The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals. It also calls for protection of the habitats and ecosystems in which these species are found. The law requires federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, to ensure that the actions they authorize are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or cause the destruction of the habitats those species depend on.
The Protected Resources program conserves and recovers marine resources by doing the following:
- Listing species under the ESA and designating critical habitat (section 4);
- Developing and implementing recovery plans for listed species (section 4);
- Developing cooperative agreements with and providing grants to States for species conservation (section 6);
- Consulting on any Federal actions that may affect a listed species to minimize the effects of the action (section 7);
- Partnering with other nations to ensure that international trade does not threaten species (section 8);
- Investigating violations of the ESA (section 9);
- Cooperating with non-federal partners to develop conservation plans for the long-term conservation of species (section 10); and
- Authorizing research to learn more about protected species (section 10).
There are more than 1900 species listed under the ESA, yet only 68 of those species fall under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service. During the development of a fishery management plan or amendment, the Council must assess the potential impacts of the action on any ESA-listed species known to interact with the fishery (or whose habitat is impacted by the fishery). As part of this process, the Council must perform a consultation with either NOAA Fisheries or USFWS, pursuant to Section 7 of the ESA , to ensure that the proposed action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed species or result in destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.