Coastal Habitat Protection Plan

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The Coastal Resources, Environmental Management, and Marine Fisheries Commissions have adopted the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, or CHPP, which has been revised and rewritten twice since its implementation in 2004. Rule-making and policy actions taken by the three commissions comply “…to the maximum extent practicable” with the plan. An annual report details the progress made by the respective commissions and North Carolina state agencies in the implementation of the plan. 

APNEP has been a part of the CHPP Team since its inception. While differences in scope, geography and mission exist, implementation of APNEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and the North Carolina Coastal Habitat Protection Plan are complimentary.  Submerged aquatic vegetation mapping and oyster reef research are two areas where APNEP has tackled issues that are critical to both the CCMP and the CHPP.  APNEP’s Coastal Habitats Coordinator works closely with the three commissions and their divisions within the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to ensure that both plans are implemented in a coordinated and integrated fashion.

2016 Coastal Habitat Protection Plan

2016 Coastal Habitat Protection Plan Source Document

The Plan

In 1997, due to concerns about declining fishery resources in North Carolina, The N.C. General Assembly passed the Fisheries Reform Act. The law is described as a three-legged stool to support healthy fisheries. One leg of the law addresses fishery management, another leg addresses habitat loss and the third addresses water quality degradation. All three legs are needed to sustain coastal fisheries. The law recognizes the importance of having sufficient quantity of quality habitat to support fish species throughout their life history. Because of the relationship between habitat and fish populations, the law contains the directive to protect and enhance habitats supporting coastal fisheries through the creation of a Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP). The CHPP is the guidance document that addresses habitat and water quality efforts needed to protect, enhance and restore fish habitat in North Carolina.

The overarching goal of the plan is long-term enhancement of coastal fisheries through habitat protection and enhancement efforts. To achieve this, there are four major goals of the plan, with multiple recommendations under each.

  • Goal 1. Improve Effectiveness of Existing Rules and Programs Protecting Coastal Fish Habitats
  • Goal 2. Identify, Designate and Protect Strategic Habitat Areas
  • Goal 3. Enhance Habitat and Protect it from Physical Impacts
  • Goal 4. Enhance and Protect Water Quality

The initial plan was completed in 2005 and is reviewed and updated, as necessary, on a five-year cycle. Currently, the third iteration of the plan is being utilized. The law requires the three regulatory commissions and their agencies to work in concert to implement the recommendations contained in the CHPP. 

Text Credit: NC Division of Marine Fisheries


Habitat is the physical space that an organism uses to fulfill its basic requirements for life, such as food, water, oxygen and shelter. Put simply, habitat is where something lives. Habitat can be thought of in very general terms or very complex ones. For example, a certain fish’s habitat may be described simply as “saltwater” or as complex as areas where the water has a salt concentration greater than 30.0 parts per thousand, a water depth less than 10 feet, a water temperature between 24 and 32 degrees Celsius, and where vegetation covers more than 75 percent of the substrate.

North Carolina has a diversity of fish habitat crucial to coastal fisheries. North Carolina’s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan breaks fish habitat into six groups known to be home to important fisheries species at many points in their life: Water Column, Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, Shell Bottom, Wetlands, Soft Bottom, and Hard Bottom.

Text Credit: NC Division of Marine Fisheries

NC Division of Marine Fisheries Habitat Information