types.

For more information contact: West Coast EFH Coordinator, John Stadler, at john.stadler@noaa.gov or (360) 534-9328.

EFH Identification and Descriptions

EFH on the West Coast is identified in fishery management plans (FMPs) developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and approved by the Secretary of Commerce. EFH descriptions are comprised of text and maps. EFH maps complement text descriptions and spatially depict the area identified as EFH under an FMP off the West Coast. If there are differences between the descriptions of EFH in text and maps, the text description determines the EFH designation.

EFH Mapper: The EFH Mapper is an online tool that displays maps for EFH, Habitat Areas of Particular Concern, and EFH areas protected from fishing for each NOAA Fisheries region.

Coastal Pelagic Species FMP

Highly Migratory Species FMP

  • Appendix F: Life History Accounts and Essential Fish Habitat Descriptions

Pacific Coast Salmon FMP

Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP

EFH Consultations

Programmatic consultations and general concurrence between NOAA Fisheries & the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

Consultation Resources

Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on October 19, 2023

Essential Fish Habitat Groundfish