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An Introduction to Essential Fish Habitat
On October 11, 1996, Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act (Public Law 104-297) which amended the habitat provisions of the Magnuson Act. The re-named Magnuson-Stevens Act (Act) calls for direct action to stop or reverse the continued loss of fish habitats. Toward this end, Congress mandated the identification of habitats essential to managed species and measures to conserve and enhance this habitat. The Act requires cooperation among the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Fishery Management Councils, and Federal agencies to protect, conserve, and enhance "essential fish habitat". Congress defined essential fish habitat for federally managed fish species as "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity."
The EFH Final Rule rule that directs how NMFS and the Councils are to designate and conserve EFH was published in January 2002 in the federal register.
EFH Final Rule: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/habitat/habitatprotection/efhfinalrule.pdf
Essential fish habitat has been designated for the 83 species of Pacific Coast groundfish, 3 species of salmon, and 5 species of coastal pelagic fish and squid that are managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Information on the species life histories and habitat needs are described in the EFH documents and measures to conserve those habitats outlined for both fishing and non-fishing activities.