A settlement agreement with the federal government has been reached to protect marine fish habitat throughout U.S. waters. Commercial fishing gear such as longlines and trawls often greatly affect areas referred to as essential fish habitat. The settlement requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to analyze the environmental impacts of commercial gear on marine habitat. The government must come up with a range of alternatives to minimize those impacts on EFH. Several groups filed a lawsuit in 1998 to protect habitats critical to fish health and productivity, such as reefs and seamounts. ''The protection of essential fish habitat is key to restoring and maintaining the health of the nation’s ocean wildlife. This settlement is a major step toward that goal,'' says Phil Kline, fisheries program director for American Oceans Campaign.A U.S. District Court decision in September 2000 ordered the government to determine how fishing practices and gear may disrupt fish habitat and destroy ocean life. This agreement details how and when that determination will proceed. Copies of the settlement agreement, district court decision and other materials are available online at www.oceana.org.