Water: Dredged Material Management
Emerging Issues: Essential Fish Habitat
Essential Fish Habitat refers to those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity to support a sustainable, federally-managed commercial fishery. A single species may use many different habitats throughout its life to support breeding, spawning, nursery, feeding, and protection functions. EFHs are identified and described by NOAA Fisheries and eight regional Fishery Management Councils, which are composed of state fisheries agencies, commercial and recreational fishing industries, environmental groups, and other stakeholders.
Each federal agency that takes an action that may adversely affect EFH, for example, reducing the quantity or quality of habitat, must notify NOAA Fisheries. The agency must consult with NOAA Fisheries if it determines its actions may adversely affect EFH. NOAA Fisheries then provides EFH Conservation Recommendations for any agency action that would adversely affect EFH. Federal agencies must respond to those recommendations in writing, including a description of measures proposed by the agency for avoiding, mitigating, or offsetting the impact of the activity on such habitat. If the agency's response is inconsistent with the EFH Conservation Recommendations, then the agency needs to explain its reasons for not following the recommendations. Dredging activities for port development and operations may adversely affect EFH by disturbing Essential Fish Habitats important for federally managed species. For some dredging activities, a NOAA Fisheries consultation is required. In most cases, NOAA Fisheries' concerns will be the same as those raised under other laws, such as impacts to submerged aquatic vegetation and disposal of contaminated material. EFH consultation would be combined with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permitting or approval process.