Part I of this article provides a brief overview of how fish habitat conservation became a significant priority for NMFS and how and why provisions to ensure habitat conservation were introduced into the Magnuson-Stevens Act. We describe how the brief language in the Magnuson-Stevens Act was interpreted by the NMFS through its Interim Final Rule and controversies related to that interpretation. Part II examines the response of management agencies in the Gulf of Mexico to the EFH policy. Specifically, this case study reviews an amendment created by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to address EFH requirements and describes some interagency communications in the region regarding fish habitat conservation and coastal zone activities. Finally, in Part III, we suggest that although the EFH policy is somewhat limited in its ability to affect coastal zone management activities carried out by state agencies, it is a powerful tool to explicitly introduce habitat considerations into coastal zone management activities carried out by federal agencies. Further, EFH policy represents a significant step forward in the conservation of fish habitat through the legal recognition of fish habitat as a valid basis for fishery management efforts and as an important factor to consider when weighing the costs and benefits of coastal zone management projects.
Lee Benaka and Dennis Nixon,
Essential Fish Habitat and Coastal Zone Management: Business as Usual Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act?, 30 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.