February 2003

I. Location Of Main Landing Places

The location of the top 50 USA landing places by volume and by value are shown in Figure 1. To avoid disclosure and to preserve the confidentiality of private enterprise, certain leading ports have not been included. Landings occur throughout the US, usually in reasonable proximity to the fishing areas. As vessels have increased in speed and freezing capabilities, the relationship is less strictly held than in past decades. Catches of Alaska pollock, Pacific whiting and other Pacific groundfish caught in the northeast Pacific EEZ of the US and processed at-sea are not attributed to a specific US port. The record landings for an individual port in quantity was 386 thousand metric tons in Los Angeles, California in 1960 and for value was $224.1 million in Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, Alaska in 19941 .

II. Organisational Structure Of Fisheries Authorities At National Level

Management within the EEZ is the responsibility of the Federal government and eight regional Fishery Management Councils. The Federal EEZ is located 3-200 nautical miles (n.mi.) seaward of the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Hawaii, and US-affiliated islands except 9-200 n.mi. off Texas, the Florida Gulf Coast, and Puerto Rico.

NMFS is the agency responsible for the science-based conservation and management of the Nation's living marine resources and their environment. NMFS is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce. NMFS is often referred to as NOAA Fisheries. NMFS provides scientific and technical services and programs in support of fisheries management and conservation. NOAA Fisheries coordinates and approves fishery management plans, implements and enforces regulations, and conducts other fisheries conservation and service programs. Councils develop federal fishing plans and regulations through a process involving technical teams, independent scientific committees, constituent advisory panels, enforcement officials, lawyers, management agencies, and the public. Council members are nominated by state governors in each region and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. On each council are each state's director of marine fisheries; a person knowledgeable of fisheries or marine conservation from each state; and some at-large members from any of the states in the region. Scientific and Statistical Committees (of scientists and other technical persons) and Advisory Panels (of people knowledgeable in fisheries or conservation). The plans and their concomitant regulations are submitted to NMFS for approval and implementation. Copies of the fisheries legislation and related documents, including guidelines, can be found at Links to the Councils are at The NMFS organization chart is at The US Coast Guard ( works with NMFS on at-sea enforcement.

Fig.1. Commercial Fishery Landings and Value at Major U.S. Ports, (2001)

Nearshore fisheries, within the 0-3 nm (in most states) territorial sea, are managed by coastal states and three interstate marine fisheries commissions. State agencies manage fishery resources within state waters, developing programs, policies, and conservation regulations. The commissions are used by the states as an instrument for joint action, focusing on issues that affect multiple states. The commissions coordinate data collection, research, and responses to fisheries issues. Membership in the commissions include the states of the region, government and industry leaders, and representatives of the fishing sectors. Links to the Commissions are at

Beyond the EEZ, open-ocean fisheries are studied and governed by international laws and multi-lateral treaties, agreements and organizations. The US actively participate in scores of these activities in order to help build sustainable fisheries, including the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, and the United Nation's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Inland fisheries, within states or tribal lands, are managed by the states or tribes. The Biological Resources Discipline ( of the US Geological Survey assists in fisheries science and the US Fish and Wildlife Service ( assists with a system of hatcheries. Both agencies are part of the Interior Department. In the case of the Great Lakes, whose resources are shared with Canada, the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission ( coordinates research and regulatory actions.

III. Fisheries Management

Concern for the sustainability of fish resources was evident as early as 1871, when Congress wrote that "... the most valuable food fishes of the coast and the lakes of the US are rapidly diminishing in number, to the public injury, and so as materially to affect the interests of trade and commerce...." However, it was not until 1976, when the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) was implemented, that the Federal government was given responsibility for actively managing fish resources and fisheries. The MFCMA expanded the Federal role in fisheries to include management of resources from 3 to 200 miles off the coast for most species and beyond 200 miles for anadromous species such as salmon. Prior to the MFCMA, the Federal fisheries role mostly consisted of biological research, exploratory fishing, gear development, financial assistance programs, voluntary seafood inspection programs, and participation in several international agreements and treaties.

In recent years, NOAA's vision for increasing the Nation's wealth includes maintaining fishery resources over time to provide Americans with both commercial and recreational fishing opportunities and a safe supply of high quality seafood. This vision incorporates both biological and economic sustainability: stock levels maintained at biologically healthy levels; optimal harvest of fish over time, using the least-cost levels of capital, labor, and other resources; and equitable allocation of the harvest between user groups 2.

In partnership with the regional fishery management councils, NMFS is working to fully implement the legislative goals of preventing overfishing and restoring overfished stocks. The NMFS objectives are to reduce fishing intensity, monitor the fisheries, and implement measures to reduce bycatch and protect essential fish habitat. To meet these objectives, NMFS is employing a broad range of management measures including establishing marine protected areas and individual fishing quotas, reducing fishing capacity, and implementing ecosystem-based fishery management. Recent initiatives include streamlining regulatory operations, implementing the recommendations of independent review bodies, and expanding fishery science and research3 .

Significant progress has been made in recent years. Two stocks were declared to be fully rebuilt in 2001. The stocks with sustainable harvest rates rose by 45 percent between 1999 and 2001, while those with sustainable stocks sizes increased by a third. The number of stocks with overfishing occurring have been reduced by 15 percent, and those whose stock size is below minimum acceptable levels, i.e., overfished stocks, have declined by 12 percent in the last year. Rebuilding programs are in place or under development for virtually all overfished stocks, and have largely resulted in the gains.4

A. Overview of the Government Strategy

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (known as the MSFCMA or the Magnuson Act) is the primary fisheries law in the US It mandates strong action to conserve and manage fishery resources that contribute to the food supply, economy, and health of the Nation. Its provisions require NMFS to end overfishing, rebuild all overfished stocks, and conserve essential fish habitat through research and consultations on Federal and state actions which may adversely affect such habitat. The MSFCMA and related documents are available at

The standards set forth in the Act provide the roadmap for US marine fisheries actions. Any FMP prepared, and any regulation promulgated to implement any such plan, shall be consistent
with 10 national standards. Fishery conservation and management measures:

  • Shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery.

  • Shall be based upon the best scientific information available.

  • Shall manage, to the extent practicable, an individual stock of fish as a unit throughout its range, and interrelated stocks of fish as a unit or in close coordination.

  • Shall not discriminate between residents of different States. If it becomes necessary to allocate or assign fishing privileges among various US fishermen, such allocation shall be fair and equitable to all such fishermen, reasonably calculated to promote conservation, and no particular individual, corporation, or other entity may acquire an excessive share of such privileges.

  • Shall, where practicable, consider efficiency in the utilization of fishery resources; except that no such measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.

  • Shall take into account and allow for variations among, and contingencies in, fisheries, fishery resources, and catches.

  • Shall, where practicable, minimize costs and avoid unnecessary duplication.

  • Shall take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities in order to provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities.

  • Shall, to the extent practicable, minimize bycatch and to the extent bycatch cannot be avoided, minimize the mortality of such bycatch.

  • Shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea.

The MSFCMA interacts with other important federal and state laws such as te Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

The US fishing fleet is diverse in terms of sizes and gear types varying significantly among fisheries as well as among geographic areas. One consequence of the size and diversity of the harvest sector is that management of all US fisheries with a single policy is not feasible. Even individual fleets are quite diverse, and each fishery has unique biological, economic, and sociological characteristics that make broad-based policy impractical. On the other hand, regulation on a fishery-by-fishery basis is not practical or effective. Vessels are extremely mobile and are often able to change gear types quite readily. In addition, retiring vessels from fishing altogether is often difficult; once a vessel is built and equipped for fishing, few alternative uses exist for it. This provides incentive for vessels to transfer effort from one fishery or geographic location to another, rather than leave fishing altogether, when regulations become binding. When vessels shift effort to open-access fisheries or to those regulated with traditional command and- control methods, the new vessels may impose stock and/or crowding externalities on existing vessels. When controlled access systems are in place, these externalities are taken into account when fishermen decide whether or not to enter a new fishery. Fishermen would only shift effort to another fishery if it were worth the cost of purchasing the right to harvest in that fishery. Thus, management systems that take into account the potential transfer of effort, and provide the correct incentives and signals for entry and exit of vessels and fishermen, are important for ensuring that effort reductions in one fishery do not exacerbate conditions in other fisheries5 . Several important US fisheries are managed through systems that limit effort.

B. Description Of Main Management Systems For Major Fisheries

NMFS and the Councils have developed and implemented 40 Fishery Management Plans to manage domestic fishery stocks, under the authority of the MSFCMA. Of these, two are Secretarial FMPs developed by NMFS for Atlantic highly migratory species. Another nine Plans are under development. The Plans and links to further information are available through

All Council-prepared FMPs must be reviewed for approval by the Secretary of Commerce and then implemented by NMFS through Federal regulations. The FMPs are amended by the Councils and the amendments are submitted for approval under the same Secretarial review process as new FMPs. Most of the FMPs have been amended since initial implementation.

In 2001, NMFS published 853 documents in the Federal Register that affected domestic fishing issues and either proposed or implemented fishery management actions (i.e., FMP and amendments). The documents published included hearing, meeting, correction, and proposed and final rule docments.

Data from survey vessels, landing statistics and other sources flow through an analytical system that brings information before decision makers across the fisheries spectrum. The following figure provides an overview of the flow and processes.

Fig.2. Flow of fishery-dependent and -independent data through the management process

Major Fisheries by Region 6

The mixed-species groundfish fishery has traditionally been the most valuable, followed by American lobster and Atlantic sea scallop. Recreational fisheries for species such as Atlantic cod, winter flounder, Atlantic mackerel, striped bass, bluefish, and bluefin tuna are also important to the region's economy. Principal groundfish and flounders in the Northeast, particularly cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder, have been severely overfished, reaching record low levels in spawning stock biomass in 1993-94, but they have since begun to rebuild. Dogfish and skates, which increased in abundance beginning in the 1970's as groundfish and flounders declined, currently comprise a substantial fraction of the total fish biomass on Georges Bank and have supported larger catches in recent years. Since 1990, however, their abundances have also begun to decrease. Catches of other groundfish have become more important in recent years as the preferred species continued to decline in number.

Five species, mainly pelagic fishes, are presently underutilized, and the CPY of the two most abundant of these, Atlantic mackerel and herring, is about 555,500 t higher than their combined recent average yield (RAY).

The anadromous striped bass, driven to very low levels of abundance in the early 1980's and subjected to severe catch restrictions beginning in the mid 1980's, was declared fully restored in early 1995. The region's valuable crustaceans and bivalve mollusks, both offshore (e.g. American lobster, sea scallop, surfclam, and ocean quahog) and inshore (e.g. blue crab, oyster, blue mussel, and hard and softshell clam) are nearly all fully or overexploited.

Most Northeast Region fisheries are governed by FMP's that are either in place or under development. Despite the goals of FMP's, overexploitation of their respective species has occurred in many cases, and efforts to rebuild have generally not yet succeeded in fully restoring depleted stocks. Striped bass (managed since 1981 by an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) FMP), herring, mackerel, short-finned squid, scallops, and surfclams (managed by Federal FMP's) are the only species to have fully recovered from overutilization. Both summer flounder and weakfish have experienced marked increases in abundance and reductions in fishing mortality as a result of regulatory constraints imposed by FMP's, although target levels have not yet been fully achieved. Amendment 5 to the Northeast Multispecies FMP, approved in March 1994, was intended to limit commercial fishing effort on groundfish in New England and bring recovery within 5-10 years. However, scientific advice issued in August 1994, indicating that the Georges Bank stocks of cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder had collapsed or were in danger of collapsing, led to the December 1994, emergency closure of portions of Georges Bank, severely restricting fishing for haddock. In addition, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) developed and implemented Amendment 7 to the Multispecies FMP to further reduce fishing mortality on these stocks by means of even stricter restrictions on fishing. As a result, some rebuilding has occurred for stocks on Georges Bank and the cod stock in the Gulf of Maine has nearly doubled in the last few years. Concurrently, Canada has tightened controls on its groundfish fishery on the eastern part of Georges Bank to promote stock rebuilding, and these measures have resulted in improved abundance in those waters.

Amendment 4 to the Sea Scallop FMP, implemented in 1994, was intended to control fishing effort by limiting the days at sea for each vessel, placing a moratorium on new entrants, and imposing a larger mesh-ring size for dredges. Some protection of scallops has been achieved by the closure, since December 1994, of portions of Georges Bank to all fishing for the protection of groundfish. Scallops have now recovered to at or above their biomass targets. Amendment 3 to the ASMFC American Lobster FMP, approved in December 1997, introduced effort control and various other measures aimed at reducing the currently high fishing mortality on lobsters. The highly migratory pelagic species are important components of domestic fisheries in the Northeast and Southeast Regions, and for international fisheries elsewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

The western Atlantic bluefin tuna is well below historic population levels. Marlins (blue and white) and sailfish are below as well. Swordfish in the North Atlantic is also below the level that would produce maximum long-term yield. Yellowfin tuna, which accounts for 39% of the total RAY for these stocks, is presently fully exploited and near its maximum long-term yield. Bigeye tuna exploitation has recently increased, but current yields are not expected to be maintained because they are about 20% above LTPY.

Southeast Region
The Southeast Region covers the Gulf of Mexico, the US Southeast Atlantic, and the Caribbean Sea. Its important resources are Atlantic sharks, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal migratory pelagics, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico reef fish, drum and croaker, menhaden, Southeast Atlantic and Caribbean invertebrates, highly migratory pelagic fishes, and nearshore resources. A conservative estimate of the total LTPY of fisheries resources is 1,503,342 t, and virtually all are available to the US. The Southeast RAY is 1,155,123 t or 77% of the estimated Southeast LTPY. Menhaden comprise about 74% of both the US LTPY and US RAY in this region. Menhaden are considered fully utilized in both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, with some growth overfishing occurring in the Atlantic. Shrimp led the region's fisheries in value, although they are only 10% of the total Southeast LTPY and RAY. The three major species (brown, white, and pink) are considered fully utilized in both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. Yields are not now closely tied to shrimping effort-about half the current effort in the Gulf could produce about the same long-term average yield. Information is incomplete on the status of invertebrates other than shrimp. Spiny lobster off the southeastern US coast is apparently overutilized and below the LTPY level. The recreational catch of spiny lobster is unknown but thought to be significant. The Caribbean spiny lobster status is uncertain, but that species is possibly overutilized and experiencing growth overfishing. Stone crab appears to be fully utilized. Queen conch off the southeastern US coast has been below the LTPY level for some time, despite a joint state-Federal protection program. RAY for Atlantic sharks is less than 1% of the total for the Southeast Region. However, sharks are a very important component of the ecosystem. Because of their low reproductive capacity, sharks are considered to be particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Large coastal sharks (as a group consisting of 17 species) may be overutilized, but the status of each species is presently unknown. When managed in aggregate, it is likely that some stocks will be overfished while others will go underutilized. Improvements in data collection are necessary before these stocks can be assessed more adequately on an individual basis.

Coastal migratory pelagic fishes account for 1.3% of the Southeast RAY. Overfishing of the migratory stocks of South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Spanish mackerel and South Atlantic king mackerel was detected during the mid 1980's. In concert with the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fishery management councils, NMFS instituted regulations addressing a combination of contentious issues. These included restrictive catch, size, trip, and bag limits; allocation of catch quotas between commercial and recreational fishers; and a gillnet ban in Florida state waters. In 2001, both Spanish mackerel stocks had recovered to sustainable levels, and the Gulf of Mexico king mackerel stock was almost rebuilt. The Atlantic migratory stock of king mackerel has never been overfished, due to proactive management. The status of other coastal migratory pelagic species in the region is unknown. Reef fish in the Southeast Region include over 200 stocks of more than 100 species currently contributing 25,737 t in fishery yield. The degree of utilization and status relative to LTPY are unknown for many of these stocks, but several of the major species have been assessed. The red snapper fishery has been under stringent management measures since the late 1990's. A stock rebuilding plan proposed in 2001 provides a 9.12 million lb. quota and bag limits, size limits, and commercial and recreational seasons. This plan, which will remain in effect until 2005, will provide stability and predictability in this support fishery for both industry and consumers. Red grouper appears to be fully utilized in the Gulf of Mexico. In the Atlantic, many of the key species are considered overutilized (e.g. vermilion and other snappers, red porgy, several groupers, amberjacks, and jewfish).

In the Caribbean, Nassau grouper and jewfish are considered overutilized; the status of other species is unknown. The status of drum, spot, croaker, seatrouts, and kingfish stocks, which contribute about 3% of the Southeast RAY, is largely unknown. These species constitute the bulk of a bycatch that averaged 175,000 t during the 1980's, when billions of juveniles were discarded annually. Bycatch has become a major management issue, and efforts are underway to reduce bycatch through new gear designs. Red drum harvests in the EEZ of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic have been prohibited, and harvests in state waters have been reduced for several years due to low spawning levels. All indications are that recruitment is increasing, and recovery is expected, although not necessarily in the immediate future. As noted above, the highly migratory pelagic species are important components of domestic fisheries in the Southeast and Northeast Regions, and for international fisheries elsewhere in the Atlantic. In particular, the Southeast Region includes major components of the fisheries for swordfish, marlins, sailfish and yellowfin.

Alaska Region
The Alaska Region dominates in the tonnage of fisheries resources that could be obtained in the long term for the US. Its major resources are Pacific salmon, groundfish, Pacific halibut, shellfish, and herring. Their combined US LTPY is 4,472,638 t. The resources are generally healthy, with regional CPY 22% below LTPY. The US RAY has been steady at about 2,510,000 t, or 44% below LTPY. Catches are substantially below the long-term potential because many of the resources, particularly flatfish species, are underutilized. Alaska's salmon stocks have generally produced bumper harvests in recent years, although some stocks have been down. The RAY of 376,100 t is actually 21% above LTPY, because returning salmon runs have been particularly successful. Five species of Pacific salmon (chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum) contribute to the catch. The development of domestic groundfish fisheries off Alaska has been a great success under the MSFCMA. Until its implementation in 1977, Alaska's groundfish fisheries, except for Pacific halibut, were dominated by foreign fishing. Then, within a few years under the new management regime, the US fishery largely replaced the foreign fishing fleets, with a combined RAY 84% below their long-term potential. Snow crab stocks are in good condition, but the RAY has decreased substantially since the early 1990's. Starting in 2001, a new program is limiting participating vessels in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab fishery to those meeting historical harvest qualifications, including criteria under the existing license limitation program. A second stage will include a crab license buyback program.

Pacific Coast Region
Pacific Coast fisheries resources have a prorated US LTPY of 852,263 t. The major species are Pacific salmon, coastal pelagic fishes, groundfish, Pacific halibut, and nearshore resources. The total US RAY is 619,938 t or 73% of LTPY. The lower RAY is due mainly to underutilization of some species and to low abundance of some stocks. Most stocks are either fully utilized or overutilized. All five salmon species are fully or overutilized. The RAY of 17,304 t is 52% of its LTPY. Depressed production is partly due to generally unfavorable ocean conditions for salmon off the Pacific Coast since the late 1970's and other factors such as habitat degradation. Some stocks are depleted. NMFS has listed 26 West Coast salmon populations as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Salmon recovery will take many years and requires the cooperative efforts of federal, state, local, tribal, and private entities. Coastal pelagic fishes typically fluctuate widely in abundance, and most stocks are low in abundance relative to historical levels and are fully utilized. The total RAY of 108,000 t is only 27% of LTPY. The Pacific sardine population has been increasing after decades of low abundance and now accounts for 52% of the US RAY for coastal pelagic fishes. Jack mackerel and northern anchovy are underutilized.

The groundfish fishery harvests a vast array of bottom-dwelling species from Washington to California. The total RAY of 353,264 t is 76% of LTPY. The difference between RAY and LTPY is due to a variety of factors, including the diversity of this fishery complex. Some species are overexploited, some have experienced periods of low recruitment, and some are underutilized. Despite being below LTPY, Pacific whiting dominates the commercial US RAY, accounting for 78% of the west coast groundfish catch. Rockfishes and lingcod also support popular recreational fisheries. Certain stocks, such as Pacific ocean perch, need to be rebuilt following overutilization and a period of poor recruitment. Shortbelly rockfish is underutilized because of a lack of market. Many rockfish species live a long time (in some cases up to 80 years or more) and may take many years to mature and reproduce, making stock recovery even more challenging. NMFS is working in partnership with the fishing industry, universities, and state, local, and tribal agencies to collect basic scientific data about the species. In addition, there are now 25 observers at sea on commercial fixed-gear and trawl fishing vessels, transmitting real-time data electronically to NMFS.

Pacific Coast shellfish resources are diverse and important both commercially and recreationally. Shrimp, crab, clam, and abalone fisheries are relatively small in terms of tonnage landed, but they contribute substantially to the value of the fisheries, due to the high prices they command. Most shellfish species are fully utilized. Recreational fisheries are important along the Pacific Coast and especially so in southern California. A wide variety of species is taken, and the recreational catch of some greatly exceeds the commercial catch. Many are nearshore resources. Gamefishes such as albacore, billfishes, rockfish, and salmon are highly prized. Recreational crabbing, clam digging, and abalone diving activities are also significant.

Western Pacific Region
The vast area that encompass this region stretches across the central and western Pacific and includes the Hawaiian Islands and the US-affiliated islands of American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. These are tropical and subtropical island waters with a large diversity of species but relatively low sustainable yields due to limited ocean nutrients. Though the magnitude of the fisheries may be relatively small (US RAY and US LTPY are only slightly above 250,000 t) when compared to some mainland fisheries, they are valued highly and are important culturally and socially in Hawaii and the Pacific islands. Additionally, certain transboundary fisheries hold considerable international interest, with high collective importance and value to Pacific Rim nations and US fleets fishing within and beyond the EEZ. Fishery resources include highly migratory pelagic fishes, bottomfishes, nearshore reef fishes, and invertebrates.

The highly migratory stocks (tunas, billfishes, swordfish, sharks, and others) range the high seas, often beyond US fisheries management jurisdiction. Tunas are the major catch component and migrate across multiple jurisdictions in the Pacific. The combined LTPY of these stocks throughout their migratory range is 3,435,031 t, while the prorated US LTPY is only about 7.5% of that. Of the 15 stock groups of highly migratory pelagic fishes, 11 stocks are near the levels that would produce their LTPY's, 1 is below LTPY (blue marlin), 2 are above (yellowfin and skipjack in the central-western Pacific), and 1 (pelagic sharks) is of unknown status. Together, these stocks account for 99% of the region's RAY in tonnage and support some of the most valuable fisheries in the world. In the Hawaii-based pelagic long line fishery for billfish and tuna, observers aboard the vessels now modern protected species interaction with the fishery such as loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles, and albatross. These activities are expected to form the basis for new management measures that reduce the incidental bycatch of these important species.

Western Pacific bottomfishes (snappers, jacks, grouper, emperors) are harvested from a variety of rock and coral habitats around Hawaii and western Pacific islands. About 90% of the catch is taken in the Main Hawaiian Islands, where stock assessments indicate some important species are only at 10-30% of original stock levels in some areas. But when the resources are considered across the region, the US RAY of 492 t is only 18% of LTPY, mainly because stocks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, and the Mariana Islands are underutilized. Pelagic armorhead was harvested from 1968 to the late 1980's or early 1990's by foreign fleets on the summits and slopes of submerged seamounts along the southern Emperor- northern Hawaiian Ridge. Of these undersea mountains, the only group under US jurisdiction is the Hancock Seamounts (representing less than 5% of the total fishing grounds). Fishing there has been prohibited since 1984, to allow the stock to recover after foreign catch rates declined to low levels. The US has never fished pelagic armorhead, but because of its fishery potential, the resource is regulated under a Seamount Groundfish FMP.

The most important invertebrate fisheries in the Western Pacific Region are for spiny and slipper lobsters, primarily fished in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This fishery began in 1977 and reached its peak during the mid 1980's, but it has since declined. The primary cause of the decline is thought to be a general reduction in lobster productivity and recruitment since 1989, stemming from mesoscale oceanographic changes. Since 1991, a limited entry and harvest guideline regulatory regime has been implemented, which has allowed some recovery in the fishery. The lobster total RAY of 109 t is 49% of LTPY.

Nearshore Resources
Nearshore fishery resources are those coastal and estuarine species under the control of coastal states and their local governments for which NMFS does not have direct responsibility. Many of these species provide the basis for locally important commercial and recreational fisheries. They vary widely in species diversity and abundance. Many are highly prized gamefish. Others are small fishes used for bait, food, and industrial products. Those of greatest interest include invertebrate species like crabs, shrimps, abalones, clams, scallops, and oysters. Because it is difficult to assess the condition of many of the Nation's nearshore resources, a high percentage are of unknown status. No firm estimates exist for LTPY or CPY. Thus, the RAY of 312,700 t has been used to indicate minimum amounts for CPY and LTPY. The RAY itself may have been underestimated due to incomplete landings information, and it excludes landings of large-scale nearshore fisheries like anchovy, sardine, herring, and invertebrate resources, which are reported separately. Because the composition of nearshore resources is diverse and management is spread out among the many coastal states and other local authorities, a comprehensive treatment of them has not been attempted. A detailed treatment of Nearshore Fisheries is available at the tab for Unit 21 at

Traditional fishery management techniques are usually employed in resource conservation. These include size limits, catch limits, method restrictions, and area and time closures. Nearly all are covered by licensing requirements and these often prohibit non-residents from participating in the fisheries or require them to pay higher license fees. Usually, sales and landings must be reported to local conservation agencies and to taxing authorities.

IV. Short Description Of Main Fishery Regulations

Under the MSFMCA, eight Regional Fishery Management Councils are charged with preparing Fishery Management Plans (FMPs), using the best scientific information available, for the fisheries needing management within their areas of authority. After the Councils prepare FMPs that cover domestic and foreign fishing efforts, the FMPs are submitted to the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) for approval and implementation. The Department, through NMFS agents and the US Coast Guard, is responsible for enforcing the law and regulations. Enforcement is done at sea using USCG vessels and USCG and NMFS personnel, onshore using NMFS enforcement agents. Increasingly being used are monitoring systems involving satellite-based tracking of fishing vessels. These systems provide for reporting catch, identifying vessels, reporting a ship's position, routine communications and communicating emergencies.

The Secretary is empowered to prepare FMPs in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico for highly migratory species. Where no FMP exists, Preliminary Fishery Management Plans (PMPs), which only cover foreign fishing efforts, are prepared by the Secretary for each fishery for which a foreign nation requests a permit. The Secretary is also empowered to produce an FMP for any fishery that a Council has not duly produced. In this latter case, the Secretary's FMP covers domestic and foreign fishing.

The Atlantic swordfish, Atlantic sharks, and Atlantic billfish fisheries are currently being managed by the Secretary under the MSFCMA, and the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery is managed under the MSFCMA and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act7 .

V. Foreign Fishing And Management Of Shared Stocks

The MSFCMA reaches beyond the EEZ in also providing for fishery management authority over continental shelf resources and anadromous species, except when they are found within a foreign nation's territorial sea or fishery conservation zone (or equivalent), to the extent that such sea or zone is recognized by the US 8.

Under the MSFCMA, the Secretary of State, in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce, negotiates Governing International Fishery Agreements (GIFAs) with foreign nations requesting to fish within the EEZ. After a GIFA is signed, it is transmitted by the President to the Congress for ratification.

As US fishing capacity grew following passage of the MSFCMA, foreign participation in directed fisheries, as well as in foreign joint ventures in which US vessels delivered US harvested fish to permitted foreign vessels in the EEZ diminished until, in 1991, foreign vessels no longer were permitted to conduct directed fishing in the EEZ. This marked the achievement of one of the objectives of the MSFCMA, that is, the development of the US fishing industry to take what were in 1976 underutilized species, and the displacement of directed foreign fishing effort in the EEZ. Although there has been very little foreign fishing allowed since 1991, NMFS maintains foreign fishing regulations should there be a future situation in which allowing limited foreign fishing in an underutilized fishery would be of advantage to the US

C. Description Of Main Management Systems For Aquaculture

Three US Government Departments, Agriculture (USDA), Commerce (DOC), and Interior (USDI) and several of their agencies share aquaculture responsibilities. Their work is coordinated through the Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture (JSA). USDA focuses on freshwater species but provides general support to all farming businesses. USDI focuses on freshwater species particularly in operating a national system of hatcheries and in assisting American Indian tribal aquaculture. DOC focuses on marine species and working with the fishery management councils, regulates the development of aquaculture in the EEZ.

There is no single federal agency for assistance to, nor regulation of, the aquaculture industry in the US. Each facet comes under the jurisdiction of the an appropriate authority, such as seafood inspection, environmental protection, food safety, technology or research assistance, licensing, and taxation, just as would other sectors of the US economy.

1. The US Department Of Agriculture (USDA) has several important programs to assist the aquaculture industry. Details and reports for each of the following are available at

  • The Animal, and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts monitoring and eradication of infectious diseases, provides compensation for infected animals that must be destroyed, provides relocation and control of predatory birds such as cormorants and pelicans and river otters, and can certify an area free of disease if necessary for an international shipment. APHIS also approves diagnostic laboratories, negotiates with foreign countries to ensure zoo sanitary regulations are scientifically based, and regulates the production and sale of biologic reagents for use in all aquatic animals.

  • The Economics Research Service (ERS) publishes comprehensive market status and outlook reports.

  • The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducts research on aquaculture problems: for example, ARS recently developed a vaccine against Streptococcus iniae, a bacterial pathogen in cultivated tilapia, hybrid striped bass, rainbow trout, yellowtail, eel, and turbot and 16 other cultured and wild species, causing $150 million a year in losses worldwide. The ARS program includes: genetic improvement, integrated aquatic animal health management, reproduction and early development, growth, development, and nutrition, production systems, sustainability and environmental compatibility, of aquaculture, product quality and safety, and information and technology transfer.

  • The Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) assists aquaculture firms in partnership with the states through its regional extension services.

  • The Regional Aquaculture Centers encourage collaborative research and extension education programs in aquaculture programs provided by USDA and other institutions.

2. The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has a plan and a set of objectives that is similar in concept to those of USDI and USDA, but more specific. Working in partnership with all parts of government and all stakeholders, DOC will create a business climate and technological base for industry to develop environmentally sound aquaculture. The specific, quantitative objectives by the year 2025 are available at 9

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)10 . NOAA is the major DOC element with responsibilities for aquaculture through programs in the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the National Sea Grant College Program and the National Ocean Service. NOAA objectives include: (1) minimization of environmental impacts and development of standards; (2) development of cost-effective, environmentally sound aquaculture and hatchery technology; (3) growth and production of marine species throughout their life cycle; (4) biotechnology to provide improved strains, sterile animals, detection of pathogens, and development of vaccines and other measures for controlling disease and parasites; 5 technology transfer to industry and government partners; (6) coordination with management agencies to identify areas appropriate for aquaculture facilities and develop more efficient permitting procedures.

  • NMFS activities include: research on biology and reproduction, habitat utilization and restoration, environmental impact assessment, and fish pathology. Much of the information developed has been used both in the commercial sector where it has been instrumental in the development of the farmed salmon industry, as well as shellfish hatcheries and shrimp culture operations throughout the world. Work is also conducted on rearing threatened and protected species for stock recovery. For example, the Milford Laboratory aquaculture program includes studies of the culture of fish and shellfish to develop methods suitable for commercial use as well as for stock enhancement and restoration. NMFS spends approximately $10 million per year for the operation of 25 major salmon hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin in order to mitigate loss of salmon runs because of construction of hydroelectric projects. State/Federal and industry grant programs have recently included funding for various types of commercial aquaculture and salmon enhancement projects. For example, some have been aimed at creating opportunities for displaced New England fishermen. Additionally, NMFS has authority to guarantee aquaculture loans, facilitating financing for qualified applicants. On the regulatory front, the Fisheries Management Councils are becoming involved in the decision-making process for offshore aquaculture permits, including experimental scallop culture off the coast of Massachusetts, and an experimental permit for red snapper culture in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • The National Sea Grant College Program has supported aquaculture in many areas including development of offshore and recirculating marine systems, hormonal control of growth and reproduction, growout technology, feeds and nutrition, disease control, regulation, marketing, food processing, and environmental technologies to meet water quality standards. Aquaculture related projects account for approximately $10 million direct and matching Sea Grant funds on an annual basis. Sea Grant supports aquaculture activities in research, education, and technology transfer. Sea Grant research has contributed to the creation of several new industries including Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic soft shell crab, Pacific Northwest oyster and clam, hybrid striped bass, and Mid-Atlantic hard clam. Sea Grant research and outreach has helped to establish scores of new businesses throughout the US, and to provide improved technologies to these businesses. The combined impact of Sea Grant-developed technology amounts to at least $100 million annually and supports thousands of jobs in the US economy. Sea Grant has also collaborated extensively in the international arena, creating opportunities for aquaculture technology exchange between the US and Japan, China, Israel, France, Russia and Ireland.

  • National Ocean Service: States can use Federal Coastal Zone Management Act funds for: (1) the adoption of procedures and policies to evaluate and facilitate the siting of public and private aquaculture facilities in the coastal zone; (2) to formulate, administer, and implement strategic plans for marine aquaculture; and (3) to develop a coordinated process among State agencies to regulate and issue permits for aquaculture facilities in the coastal zone. Projects have included: development of aquaculture net-pen guidelines; impact of aquaculture on the eutrophication of coastal bays; revision of aquaculture lease rules; development of a marine aquaculture management plan and geographic information system; and development and implementation of a marine aquaculture regulatory and leasing program.

3. The US Department of Interior (USDI) has two major aquaculture programs:

  • The Fish and Wildlife Service operates the National Fish Hatchery System (NFHS) ( through 69 hatcheries to carry out fishery conservation. Nine Fish Health Centers and seven Fish Technology Centers provide support to the network of hatcheries 11 . These facilities serve fisheries that have been seriously impacted by habitat alterations and by overuse.

  • NFHS hatchery managers rely on three main tools: 1) conserving and restoring habitat, 2) managing harvest, and 3) using captive propagation to replenish depleted populations. The Service's highest priority actions have focused on recovery of listed or candidate species, restoring depleted fish populations to preclude listing, restoration and management of interjurisdictional fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, fulfilling mitigation obligations, and fish and wildlife assistance to tribes and Service lands. About 78 percent of the production of the NFHS is used in the restoration and mitigation of nationally significant fish species. For example, over the past 8 years, fish hatcheries stocked over 50 million Atlantic salmon in New England waters to aid in their restoration. Also, production and stocking of lake trout into the Great Lakes continues to be a highly successful, high priority program.

    Fish Technology Centers provide direct technical support to the NFHS and its efficient operation and also provide technical assistance and fish culture technology to State hatcheries, the commercial aquaculture industry, and to other organizations and individuals engaged in raising fish. The Centers conserve the genetic integrity of fish stocks with emphasis on native fishes, evaluate the interactions between cultured fish and wild stocks, develop fish culture and transport techniques to assist in the recovery of endangered fishes, and improve the effectiveness of drugs and chemicals in reducing fish diseases.

    Fish Health Centers work cooperatively with fish hatcheries, Tribes, States, and other Federal agencies to detect, identify, document, and control fish pathogens and diseases. The Centers are expanding their roles in recovering endangered species by providing diagnostic services and expertise for recovery programs and by developing non-lethal methods for fish health sampling and monitoring of endangered species.

  • The US Geological Survey (USGS) provides fisheries research and technical assistance support through a system of 17 Science Centers with associated field stations, and 39 Cooperative Research Units. Support is available to federal, state, and tribal communities in a wide range of areas with both direct and indirect support to aquaculture. USGS scientists provide expertise in aquatic organism health; disease detection, diagnostics and treatment; genetic characterization of pathogens and aquatic organisms; the physiology and behavior of cultured fishes; identification and assessment of introduced and nuisance species; and toxicology research. Major activities related to aquaculture are found at four Science Centers with specialized fisheries and aquatic sciences capabilities:

    The Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center ( conducts major research and development of medicinal drugs for aquaculture. The Center conducts research to support the approvals or registrations of drugs and chemicals intended for use in public fish husbandry and management. Clients, cooperators, and partners include 37 state natural resource agencies, plus Federal agencies and NGOs.

    The Leetown (West Virginia) Science Center ( develops methods for isolation, detection and identification of fish pathogens for the prevention and control of fish diseases.

    The Western Fisheries Research Center ( conducts research on infectious diseases, the physiology and etiology of disease, and the ecological and management implications of disease in fish culture systems.

    The Florida Integrated Science Centers (FISC) (http://www.fcsc.usgs.govhttp// /Center for Aquatic Resources Studies studies the impacts of non-indigenous aquatic species on cultured and native aquatic species. Risk assessments provide information for listing of introduced species as aquatic nuisance species.

    The Columbia (Missouri) Environmental Research Center ( conducts environmental toxicology and chemistry investigations to detect, understand, and evaluate the effects of contaminants on the quality of the aquatic environment and aquatic species.

    Cooperative Research Units ( The 39 research units, located in 37 states, are partnerships among the Biological Resources Division of the USGS, a State natural resource agency, a host university, and the Wildlife Management Institute. Staffed by Federal personnel, CRUs conduct research on renewable natural resource questions; participate in the education of graduate students; provide technical assistance and consultation; and provide continuing education for natural resource professionals.

VI. National Investments and Subsidies

In a recent major congressionally mandated study of Federal investment in the fishery sector, virtually all aspects of US tax, fisheries, and societal policies were examined to see whether they created subsidies for the US fishing industry and whether these subsidies had positive or negative impacts. The task force that was established to conduct the study determined that the US influences capitalization to a lesser degree than some other fishing nations. For the last several decades, Federal assistance to the fishing industry has markedly declined and remnant programs have become much more focused. The more significant programs were those that allow deferral of income taxes to be used on vessel improvement, buyback programs that retire excess capacity, and a loan guarantee program that permits a few vessels to have longer loan terms than are otherwise available. These programs have very little impact on adding additional fishing capacity or making US fisheries commodities more competitive in the world market. The task force cited a staff analysis that estimated the gross value of direct US subsidies at $25 million, or slightly more than 0.5% of the gross ex-vessel value of commercial landings. In the US. there are no massive ship construction subsidies, market development and other forms of assistance that are readily apparent in developed and developing fishing industries around the world. The report is available online at .12

VII. Projection Of Supply And Demand

The outlook for the Nation's living marine resources depends in good part on the management actions that are being taken at present. The decline in the abundance of many stocks in all US regions during the past few decades was primarily the result of overfishing (sometimes compounded by environmental changes). The strengthened management measures, designed to reduce overfishing and begin rebuilding, that are being implemented should result in an acceleration in the rate of improvement of stock status and fishery utilization levels. Their success depends on how effectively they can be implemented over the foreseeable future. Short-term losses in yield are expected as an immediate cost of rebuilding overfished stocks. However, judging from the remarkable ability of many stocks to recover from overfishing, the outlook is very positive over the long term, and should result in the potential for higher sustainable yields with reduced risk to the resources 13.

Aquaculture production is expected to continue to expand. The positive factors include new technologies for systems that recirculate water, new techniques for obtaining brood stock, development of faster growing animals, and some easing of the regulatory burden in planning and implementing new facilities. As increased attention is paid towards cleaning up and poorstandards for minimizing their impact on the environment, on navigation, and on aesthetic views. Increased attention is being paid to placing facilities offshore, out of the site of land.

Inland fisheries will likely remain about the same, with the majority of production being harvested by the recreational sector. As water quality continues to improve, fisheries production will find easy access to dinner tables, no matter how it is caught.


1 Fisheries of the US, 2001. NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service. Available: 11 Nov. 2002.
2 The Economic Status of US Fisheries, 1996. NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service. Available: December 1996.
3 NOAA Fisheries 2001 Report. 2003. NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, MD USA. In press.
4 Annual Report to Congress on the Status of US Fisheries - 2001. 2002. US Dep. Commerce, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, MD. 142 p. Available:
5 The Economic Status of US Fisheries, 1996. NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service. Available: December 1996.
6 NOAA Fisheries Data Acquisition Plan. 1998. National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Department of Commerce. Silver Spring, Maryland. Available:
7 NMFS. 1999. Adapted from and updated January 2003. Our living oceans. Report on the status of US living marine resources,1999. US Dep. Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/SPO-41, 301p. Available online:
8 Fisheries of the US, 2001. NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service. Available: 11 Nov. 2002.
9 U S Department Of Commerce Aquaculture Policy. Available:
10 This section is mainly extracted from: NOAA'S Aquaculture Policy. 1998. Available:
11 Adapted from: Fiscal Year 1998 FCO Report Available:
12 Federal Fisheries Investment Task Force Report to Congress. 1999. NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service. Available:
13 Our Living Oceans. 1999. Report on the status of US living marine resources. US Dep. Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/SPO-41, 301p. Available: