Fish and Aquatic Conservation

History and Background

2008 10 Waters to Watch's Aaron Run. Credit: USFWS
2008 10 Waters to Watch's Aaron Run. Photo: USFWS

With half of America’s waters impaired, fish populations continue to decline. Fragmented restoration efforts have not done enough to reverse these trends. Seeing the need for a national initiative, the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council recommended that the Service initiate a partnership effort modeled after the highly effective North American Waterfowl Management Plan in its 2002 report, “A Partnership Agenda for Fisheries Conservation.” The Council stated that the Service is “the Federal agency best positioned to work cooperatively in developing the National Aquatic Habitat Plan in full partnership with other agencies having statutory authority, including the States and Tribes."

In September 2003, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies endorsed the concept and assumed a lead role in developing the comprehensive national fisheries habitat strategy in coordination with other existing fisheries habitat planning actions. The National Fish Habitat Initiative grew to become a science-based, voluntary and non-regulatory, nationwide strategy, endorsed by numerous partners and stakeholders, State fish and wildlife agency leaders, and 19 Federal agencies. With this strong base of support, the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) was signed on April 24, 2006.

Since then, a great deal has been accomplished in support of NFHAP, including:

  • The 22-member National Fish Habitat Board (the Board) was organized to oversee implementation of the Action Plan.

  • Twenty Fish Habitat Partnerships have been formally recognized by the Board.

  • The Board's Science and Data Committee updated its national assessment of aquatic habitat.  The most recent version (2015) assesses the human impact on rivers and estuaries in the United States.  Also, the format of the report has changed to include an online layout of the report and data mapper.  The report is titled “The Status of Fish Habitats in the United States”. 

  • Annually, NFHP’s “Waters to Watch” highlights progress made towards protecting or restoring specific aquatic habitats around the United States and the significant local and regional impacts of those conservation actions.

  • In collaboration with the Habitat Section of the American Fisheries Society, NFHP highlights achievements in aquatic habitat conservation, annually, through the National Fish Habitat Awards.


NFHAP logo


Last updated: April 20, 2017