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HEPR: Alaska Essential Fish Habitat Research Plan, A New Approach

Research Areas:
Loss of Sea Ice
Essential Fish Habitat
Ocean Acidification
Bering Sea Project
Core Team Members
Alaska coral

The new approach is to build integrated lab, field, and modeling studies of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). The purpose is to elevate EFH information for Alaska fish and crab species from Level 1 (distribution) and Level 2 (habitat-related densities) to Level 3 (habitat-related growth, reproductive, or survival rates). An example product is a map of growth potential for sablefish covering the Gulf of Alaska.

As for previous EFH research plans, individual studies that estimate functional relationships will be conducted (e.g., response of fish growth rate to a range of temperatures; Laurel et al. 2016). The new research plan adds flexibility to fund multi-year research (up to three years), promotes integrated studies, and updates research objectives for the next five years.

Integrated EFH studies now are possible because EFH information recently made a big advance; analyses determined the environmental influences on species distributions, which were applied to refine the EFH maps. These maps provide EFH Level 2 information (habitat-related densities) for the juvenile and adult life stages for most Fishery Management Plan (FMP) species and EFH Level 1 information (distribution) for the remaining FMP species in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and southeastern Bering Sea.


Research objectives for the next 5 years

Develop EFH Level 1 information (distribution) for life stages and areas where missing. Raise EFH level from Level 1 or 2 (habitat-related densities) to Level 3 (habitat-related growth, reproduction, or survival rates).


Revised every 5 years

Revisions of the EFH research plan are timed to match required EFH 5-year reviews; the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and NOAA Fisheries NMFS are required by EFH regulations to review the EFH components within each FMP every 5 five years.

For more information, see the revised EFH plan or contact Mike Sigler at or 907 957 2977.


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