Marine fishery resources are often identified and characterized with respect to state-federal jurisdictional boundaries. As a consequence, there are varied and dynamic biological, political, and socioeconomic considerations for fisheries management. State-federal interactions have led to various combinations of authority with respect to fishery management plans (FMPs). Involvement in governance of fisheries extends beyond state and federal authorities and includes industry stakeholders, environmental groups, and other interested parties.
Commonwealth Fisheries Management
Massachusetts General Law Chapter 130 establishes MarineFisheries as the state agency responsible for managing the Commonwealth’s commercial and recreational marine fisheries. Among other authorities, the Director is empowered to adopt, amend, or repeal regulations that govern the manner of taking fish, legal size limits, seasons, and amount of fish to be taken. Certain actions by the Director are subject to the approval of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission (MFC) and the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game.
The MFC is a nine-member board established by the Legislature in 1961. Members are qualified in the field of marine fisheries by training and experience, and represent conservation, recreational and commercial fishing interests from various parts of the Massachusetts coast. Members are appointed by the governor to three-year terms. Regulatory changes and public proposals are approved or disapproved by a majority vote at the Commission’s monthly business meetings . These members are not compensated monetarily for the time they commit to the MFC; however, they are dedicated to working with MarineFisheries in ensuring sustainable resources for all.
Interstate Fisheries Management
In 1993, Congress formalized the current structure of interstate fisheries management with passage of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (ACFCMA). The Act allows the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce to place a moratorium on a state’s fishery found out-of-compliance with an interstate FMP that has been adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).
The ASMFC was formed in 1942 by the 15 Atlantic coast states, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the District of Columbia, and the two federal fisheries management agencies to coordinate the conservation and management of the States’ shared near-shore fishery resources for sustainable use. The Commission’s species management boards have developed and adopted interstate FMPs for over 20 species, which are then implemented at the state level.
Each state in the ASMFC has three representatives – the director of the state’s marine fisheries management agency, a state legislator, and a governor appointed individual – that have one combined ballot on voting matters. Commissioners deliberate on ASMFC’s four program areas: restoring Atlantic fisheries, promoting sound science, protecting fish habitat, and conservation through regulation.
The Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act of 1986 also supports the States’ management of their shared fishery resources. Specifically, the Act provides for grants by the Secretary of Commerce to States for management activities. A large portion of funds from the Act help finance collection of catch and effort statistics and other data for stock assessments which inform management decisions.
Federal Fisheries Management
The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) was established in 1976 by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act as one of the eight regional fishery councils managing living marine resources within the United States exclusive economic zone (spanning from 3 to 200 miles offshore). The NEFMC has developed federal FMPs for nine species or species groups.
There are 18 voting members on the NEFMC: (1) The Regional Administrator of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service; (5) The principal state official with marine fishery management responsibility for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut; and (12) Twelve members nominated by the governors of the New England coastal states and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce for three-year terms (possibly serving a maximum of three consecutive terms). In addition, there are four non-voting members representing the United States Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of State, and the ASMFC.
Before the federal government approves and implements FMPs developed by NEFMC, it must ensure all plans meet 10 National Standards set forth by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.