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Welcome to the Habitat Conservation Division

The Habitat Conservation Division (HCD) of the Northeast Regional Office is charged with the protection, management, and enhancement of the nation's marine fishery resources.  The Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, authorizes the NMFS to evaluate development projects proposed or licensed by federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  If coastal development projects have the potential to adversely affect marine, estuarine, or anadromous species or their habitat, the NMFS makes recommendations on how to avoid, minimize, or compensate these impacts.  Click here for more

  EFH Highlights

The 1996 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act strengthened the ability of NMFS and the Councils to protect and conserve the habitat of marine, estuarine, and anadromous finfish, mollusks, and crustaceans. This habitat is termed "essential fish habitat" and is broadly defined to include "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity." The Act requires the Councils to describe and identify the essential habitat for the managed species, minimize to the extent practicable adverse effects on EFH caused by fishing, and identify other actions to encourage the conservation and enhancement of EFH.

The Act also establishes measures to protect EFH. NMFS must coordinate with other federal agencies to conserve and enhance EFH, and federal agencies must consult with NMFS on all actions or proposed actions authorized, funded, or undertaken by the agency that may adversely affect EFH. In turn NMFS must provide recommendations to federal and state agencies on such activities to conserve EFH. These recommendations may include measures to avoid, minimize, mitigate, or otherwise offset adverse effects on EFH resulting from actions or proposed actions authorized, funded, or undertaken by that agency.

For the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, EFH has been identified for a total of 59 species covered by 14 fishery management plans (FMPs), under the auspices of either the New England Fishery Management Council, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council or NMFS.



  Feature Stories


Credit: NOAA
Credit: Paul Caruso, MADMF




  Laws & Regulations


  Habitat Publications



Contact: Lou Chiarella
Acting Assistant Regional Administrator
(978) 281-9277
National Marine Fisheries Service
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930


Last Updated: May 14, 2013

Sea Bottom Habitat Border
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