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Priorities Overview

Read the 2012 enforcement priorities document. This document by NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement represents input and collaboration from commercial and recreational fishermen, fishery management councils, state enforcement partners, and NGOs.

Establishing annual enforcement priorities helps us focus our resources and strategically use our state and federal partnerships to monitor the more than 3,000,000 square miles of open ocean and 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline over which we have jurisdiction. These priorities improve our ability to rebuild and protect the public’s fisheries and other national resources and to protect the many fishermen who play by the rules. It is the latest step we are taking to improve compliance through better communication with fishermen.

We developed these priorities through a collaborative process with participation from the fishery management councils, interstate fishery commissions, and interested stakeholders, including fishermen and public, private, and nongovernmental organizations.

We accomplish our priorities through the following activities:

  • Criminal and civil investigations
  • Patrols, inspections, and monitoring
  • Partnerships with state, tribal, and federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations
  • Cooperative fisheries enforcement to implement international treaties and obligations
  • Outreach and compliance assistance
  • Use of innovative technological tools


Enforcement Officer Tim Gould measures crab to make sure it’s of legal size.

The national priorities set in 2012 focus on:

  • Helping the fishing industry understand and follow regulations that support sustainable fish stocks and a sustainable fishing industry.
  • Implementing compliance and enforcement plans for catch share management.
  • Monitoring fish product imports for compliance with domestic and international laws and regulations.
  • Protecting marine resources in National Marine Sanctuaries.
  • Protecting marine mammal and endangered species by enforcing bycatch reduction, gear, and closed area regulations.
  • Supporting observer programs, which collect critical scientific data about fish stock status, bycatch, and fishery interactions with protected species.

In addition to our national priorities, which we revisit through a public process every other year, we also establish regional priorities on an annual basis.  These regional priorities support  the overall national priorities by providing guidance that takes into consideration geographic specific resources, activities and threats.