Our nation’s journey toward sustainable fisheries began more than 35 years ago and continues to evolve.
In the early 1970s, federal fisheries activities were limited to supporting treaties governing international waters, which at the time were defined as waters a mere 12 miles or more off our nation’s coasts. In 1976, Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which:
- Extended the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) out to 200 miles.
- Eliminated competition from the foreign fishing fleets off our coasts.
- Established our basic fisheries management system.
By the late 1980s, however, modern fishing fleet and advancements in fishing technologies were leading to the depletion of some of the nation’s most iconic fisheries. Adjustments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act were needed, and in 1996, it was amended to focus on protecting fish habitat and rebuilding fisheries. Since then, Congress has reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Act several times to strengthen the law to better conserve and manage our fisheries.