Habitat OverviewCouncils are required to designate essential fish habitat (EFH) and take steps to minimize the impacts of fishing gear on EFH to the extent practicable. The Council’s 1999 habitat amendment designated EFH for the 18 species managed by the Council at the time, documented major threats to EFH from both fishing and non-fishing related activities, and designated Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) for Atlantic salmon and Atlantic cod.
In 2004, the Council initiated Omnibus EFH Amendment 2 (OHA2). Once implemented in 2017, OHA2 will update EFH designations for all species managed by the Council (now 28), designate new HAPCs, and revise the current habitat and groundfish management areas. The amendment used a new Swept Area Seabed Impact (SASI) model to assess habitat vulnerability to fishing gear and develop revised habitat management areas. The Council is developing a trailing action to OHA2 that will consider whether to exempt clam dredges in part or all of two new habitat management areas.
The Council also is developing a deep-sea coral amendment that considers coral conservation measures: (1) in canyons and on seamounts south of Georges Bank, some of which overlap with the recently designated Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument; and (2) in the Gulf of Maine, both inshore off the eastern Maine coast and offshore in Jordan and Georges Basins. The Council is coordinating with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council on deep-sea coral management efforts, pursuant to a 2013 memorandum of understanding.