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State-Federal Fisheries

The Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act

What Does It Do?

The Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (Atlantic Coastal fisheries Act) was signed into law in December 1993. It presents a new and innovative approach to coordinated management of coastal migratory fisheries along the U.S. Atlantic coast. The cooperative management process the law establishes involves the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act builds upon the success achieved by the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, which was instrumental in the recovery of Atlantic coastal striped bass stocks. The Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act provides a mechanism to ensure Atlantic coastal state compliance with mandated conservation measures in Commission-approved fishery management plans.

Prior to the passage of this Act, state implementation of a Commission fishery management plan was voluntary, with the exception of the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. Today, all Atlantic coast states that are included in a Commission fishery management plan must comply with certain conservation provisions of the plan or the Secretary of Commerce may impose a moratorium in that state's waters for harvesting the species in question.

Who is Involved?

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

The Commission was formed by the fifteen Atlantic coast states more than fifty years ago to assist in managing and conserving their shared coastal fishery resources. With the recognition that fish do not adhere to political boundaries, the states formed an Interstate Compact, which was approved by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President in 1942. The states have found that their mutual interest in sustaining healthy coastal fishery resources is best achieved by working together cooperatively, in collaboration with the federal government. Through this approach, the states uphold their collective fisheries management responsibilities in a cost-effective, timely and responsive fashion.

Each state is represented by three Commissioners, which include: the director for the state's marine fisheries management agency; a state legislator; and an individual knowledgeable in fisheries appointed by the state governor. These Commissioners participate in deliberations in the Commission's five main policy arenas: interstate fisheries management, research and statistics, habitat conservation, sport fish restoration, and law enforcement.

In January 1994, the Commission became responsible for implementing fishery management requirements for all Atlantic coast interjurisdictional fisheries under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act. The species regulated under this program are: American eel, American lobster, American shad and river herring, Atlantic croaker, Atlantic herring, Atlantic menhaden, Atlantic sturgeon, bluefish, northern shrimp, red drum, scup and black sea bass, Spanish mackerel, spot, spotted seatrout, striped bass, summer flounder, tautog, weakfish, and winter flounder.

Through the Interstate Fisheries Management Program (ISFMP), Commissioners determine management strategies which the states implement through fishing regulations. The ISFMP operates under the direction of the ISFMP Policy Board and the species management boards. The ISFMP Policy Board, comprised of Commissioners from the fifteen member states and representatives of the District of Columbia, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, oversees the program and meets at least bi-annually to establish and monitor the direction of the program.

The species management boards, also comprised of Commissioners and federal agency representatives, consider and approve the development and implementation of fishery management plans, including the integration of scientific information, proposed management measures, and considerations for habitat conservation and the management of protected species/fishery interactions. The species management boards are also responsible for ensuring that adequate opportunity for public input is provided during the plan development or amendment process.

With implementation of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act, public participation was further encouraged through the development of advisory panels for all Commission-managed species and the establishment of a public hearing process. The Commission's advisory panels are comprised of representatives from the commercial, charter boat, and recreational fishing industries, as well as conservation interests from coastal states participating in the management of a given species. The advisors' role is to provide input into the fishery management planning process from plan development and implementation through to any plan changes or amendments.

The waters for public participation were first tested in 1994 with the development of the Atlantic Striped Bass Advisory Panel and the initiation of public hearings for Addendum VI and Draft Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. Since that time, advisory panels have been developed to work with the American Eel, American Lobster, American Shad and River Herring, Atlantic Croaker, Atlantic Sturgeon, Bluefish, Scup and Black Sea Bass, Tautog, Weakfish, and Winter Flounder Management Boards, and the Northern Shrimp and the Atlantic Herring Sections.

Public hearings have also become an important part of the Commission's fishery management planning process, with at least four public hearings beingheld along the coast for the development of any interstate fishery management plan, plan amendment or addendum. Additionally, the Commission widely disseminates notice of any plan changes and provides opportunities for the submission of written comments.

U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Interior Responsibilities

Under the Act, the Department of Commerce, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Fishand Wildlife Service, are responsible for supporting the Commission's Interstate Fisheries Management Program. These responsibilities are met through the development of a program to support and enhance state cooperationin data collection, law enforcement, habitat conservation, fishery researchincluding biological, social, and economic research, and fishery management planning. Funds are made available for fisheries management support and planning activities at both the Commission and state level. Additionally, personnel from both agencies are provided to work on Commission programs.

A Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the two agencies, directs the development and implementation of the program. A committee of the two agencies meets twice a year and develops an annual plan which addresses contributions by the two agencies in the areas of funding, personnel,outreach, regulations and management planning.

Under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act, the Department of Commerce has the authority to implement rules in the federal waters of the Exclusive Economic Zone (three to 200 miles from shore) to complement the Commission's fishery management plans, if there is no federal fishery management plan under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Act) for the species of concern. Regulations are developed with the close cooperation of the Commission. Federal fisheries rules are implemented under the Magnuson Act.

The three federal Regional Fishery Management Councils along the Atlantic coast, may develop, if they deem necessary, fishery management plans to replace Exclusive Economic Zone regulations implemented under the Atlantic Coastal Act. Under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act, the Department of Commerce has there sponsibility and authority to implement moratoria on fishing in state waters when a state does not comply with the mandatory provisions of a Commission fishery management plan. The Commission must report to the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior that the state is outof compliance before the Department of Commerce can take any action.

Once a noncompliance notice is received, the Department of Commerce, working through the National Marine Fisheries Service, solicits comments from interested parties such as the concerned state(s), the Department of the Interior, the Commission and the Regional Fishery Management Councils. If the Secretary of Commerce determines that a state has failed to implement measures necessary for the conservation of any species covered under a Commission fishery management plan, the Secretary shall implement a moratorium on fishing (for the species in question) in the noncompliant state's waters.Moratoria are removed from a noncompliant state's waters when the Commissionnotifies the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior that itis satisfied that the noncompliant state has taken appropriate actions tocomply with the fishery management plan in question and if the Secretary ofCommerce agrees with the Commission's finding.

How Can I Become Involved?

Notify the Commission about the species you are interested in and you will receive information on that species and announcements of any proposed management actions for that species.x Notify your state fishery agency about your particular species of interest so that you can be informed about any relevant regulatory actions.

Attend Commission meetings to provide your input on any species-related activities or to become more familiar with the Commission's fishery management planning process.

Attend public hearings to provide your input on any state or Commission-related fishery management activities.

Provide written comments to the Commission on any proposed fishery measuresor activities.

Let your views be known.

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