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Help Conserve Essential
Fish Habitat

If you have been following the Bristol Bay red king crab closure and the solutions AMCC has been advocating for, you know that conserving habitat is a top priority for us. Roughly every five years, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) reviews its assessments of Essential Fish Habitat, or EFH, which is designed to account for the effects of fishing effort on habitat that is important to a multitude of species like crab, rockfish and salmon. This process helps to determine when changes need to be made to conserve and enhance the habitat essential for a productive ocean, and we're at the end of the most recent EFH 5-year review.


THE CONTEXT. We remain deeply concerned about the continued and unmitigated impacts of pelagic trawl gear on the seafloor. This fishing gear is described in regulation to be off the bottom, but in practice, we know otherwise. The analysis presented to the NPFMC in April 2022 illuminated this alarming discrepancy: during the most vulnerable months for crab, nets from factory processor ships are actually on the seafloor from 70% to 90% of the time and are even permitted to fish in areas protected from bottom trawling.


While we are undoubtedly concerned about the near-term effects of this gear on crab, the implications of pelagic bottom contact are extensive and underrepresented. AMCC’s concern about habitat destruction in the North Pacific is relevant to all biodiversity, so at this upcoming NPFMC meeting our attention is on EFH.


HOW YOU CAN HELP. The NPFMC is scheduled to discuss Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) on Saturday, February 11th at their meeting in Seattle.


Under the guidance of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Fishery Management Plans require ongoing identification of actions to encourage EFH conservation and enhancement, which has been underutilized in Council decision-making.


We urge you to submit comments to the NPFMC asking Council members to take additional action to conserve and enhance EFH. Ask them to solicit proposals from the public for recommendations regarding EFH conservation and enhancement.


Examples of EFH conservation and enhancement alternatives that could be raised in a public proposal process could include:


  • revising the definition of pelagic trawl gear to reflect known bottom contact

  • reducing localized EFH impacts, particularly in areas of crab habitat

  • protection of long-lived habitat features like octocorals and sponges

  • limiting expansion of the footprint of bottom trawling in the Gulf of Alaska


HOW TO COMMENT. Submit written comments online by Friday, February 3rd at noon AKT at:


Scroll down to agenda item “C4: EFH 5-year review Summary Report” and click “Comment Now” to write a comment or attach a letter. Briefly state your name, hometown and connection to marine ecosystems. You can use the talking points below to support your call for public proposals. 


  • There is enough to work with from the current analysis to suggest potential conservation measures; however, more time for collaboration is warranted to determine potential paths forward. The Scientific and Statistical Committee of the NPFMC highlighted nine stocks where there was "insufficient information to elevate to plan teams for mitigation" including vulnerable crab species and rockfish including Aleutian Island golden king crab; Eastern Bering Sea red king crab, tanner crab and snow crab and four species of Gulf of Alaska rockfish.

  • Alaska needs a public process to better incorporate diverse knowledge systems into proposals for conservation and enhancement of EFH, in both the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska.

  • Identifying EFH conservation and enhancement actions is a required step in the EFH process.

  • There is uncertainty around the amounts and effects of habitat disturbance from commercial fishing effects in marine ecosystems, which is a particular concern as those ecosystems experience increasing effects from climate change. 

  • EFH does not currently address localized habitat impacts sufficiently, and no other process within the Council system is designed to address localized habitat impacts.

  • EFH does not include or consider the habitat necessary for juvenile and subadult life stages of important species.

  • The Alaska Bycatch Task Force recently recommended review of open/closed areas, and consideration of protecting additional areas from trawl impacts.

  • EFH processes and conservation efforts should be constantly updated with new information, such as the location and distribution of sensitive habitat types like octocorals, sponges and rocky substrates, and new information about fishing impacts. 

  • New information on the impacts of pelagic trawl bottom contact should be better incorporated into EFH considerations. There are significant habitat impacts from trawling, which accounts for 97% of the seafloor habitat impacts caused by commercial fishing.

  • New and more localized information on EFH descriptions, distributions, conditions and impacts can and should help to develop EFH conservation and enhancement actions, which is a required management measure. Public input from stakeholders and experts can help to identify approaches and focus efforts.

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