The Office of Policy develops and executes integrated strategies for NOAA Fisheries’ long-range planning, policy development, coordination, and implementation. The Office is responsible for effective NOAA and external relations on issues of policy development, communications, consistency, and tracks and helps resolve policy issues affecting NOAA Fisheries and its programs. In support of this responsibility, the Office of Policy provides secretariat support for the NOAA Fisheries Leadership Council and NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC).
The Office of Policy reports to the Directorate and serves the Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries and the three Deputy Assistant Administrators (Regulatory Programs, Operations, and the Director of Scientific Programs). Determining policy is one of the NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS) leadership's most important functions. Policy provides a focus and context for NMFS actions and a guide for the behavior of the organization and its members.
The Office of Policy helps create policy guidance through research, analysis and review of programmatic, organizational, and budgetary implications of current or proposed actions, and develops and manages subsequent processes for policy implementation and integration. The Office identifies future national-level requirements for living marine resource and habitat stewardship, and develops plans and recommends programs to respond to those requirements.
The NMFS Policy Directives System (PDS) establishes the framework for formulating NMFS policy, and serves as the repository for NMFS policies and procedures. The PDS processes, requirements and holdings are maintained in a publicly-accessible website.
Recent activities of the Office of Policy staff include:
- National Ocean Policy - Governance, Interagency Task Force, Legislation
- Catch Shares and Limited Access Privilege Program (LAPP) Guidelines
- Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization Implementation
- Regional Marine Ecosystem Approaches to Management
- 2009 Transition Support
- Seafood safety and quality policy guidance
- Ecolabeling policies
The Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) advises the Secretary of Commerce on all living marine resource matters that are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. The members, representing a wide spectrum of fisheries, environmental, academic, state, tribal, consumer and other related national interests, draw on their expertise and other appropriate sources to evaluate and recommend priorities and needed changes in national programs, including the periodic reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens, the Endangered Species and the Marine Mammal Protection Acts.
The Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere is the designated chair of the Committee. MAFAC meets at least twice per year, sessions are open to the public and agendas, meeting materials, reports and transcripts are available from the MAFAC website.
The NOAA Fisheries Leadership Council is the senior policy making and advisory body serving the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. The Council is chaired by the Assistant Administrator, and its membership is comprised of:
- The Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations; the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs; and the Director of Scientific Programs/Chief Science Advisor;
- The six Regional Administrators
- The six Science Center Directors
- The Directors of the eleven Headquarters Offices