Home > Explore Data & Reports > Regional Essential Fish Habitat Geospatial Assessment and Framework for Offshore Sand Features


Pickens, B.A., and J.C. Taylor. 2020. Regional Essential Fish Habitat Geospatial Assessment and Framework for Offshore Sand Features. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 270 and BOEM OCS Study 2020-002. Beaufort, NC. 367 pp. doi:10.25923/akzd-8556

Data/Report Type:

NOAA Technical Memorandum


The demand for marine sand resources is increasing in the United States, as coastal and offshore sands are commonly used for beach renourishment and barrier island restoration. The dredging of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and sand shoals in particular, is likely to increase in the near future because nearshore sand resources are being depleted while demand increases due to renourishment cycles for beaches, emergency repairs of beaches after storms, and the projected effects of sea-level rise. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), as part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is responsible for the management and development of energy and mineral resources on the OCS, including marine minerals. Concurrently, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), written in 1976 and amended in 1996 and 2007, has the objectives of preventing overfishing, rebuilding overfished stocks, increasing long-term economic and social benefits, and ensuring a sustainable supply of seafood. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for identification and protection of "Essential Fish Habitat" (EFH) of federally managed marine- and anadromous fishes during each of their life stages. Projects authorized or conducted by the Federal Government must consult with NMFS regarding EFH to ensure full consideration of the environmental effects and possible mitigation measures so that fish and their habitats are not adversely affected. This study follows an comprehensive literature review on sand shoal geology, geography, and general biological value. Here, we concentrate on the attributes of sand dredging that relate directly to fish and EFH: potential impacts of dredging on fish, a synthesis of known fish habitat associations, and the development of predictive models to identify the location and types of shoals and distribution of fish species. These new data were then incorporated into an interactive mapping tool that generates reports for the essential fish habitat consultation process.

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