Fish require healthy surroundings to survive and reproduce.  Essential fish habitat includes all types of aquatic habitat - wetlands, coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves - where fish spawn, breed, feed, or grow to maturity.

In the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Congress defined essential fish habitat (EFH) as “...those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity.”  Three fishery management councils - the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and U.S. Caribbean - are responsible for identifying EFH for federally managed species in the southeast United States.  Also, highly migratory species, such as tunas, billfish, and sharks, are managed by NMFS and have EFH designations in these areas of the Southeast as well.

Federal agencies are required to consult with NMFS when their activities, including permits and licenses they issue, may adversely affect EFH and respond to NMFS recommendations for protecting and conserving EFH.  NMFS must also include measures to minimize the adverse affects of fishing gear and fishing activities on EFH as well.


For more information:

David Dale
Southeast Region EFH Coordinator


In the Gulf of Mexico:

Rusty Swafford
Gulf of Mexico Branch Supervisor


In the Atlantic and U.S. Caribbean:

Pace Wilber
South Atlantic Branch Supervisor


EFH Consultations Developed for Specific Cases
Gulf of Mexico
South Atlantic
U.S. Caribbean