Chapter 8 preface: Short overview of the Magnusson-Stevens Act

Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976

-- Public Law 94-265, approved April 13, 1976; 16 U.S.C. 1801-1882; 90 Stat. 331; as amended by numerous subsequent public laws listed and identified in the U.S. Code.
Also known as Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, this law established a 200-mile fishery conservation zone, effective March 1, 1977, and established Regional Fishery Management Councils comprised of Federal and State officials, including the Fish and Wildlife Service. The concept of a fishery conservation zone was subsequently dropped by amendment and the geographical area of coverage was changed to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with the inner boundary being the seaward boundary of the coastal States.

The Act provides for management of fish and other species in the EEZ under plans drawn up by the Regional Councils and reviewed and approved by the Secretary of Commerce. It provides for regulation of foreign fishing in the management zone under GIFA's (governing international fishing agreements) and vessel fishing permits. It also provides a mechanism for preemption of State law by the Secretary of Commerce.
Title IX of Public Law 102-567, signed October 29, 1992 (102 Stat. 4270) amends the Act to provide for the restoration of New England groundfish and includes the following provisions of interest to the Service:

  • Allows the Secretary of Commerce to reimburse a State for certain expenses incurred while enforcing a groundfish management plan;
  • Requires the Secretary of Commerce to establish the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Fisheries Reinvestment Program in order to promote development of commercial fisheries and underutilized fisheries in the northwest Atlantic Ocean; and
  • Requires the New England Fishery Management Council to develop fishery management plans for underutilized fisheries in the northwest Atlantic Ocean in order to prevent overfishing of these species.

Major amendments to the Act were enacted on October 11, 1996. Those amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (P.L. 104-297), more popularly known as the Sustainable Fisheries Act made important changes in Federal efforts to conserve marine fishery resources. Major provisions include:

  • Requires national fishery conservation and management standards to: provide for the sustained participation of fishery dependent communities and minimize economic impacts to those communities and minimize bycatch and its mortality.
  • Modifies operation of established Fishery Management Councils.
  • Mandates that the Secretary of Commerce shall take actions to identify overfished species and take action to rebuild those stocks.
  • Mandates the Secretary of Commerce to promulgate guidelines for identification of essential fish habitat by Fishery Management Councils. Other Federal agencies are required to consult with the Secretary when actions they take impact designated essential fish habitat.
  • Establishes a fishing capacity reduction program.
  • Mandates research on fishery management/ conservation and the economics/social characteristics of the fisheries. Also, mandates research on the incidental harvest of marine species.

Source: Short overview of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service