This map shows important habitat areas for fish and shellfish species based on legislation drafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Management Act (MSA). These acts were implemented to protect species life cycle activities by conserving habitat and mitigating negative impacts on species preservation.

The map includes (1) designated critical habitat for species with a listing under the ESA, (2) composite Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) under the MSA showing the number of overlapping species with EFH in an area, and (3) Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC), which are a specific subset of EFH that are extremely important to a life stage of sensitive, rare, or vulnerable species.

Data Considerations

Atlantic salmon and Atlantic sturgeon are both listed as endangered under the ESA, but the map currently shows the boundaries of critical habitat only for Atlantic salmon and not for Atlantic sturgeon because spatial data for the latter were not available. The salmon boundaries on this map were obtained from a comprehensive national dataset hosted on a NOAA web server. Atlantic sturgeon is currently managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASFMC), which has mandated a moratorium on the species, and there is no spatial layer available.

There are three HAPCs on this map for Atlantic cod, tilefish, and sandbar shark. The spatial data for these HAPCs were downloaded from the NMFS GIS Data Inventory (www.habitat.noaa.gov/protection/efh/newInv/index.html). The Atlantic cod HAPC is available in the New England GIS database, while the tilefish HAPC is available in the Mid-Atlantic database. The sandbar shark HAPC is included in the sandbar shark EFH dataset from the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species database, and a definition query was created to visualize only the HAPC areas.

The two EFH overlay maps show (1) groundfish and sea scallop, and 2) Highly Migratory Species. The former shows the number of species with overlapping EFH in ten-minute square cells for a collection of groundfish and scallop species. It was created by The Nature Conservancy and is hosted in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) portal. The latter is a similar product for Highly Migratory Species created by RPS Applied Science Associates for the Northeast Regional Ocean Council’s Northeast Ocean Data website. Because source data were not in ten-minute squares, the Highly Migratory Species features show irregular polygon boundaries.


Northeast Ocean Data will update this map when new data become available or as the statuses of critical habitats or EFHs change.

Support for Regional Ocean Planning

For information about how these data and maps are being developed with stakeholder input and used to support regional ocean planning, please visit the Northeast Regional Planning Body website.