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Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Source Documents: Life History and Habitat Characteristics

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The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), which was reauthorized and amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act (1996), requires the eight regional fishery management councils to describe and identify essential fish habitat (EFH) in their respective regions, to specify actions to conserve and enhance that EFH, and to minimize the adverse effects of fishing on EFH. Congress defined EFH as "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity." The MSFCMA requires the NOAA Fisheries Service to assist the regional fishery management councils in the implementation of EFH in their respective fishery management plans. For complete information and background on EFH, see the NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Habitat Conservation's web site.

The NOAA Fisheries Service has taken a broad view of habitat as the area used by fish throughout their life cycle. Fish use habitat for spawning, feeding, nursery, migration, and shelter, but most habitats provide only a subset of these functions. Fish may change habitats with changes in life history stage, seasonal and geographic distributions, abundance, and interactions with other species. The type of habitat, as well as its attributes and functions, are important for sustaining the production of managed species.

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center compiled the available information on the distribution, abundance, and habitat requirements for each of the species managed by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. That information is presented in this series of  EFH species reports (plus one consolidated methods report). The EFH species reports comprise a survey of the important literature as well as original analyses of fishery-independent data sets from the NOAA Fisheries Service and several coastal states. The species reports are also the source for the current EFH designations by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, and have understandably begun to be referred to as the "EFH source documents."

The NOAA Fisheries Service provided guidance to the regional fishery management councils for identifying and describing EFH of their managed species. Consistent with this guidance, the species reports present information on current and historic stock sizes, geographic range, and the period and location of major life history stages. The habitats of managed species are described by the physical, chemical, and biological components of the ecosystem where the species occur. Information on the habitat requirements is provided for each life history stage, and it includes, where available, habitat and environmental variables that control or limit distribution, abundance, growth, reproduction, mortality, and productivity.

Identifying and describing EFH are the first steps in the process of protecting, conserving, and enhancing essential habitats of the managed species. Ultimately, the NOAA Fisheries Service, the regional fishery management councils, fishing participants, Federal and state agencies, and other organizations will have to cooperate to achieve the habitat goals established by the MSFCMA.

The initial series of EFH species source documents were published in 1999 in the NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NE series.

Updating and review of the EFH components of the councils’ Fishery Management Plans is required at least every five years by the NOAA Fisheries Service Guidelines for meeting the Sustainable Fisheries Act/EFH Final Rule. Second editions of several of these species source documents were written to provide the updated information needed to meet these requirements. The second editions provide new information on life history, geographic distribution, and habitat requirements via recent literature, research, and fishery surveys, and incorporate updated and revised maps and graphs.

The following reports (most recent, as well as archived) are in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format

NMFS-NE-122 Fishery Independent Surveys, Data Sources, and Methods

New England Fishery Management Council

NMFS-NE-123 American Plaice, Hippoglossoides platessoides

NMFS-NE-124 Atlantic Cod, Gadus morhua

NMFS-NE-125 Atlantic Halibut, Hippoglossus hippoglossus

NMFS-NE-126 Atlantic Herring, Clupea harengus

NMFS-NE-127 Goosefish, Lophius americanus

NMFS-NE-128 Haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus

NMFS-NE-129 Ocean Pout, Macrozoarces americanus

NMFS-NE-130 Offshore Hake, Merluccius albidus

NMFS-NE-131 Pollock, Pollachius virens

NMFS-NE-132 Redfish, Sebastes spp.

NMFS-NE-133 Red Hake, Urophycis chuss

NMFS-NE-134 Sea Scallop, Placopecten magellanicus

NMFS-NE-135 Silver Hake, Merluccius bilinearis

NMFS-NE-136 White Hake, Urophycis tenuis

NMFS-NE-137 Windowpane, Scophthalmus aquosus

NMFS-NE-138 Winter Flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus

NMFS-NE-139 Witch Flounder, Glyptocephalus cynoglossus

NMFS-NE-140 Yellowtail Flounder, Limanda ferruginea

NMFS-NE-163 Red Deepsea Crab, Chaceon quinquedens

NMFS-NE-173 Barndoor Skate, Dipturus laevis

NMFS-NE-174 Clearnose Skate, Raja eglanteria

NMFS-NE-175 Little Skate, Leucoraja erinacea

NMFS-NE-176 Rosette Skate, Leucoraja garmani virginica

NMFS-NE-177 Smooth Skate, Malacoraja senta

NMFS-NE-178 Thorny Skate, Amblyraja radiata

NMFS-NE-179 Winter Skate, Leucoraja ocellata

NMFS-NE-186 Silver Hake, Merluccius bilinearis (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-187 American Plaice, Hippoglossoides platessoides (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-189 Sea Scallop, Placopecten magellanicus (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-190 Atlanic Cod, Gadus morhua (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-192 Atlantic Herring, Clupea harengus (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-196 Haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus (2nd edition)

Middle Atlantic Fishery Management Council

NMFS-NE-141 Atlantic Mackerel, Scomber scombrus

NMFS-NE-142 Atlantic Surfclam, Spisula solidissima

NMFS-NE-143 Black Sea Bass, Centropristis striata

NMFS-NE-144 Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix

NMFS-NE-145 Butterfish, Peprilus triacanthus

NMFS-NE-146 Longfin Inshore Squid, Loligo pealeii

NMFS-NE-147 Northern Shortfin Squid, Illex illecebrosus

NMFS-NE-148 Ocean Quahog, Arctica islandica

NMFS-NE-149 Scup, Stenotomus chrysops

NMFS-NE-150 Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias

NMFS-NE-151 Summer Flounder, Paralichthys dentatus

NMFS-NE-152 Tilefish, Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps

NMFS-NE-191 Northern Shortfin Squid, Illex illecebrosus (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-193 Longfin Inshore Squid, Loligo pealeii (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-198 Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix

NMFS-NE-200 Black Sea Bass, Centropristis striata (2nd edition)

NMFS-NE-203 Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias

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