The Essential Fish Habitat Provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act

  • One of the greatest long-term threats to the viability of commercial and recreational fisheries is the continuing loss of marine, estuarine, and other aquatic habitats. Habitat considerations should receive increased attention for the conservation and management overfished resources of the United States. -Magnuson-Stevens Act, 1996
Commercial and recreational fisheries have contributed billions of dollars to the Gross National Product each year and have long been considered an inexhaustible resource. However, increasing pressures on marine ecosystems from overfishing, non-selective fishing gear, and habitat loss and degradation have jeopardized our nation's fisheries. Congress recognized these problems in its 1996 reauthorization of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, now known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act or the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The newly amended Act calls for the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils, in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries, to give heightened consideration to fish habitat in resource management decisions. The Essential Fish Habitat provisions of the Act offer resource managers a tool to accomplish this goal.

Smallmouth grunts (Haemulon chrysargyrrum) schooling over a high relief, highly diverse coral reef habitat in the Florida Keys. (Photo by Andrew Bruckner)

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