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

At its April 2018 meeting, the Council made recommendations for changes to groundfish EFH conservation areas as part of Amendment 28 to the Fishery Management Plan. NMFS and the Council are working on a rulemaking and supporting documents in 2018 and 2019.