North Carolina’s approximately 2.5 million acres of estuarine and marine waters are spawning, nursery, and feeding areas for most of state’s important coastal fishery species, including many that migrate throughout the Atlantic coast. In the 19th century, fish and shellfish resources were considered inexhaustible. We now know that is not true. Increasing pressures on coastal and marine resources and habitats, including loss of habitat and degradation of water quality and habitat, are threatening North Carolina’s fisheries.
Recognizing the need to both protect habitat and prevent overfishing, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Fisheries Reform Act in 1997. The law contains the directive to protect and enhance habitats supporting coastal fisheries. The law requires cooperation among three rule-making commissions: Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission, and Marine Fisheries Commission. The commissions must work together to develop, adopt, and implement plans to protect and restore fisheries habitats. The Division of Marine Fisheries was charged with writing the plan.
Habitat is "a place, or set of places, in which a fish, fish population or fish assemblage finds the physical, chemical and biological features needed for life."