NOAA Fisheries Feature



How are 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 protects and conserves marine mammals, sea turtles, and other threatened and endangered marine species by implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Major threats to marine mammals and sea turtles in the U.S. include, but are not limited to: destruction and alteration of habitats; incidental capture in commercial and recreational fisheries; entanglement in marine debris; and vessel strikes. NOAA Fisheries promulgates regulations to minimize these and other threats to the recovery of protected species.

How are Fisheries Rules and Regulations Made?

  • Fisheries Management Council identifies problem and proposes alternatives.
  • Council holds 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 publishes 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 Apply to NOAA Fisheries?

NOAA Fisheries' ocean stewardship responsibilities are directed by many federal laws in addition to the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Endangered Species Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

  • The Lacey Act prohibits fish or wildlife transactions and activities that violate state, federal, and Native American tribal or foreign laws.
  • The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act authorizes NOAA Fisheries to collect fisheries data for environmental decisions that affect living marine resources.
  • The Federal Powers Act allows NOAA Fisheries to minimize effects of dam operations, such as prescribing fish passageways that bypass dams, on anadromous fish. 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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