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The following section is excerpted from the NOAA Fisheries website describing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) that details the US marine fishery management system.

“The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. The Act was first enacted in 1976 and amended in 1996. Most notably, the Magnuson-Stevens Act aided in the development of the domestic fishing industry by phasing out foreign fishing. To manage the fisheries and promote conservation, the Act created eight regional fishery management councils. The 1996 amendments focused on rebuilding overfished fisheries, protecting essential fish habitat, and reducing bycatch.”

In 2006, the MSA was reauthorized with amendments focused on ending overfishing, the increased use of market-based management tools and an emphasis on the ecosystem approach to fishery management. Review the MSA document at

The MSA contains 10 National Standards for Sustainable Fisheries Management that must be followed by the regional councils in developing Fishery Management Plans, amendments and new regulations. Review the National Standards (16 U.S.C. 1851 MSA § 301 58 Title III—National Fishery Management Program Sec. 301. National Standards for Fishery Conservation and Management (16 U.S.C. 1851) at  The National Standards are paraphrased below.

Conservation and management measures shall:

  1. Prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield.
  2. Be based upon the best scientific information available.
  3. Manage individual stocks as a unit throughout their range, to the extent practicable; interrelated stocks shall be managed as a unit or in close coordination.
  4. Not discriminate between the residents of different states; any allocation of privileges must be fair and equitable.
  5. Where practicable, promote efficiency, except that no measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.
  6. Take into account and allow for variations among the contingencies in fisheries, fishery resources, and catches.
  7. Minimize costs and avoid duplication, where practicable.
  8. Take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities to provide for sustained participation of, and to minimize impacts to, such communities (consistent with conservation requirements).
  9. Minimize bycatch or mortality from bycatch.
  10. Promote safety of human life at sea.

Fishery Ecosystem Plan →