Groundfish Essential Fish Habitat

In March 2006, NOAA Fisheries'  approved a plan to establish and protect more than 130,000 square miles of marine waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, as essential fish habitat for groundfish. The plan prohibits fishing methods that can cause long-term damage to the ocean floor, such as bottom trawling, within much of this area. Developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the plan is aimed at replenishing fish stocks. It covers an area from Canada to Mexico, out to 200 nautical miles in some places. The plan was developed with support and advice from both environmental and fishing industry groups, and will provide much-needed habitat protection to areas that are essential to commercially valuable fish.

The plan includes designating various habitats such as kelp, sea grass and estuaries as “habitat areas of particular concern.” This designation will alert other agencies that are active in these areas that we may have conservation recommendations to ensure projects do not harm bottom-dwelling fish.

Looking to the Future

NOAA Fisheries has initiated a 5-year review of groundfish EFH. In February 2011, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region Offices and Fisheries Science Centers called on all interested parties to provide new and updated information related to EFH for Pacific coast groundfish. More information on the process and status of the 5-year review of groundfish EFH can be found here.