The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act established an innovative regional public-private fisheries management framework by creating eight regional fishery management councils that work in conjunction with NOAA Fisheries. This council framework, which requires public transparency with broad stakeholder representation and participation, has become a model for fisheries management around the world. With their regional focus, the councils are able to tailor implementation to each region’s unique environmental needs and social and economic cultures.
Scientific information is provided to fishery managers and the councils, who use it to set the harvest and operational requirements for each fishery. These requirements, which are established in fishery management plans, support the goals of sustaining fish populations, protecting habitat and other species, and keeping fishermen on the job. To meet these requirements and ensure U.S. fisheries are sustainably managed, fishery managers can set:
- Limits on the amount of fish allowed for harvest.
- Limits on the number of fishermen who can participate in a fishery.
- Requirements on where, when, and how fish can be caught.
These limits are based on scientifically determined levels that ensure fish are not being caught too quickly and that enough fish are left in the ocean to reproduce and keep the population and ecosystem healthy. These levels, known as the maximum sustainable yields, are the largest long-term average catch that can be taken from a stock under prevailing environmental and fishery conditions.
A fish stock subject to overfishing is one with a harvest rate higher than the rate that produces the stock’s maximum sustainable yield. An overfished stock is one with its biomass level depleted to a point that the stock’s capacity to produce its maximum sustainable yield is jeopardized. Scientists monitor fisheries and fish populations to make sure overfishing is not taking place and that populations are not overfished. If one or both of these things occur, managers can amend fishery management plans and put rebuilding plans in place to bring the rate of fishing and/or the population back to sustainable levels.