How are the Federal Living Marine Resources Managed?

The nation's premier fisheries law, the Magnuson Fishery Conservation Act, created eight Regional Fishery Management Councils that work in partnership with NOAA Fisheries to manage marine fish stocks. The council membership is a balance of commercial and recreational fishermen, marine scientists, and state and federal fisheries managers, who combine their knowledge to prepare fishery management plans for marine fish stocks in their respective geographic areas. These plans can limit fishing effort, seasons, fishing gear, the number of fishermen allowed to fish for a certain species, and the total amount of fish that can be caught. The federal management process provides many opportunities for input from fishermen and others concerned with the use of these resources. Similarly, NOAA Fisheries manages stocks of marine mammals, sea turtles, and protected salmon through a planning process that also features public comment, and advice from the regional fishery management councils.

How are Rules and Regulations Made?

  • Fisheries Management Council identifies problem and proposes alternatives.
  • Council hold public hearings and collects comments
  • Council then reviews, approves fishery management plan or amendment and submits it to Commerce Secretary for formal review.
  • Commerce Department published proposed rule on plan or amendment and seeks further public comment.
  • Upon further review, Commerce Secretary makes final decision on plan or amendment, NOAA Fisheries implements rules.

What Marine Resource Laws does NOAA Fisheries Follow?

NOAA Fisheries receives its ocean stewardship responsibilities under many federal laws, in addition to the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Most important are the Endangered Species Act, which protects species determined to be threatened or endangered; the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which regulates interactions with marine mammals; the Lacey Act, which prohibits fish or wildlife transactions and activities that violate state, federal, and native American tribal, or foreign laws; the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, which authorizes NOAA Fisheries to collect fisheries data on environmental decisions which affect living marine resources; and the Federal Powers Act, which allows NOAA Fisheries to minimize effects of dam operations on anadromous fish, such as prescribing fish passageways that bypass dams. Many other statutes, international conventions, and treaties also guide NOAA Fisheries activities.

For a comprehensive listing of the regulations established by NOAA Fisheries, see the portal.


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