Report from the National Essential Fish Habitat Summit

Author(s): Terra Lederhouse, Tony Marshak, Lauren Latchford, Rebecca Peters, and Katie Latanich

Published: October 2017

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Publication Type: Report

In recognition of the twentieth anniversary of the inclusion of essential fish habitat (EFH) provisions into the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), regional fishery management councils, and their partners convened the National EFH Summit in May 2016. Held in Annapolis, Maryland, this three-day participatory working meeting was facilitated by the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum and was organized by council and NOAA Fisheries staff and leadership. The goal of this summit was to bring together council and NOAA Fisheries habitat experts to assess and identify opportunities, challenges, and successful approaches for effective implementation of the MSA-EFH authorities across regions, and in a changing environment. The following themes emerged: (1) defining “essential” as it applies to EFH will remain a key challenge; (2) establishing clearly defined goals and objectives in the use of EFH authorities is necessary for practicable and effective conservation; (3) habitat conservation is paramount in maintaining ecosystem and fishery productivity and is a useful tool for implementing EBFM; (4) providing a “voice” for fisheries and building relationships and collaborations among NOAA Fisheries, the councils, federal action agencies, and the fishing community is vital for successful habitat conservation; (5) NOAA Fisheries and partners, including the fishing community, must continue to address habitat science gaps; (6) implementing shared mandates requires flexibility and acknowledgment of the differing regional contexts, innovations, and approaches for identifying, reviewing, revising, and conserving EFH; and (7) all EFH practitioners, including scientists, managers, and consultation staff, should strive to build a community of practice, maintain communications, and develop effective working relationships within and across regions.