Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

To understand the potential role of IFQs in the management of U.S. fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, it is useful to review briefly the major policy objectives of the act that IFQ-based management might address.

Background on the Magnuson-Stevens Act

When the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA)3 became law in 1976, its principal policy goal was to assert U.S. federal authority over non-U.S.-flagged vessels operating within a zone extending 200 nautical miles from the U.S. coastline, coincident with ongoing negotiations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for the same extension of jurisdiction for all coastal nations. This assertion of jurisdiction was a stark break with the past and a rejection of international organizations as the forum for managing fish stocks in U.S. coastal waters. The act also established a comprehensive system for regulating the domestic fishing industry in federal waters. This system was based on a promising, but untested, approach to fishery management, the development of regional conservation and management plans by joint federal-state consultative bodies with significant participation of the resource users, the fishing industry. Eight regional fishery management councils were formed and given responsibility for the development of fishery management plans for fish stocks of significance to commercial and recreational fisheries in each region. The benchmark for federal approval and implementation of these plans was a set of seven national standards (expanded to ten in 1996, including the requirement that the plans prevent overfishing and achieve "optimum yield"; see Appendix D).

Since 1976, the Magnuson-Stevens Act has been amended more than a dozen times, and several sets of amendments have marked significant changes in its course and emphasis (Greenberg, 1993; see Appendix E). The early amendments focused on the process of "Americanizing" U.S. fisheries. The Processor Preference Act in 1978 was designed to foster growth of the American processing sector by requiring the denial of permits to foreign processing vessels for fisheries in which U.S. fish processors have adequate capacity. This act was followed in 1980 by the American Fisheries Promotion Act and its "fish-and-chips" policy requiring allocation of foreign fishing privileges on the basis of a nation's reduction of trade barriers against U.S. fish products.

In the second phase of amendments, the focus was on domestic management institutions, particularly the regional councils, and the process for implementing


The FCMA was renamed the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1980 and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1996.

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