Defining essential fish habitat : a model-based approach
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Defining essential fish habitat : a model-based approach

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  • NOAA Program & Office:
  • Description:
    It is federally mandated that the National Marine Fisheries Service and the eight regional fishery management councils identify essential fish habitat (EFH) for all managed fish species. EFH is defined as 'those waters and substrate necessary for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity.' This pamphlet describes a new model-based method for defining EFH that bases species distributions on habitat characteristics​, rather than simply mapping historic patterns of survey catches. The method uses latitude and longitude, sampling year, and characteristics such as depth, temperature, and sediment type to quantify a species' distribution. The model is used to predict catch- per-tow over a finely spaced grid of locations covering the species' range. These predictions then can be used to generate population percentiles like those used in the current method. But the new method bases EFH definitions on habitat attributes and changes in stock abundance, and it can be used to obtain smooth and continuous regions representing any desired population percentile - both of which go beyond the ability of the current method. Three applications of the approach are demonstrated, using data for Atlantic cod, winter flounder, and yellowtail flounder.
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