fisherman tying nets on board a boat with sun in background

Project

Federal Ocean Policy

Making Strides in Ending Overfishing 

Pew leads efforts to end overfishing, rebuild depleted U.S. ocean fish populations, and advance ecosystem-based fishery management.

The big fish on the end of your line, the little forage fish that feed the big fish, the tiny corals that build reef habitats and the catch-of-the-day in your favorite restaurant are all interconnected parts of an ocean ecosystem. Ensuring the long-term health of these important marine species will depend upon our ability to understand and account for the interactions among these species, their environment, and the people who rely upon them. This comprehensive approach, called ecosystem-based fisheries management, is needed to ensure the healthy ecosystems essential to the future sustainability of our fisheries, and will be necessary to deal with the increasingly complex challenges facing our oceans.

The United States is a global leader in fisheries management, having made great strides in ending overfishing (catching fish faster than they can reproduce) and rebuilding vulnerable fish populations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) – the primary law governing management of our nation’s ocean fisheries. In many regions of our nation, this progress has helped reestablish more abundant fish populations and created economic benefits for the fishing industry and coastal communities.

Core conservation policies added to the law in 1996 and 2007 are fundamental to improving fish populations and returning value to fishermen. We must maintain them as the foundation for sustainable management. But to meet the rising and urgent challenges of damaged ocean ecosystems and dynamic and changing oceans, the United States should transition away from a species-by-species approach to ecosystem-based fisheries management.

Our oceans face numerous stresses including habitat damaging fishing, global climate change, acidification, and degraded water quality from land-based pollution. Additionally, many fish populations are still struggling to recover from decades of overfishing and poor management.

Ensuring the health and resiliency of our oceans will rely upon our ability to manage our fisheries in the context of their impacts on ocean ecosystems. Important habitats must be protected, forage fish must be carefully managed to account for their role in the food web, and the waste, or bycatch, of non-target wildlife must be reduced.

Ecosystem-based fisheries management will connect these vital components to ensure the long-term health of our oceans and the fisheries and communities that depend on them for recreation, employment, and nutrition.

Working closely with scientists, policy makers, fishery managers, fishermen, and conservation organizations throughout the nation, Pew will lead efforts to protect the conservation provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and promote ecosystem-based management through the Act’s reauthorization. We will also work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service to promote ecosystem-based fisheries management through national regulations.

Magnuson-Stevens Act
Magnuson-Stevens Act
Article

Congress, Don’t Be Fooled: H.R. 200 Would Roll Back Magnuson-Stevens Act

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Article

A bill that would weaken the nation’s primary fishery management law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, is likely to be debated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this month.

Red Snapper
Red Snapper
Article

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Restoration

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Article

Gulf of Mexico red snapper are on the road to recovery after decades of severe overfishing. Federally mandated catch limits form the foundation of a strong rebuilding plan that began in 2007 and is delivering results. Today, red snapper are more plentiful, larger, and spreading out across the Gulf.

Article

A Big-Picture Approach to Fisheries Management

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Article

U.S. fishery managers often focus on one species at a time when determining how, when, and where fishing takes place. But each fish population is part of an interconnected ecosystem in which they interact with other fish, ocean wildlife, and habitats.

Magnuson-Stevens Act
Magnuson-Stevens Act
Fact Sheet

U.S. Has Made Progress in Restoring Ocean Fish

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Fact Sheet

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is the primary law that governs U.S. fisheries in federal ocean waters. Enacted in 1976 and strengthened by Congress in 1996 and 2006, the act has led to considerable improvements in the health of marine fish populations and has benefited coastal communities across the country.

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