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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Coastal Habitat Protection Plan

Marine Fisheries

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Coastal Habitat
Protection Plan
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A Plan to Protect

The N.C. Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP) is the result of North Carolina’s Fisheries Reform Act, passed by the General Assembly in 1997. 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 plan includes:

  • A description of each coastal fish habitat, the species that utilize them and the ecological services provided;
  • The status and trends of each habitat;
  • A summary of threats to fish habitat from human activities or natural events;
  • Research, management and outreach recommendations to sustain fish habitat.

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. Jump to the Goals and Recommendations section or download the Recommendations chapter for the complete list of the CHPP's goals. 

For the current status of CHPP development, jump to the CHPP Process section.

For additional information please Contact CHPP

Digital copies of the entire document, as well as, individual chapters, annual reports and more can be found in the
Documents and Downloads page. 

Goals and Recommendations of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan

The Coastal Habitat Protection Plan includes the following goals and associated recommendations to protect habitat in North Carolina.

Goal 1. Improve Effectiveness of Existing Rules and Programs Protecting Coastal Fish Habitats
  • Continue to enhance enforcement of, and compliance with, Coastal Resources Commission, Environmental Management Commission, Marine Fisheries Commission and Wildlife Resources Commission rules and permit conditions.
  • Coordinate and enhance water quality, physical habitat and fisheries resource monitoring (including data management) from headwaters to the near-shore ocean.
  • Enhance and expand educational outreach on the value of fish habitat, threats from human activities, effects of non-native species and reasons for management measures.
  • Coordinate rulemaking and data collection for enforcement among regulatory commissions and agencies.
  • Develop and enhance assessment methodology and management tools for addressing cumulative impacts.
  • Enhance control of invasive species.
Goal 2. Identify, Designate and Protect Strategic Habitat Areas
  • Support Strategic Habitat Areas by:
    • Coordinating, completing and maintaining baseline habitat mapping (including seagrass, shell bottom and other bottom types) using the most appropriate technology.
    • Selective monitoring of the status of those habitats.
    • Assessing effects of land use and human activities on those habitats.
  • Identify and designate Strategic Habitat Areas.
Goal 3. Enhance Habitat and Protect it from Physical Impacts
  • Expand habitat restoration in accordance with restoration plan goals, including:
    • Creation of subtidal oyster reef no-take sanctuaries.
    • Re-establishment of riparian wetlands and stream hydrology.
    • Restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation habitat and shallow soft bottom nurseries.
    • Development of compensatory mitigation processes to restore lost fish habitat function.
    • Sustain healthy barrier island systems by maintaining and enhancing ecologically sound policies for ocean and inlet shorelines, and implement a comprehensive beach and inlet management plan that provides ecologically based guidelines to protect fish habitat and address socio-economic concerns.
  • Protect habitat from fishing gear effects through improved enforcement, establishment of protective buffers around habitats, modified rules and further restriction of fishing gear, where necessary.
  • Protect estuarine and public trust shorelines and shallow water habitats by revising shoreline stabilization rules to include consideration of erosion rates and preferred alternatives to vertical shoreline stabilization that maintain shallow nursery habitats.
  • Protect and enhance habitat for anadromous fishes by:
    • Incorporating the water quality and quantity needs of fish in surface water use planning and rule making;
    • Eliminating obstructions to fish movements, such as dams, locks and road fills.
  • Ensure that energy development and infrastructure is designed and sited in a manner that minimizes negative impacts to fish habitat, avoids new obstructions to fish passage and, where possible, provides positive impacts.
  • Protect important fish habitat functions from damage associated with activities such as dredging and filling.
  • Develop coordinated policies including management adaptions and guidelines to increase resiliency of fish habitat to climate change and sea level rise.
Goal 4. Enhance and Protect Water Quality
  • Reduce point source pollution from wastewater by:
    • Increasing inspections of wastewater treatment facilities, collection infrastructure and land disposal sites.
    • Providing incentives for upgrading all types of wastewater treatment systems.
    • Developing standards and treatment methods that minimize the threat of endocrine disrupting chemicals on aquatic life.
  • Adopt or modify rules or statutes to prohibit ocean wastewater discharges.
  • Prevent additional shellfish closures and swimming advisories through targeted water quality restoration, and prohibit new or expanded stormwater outfalls to coastal beaches and to coastal shellfishing waters (Environmental Management Commission surface water classifications SA and SB) except during times of emergency (as defined by the Division of Water Resource’s
  • Stormwater Flooding Relief Discharge Policy) when public safety and health are threatened, and continue to phase-out existing outfalls by implementing alternative stormwater management strategies.
  • Enhance coordination with, and financial/technical support for, local government actions to better manage stormwater and wastewater.
  • Improve strategies throughout the river basins to reduce non-point pollution and minimize cumulative losses of fish habitat through voluntary actions, assistance and incentives, including:
    • Improved methods to reduce sediment pollution from construction sites, agriculture and forestry.
      Increased on-site infiltration of stormwater.
    • Documentation and monitoring of small, but cumulative impacts to fish habitats from approved, un-mitigated activities.
    • Encouraging and providing incentives for low impact development.
    • Increased inspections of onsite wastewater treatment facilities.
    • Increased water re-use and recycling.
  • Improve strategies throughout the river basins to reduce non-point pollution and minimize cumulative losses of fish habitats and streams through rulemaking, including:
    • Increased use of effective vegetated buffers.
    • Implement and assess coastal stromwater rules and modify. if justified.
    • Modify water quality standards to adequately support submerged aquatic vegetation habitat.
  • Maintain adequate water quality conducive to the support of present and future aquaculture.
  • Reduce non-point source pollution from large-scale animal operations by the following actions:
    • Support early implementation of environmentally superior alternatives to the current lagoon and spray field systems as identified under the Smithfield Agreement, and continue the moratorium on new/expanded swine operations until alternative waste treatment technology is implemented.
    • Seek additional funding to phase-out large-scale animal operations in sensitive areas and relocate operations where necessary.
    • Use improved siting criteria to protect fish habitat.

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CHPP Process

Development and implementation of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan is a N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources effort. Staff from the department’s divisions with jurisdiction over marine fisheries, water quality and coastal management are required to participate in plan development. The Division of Marine Fisheries is the lead agency in drafting the plans. A CHPP Team, consisting of a few staff members from the Division of Marine Fisheries, Division of Coastal Management and Division of Water Resources meet as needed to provide input on plan drafts and discuss potential solutions to coastal habitat issues. To implement recommendations of the plan, the CHPP team develops specific actions in a separate implementation plan.

The CHPP Steering Committee, which consists of two commissioners from the Marine Fisheries, Coastal Management and Environmental Management commissions reviews and approves the plan, recommendations and implementation actions. They also meet regularly to discuss cross-cutting habitat and water quality issues and solutions and receive updates on CHPP progress. Members of the CHPP Steering Committee serve as liaisons to their full commissions to improve communication across commissions.

Other agencies, such as Albermarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Partnership, Wildlife Resource Commission, Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources, Division of Mitigation Services, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts have participated in the CHPP process, as well.

The initial plan was completed in 2005 and is reviewed and updated, as necessary, on a five-year cycle.

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Contact CHPP

Anne Deaton

Division of Marine Fisheries
Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov

Jimmy Johnson

Albermarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Partnership
Jimmy.Johnson@ncdenr.gov

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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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