Guide to Essential Fish Habitat Designations
in the Northeastern United States

Important Note To Users

This guide provides a geographic species list of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) designations completed by the New England Fishery Management Council, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the Northeastern United States pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The guide is designed to provide government agencies and other interested parties with a quick reference to determine the species and life stages of fish, shellfish, and mollusks for which EFH has been designated in a particular area. Using a "point and click" format, it lists the EFH species in selected 10' x 10' squares of latitude and longitude along the coast. Although not provided in this guide, EFH has also been designated in offshore areas throughout the Exclusive Economic Zone. This guide lists the EFH species within an area and is not intended for use on its own. The actual EFH descriptions, the species habitat preferences and life history parameters are provided in Guide to EFH Descriptions. The Councils' Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) should be referred to for more extensive information regarding EFH whenever necessary.

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To view EFH Designations for Skate Species, which are not in the map below, click here.



The 1996 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens 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.

Description of the Guide

To facilitate the EFH consultation process, this guide provides a quick method of ascertaining what species and lifestages have EFH in a given geographic area. The information is presented as tabular summaries for selected 10' x 10' squares of latitude and longitude. Each table includes a short but detailed description of the square, including a table of coordinates, as well as landmarks along the coastline such as towns, cities, necks, points, rocks, islands, bays, coves, shoals, marshes, beaches, banks, estuaries, creeks, thorofares, or rivers. The information for the square descriptions was taken from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coast Survey nautical charts. An attempt was made to ensure the names used in the description are as thorough as possible. However, if a question arises in regards to a location, please refer to the nautical charts or any reference map. Also, when in doubt concerning whether a project is divided by a square boundary, please refer to a map or chart.

For the offshore squares, the information is based primarily on the offshore trawl survey data that was used to support the Councils' EFH designations. For squares located within major estuaries and bays, the EFH designations are based on Estuarine Living Marine Resources data along with some trawl survey data. For detailed species lists for the major estuaries, select from the estuaries list instead of the 10 minute square. The Guide to EFH Descriptions provides an overall species list categorized by the Council's jurisdictions. Click on the species name to retrieve the EFH Designations as well as additional habitat information, where available. These summaries are not a substitute for the actual EFH designations provided in the Council's FMPs. Users should refer to the Councils' FMPs when questions arise.


The tables are fairly straightforward, but the following definitions will help clarify exactly what each summary shows:

10 Minute Square Tables

The notation "X" in a table indicates that EFH has been designated within the square for a given species and life stage.

The notation "n/a" in the tables indicates some of the species either have no data available on the designated lifestages, or those lifestages are not present in the species' reproductive cycle. These species are:

The Highly Migratory Species' life stages that are summarized within the squares are broken down into neonates, juveniles, and adults. For these species there are no 'egg' designations, and neonates correspond to the heading larvae within each summary table.

Estuaries Tables

S = The EFH designation for this species includes the seawater salinity zone of this bay or estuary (salinity > or = 25.0%).

M = The EFH designation for this species includes the mixing water/ brackish salinity zone of this bay or estuary (0.5% < salinity < 25.0%).

F = The EFH designation for this species includes the tidal freshwater salinity zone of this bay or estuary (0.0% < or = salinity < or = 0.5%).

n/a = The species does not have this lifestage in its life history (dogfish/ redfish), or has no EFH designation for this lifestage (squids, surf clam, ocean quahog). With regard to the squids, the surf clam, and the ocean quahog, juvenile corresponds with pre-recruits, and adult corresponds with recruits in these species' life histories.

These EFH designations of estuaries and embayments are based on the NOAA Estuarine Living Marine Resources (ELMR) program (Jury et al. 1994; Stone et al. 1994).


The process involved in converting the EFH designations into this format was tedious. It consisted of determining the designations within each square, square by square and species life stage by species life stage, and then compiling the information into each table. Information has been double checked, but some errors may appear. When questions arise, the Councils' Fishery Management Plans are ultimately and legally determinative of the geographic limits of EFH.

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