Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act)
Official Citation
16 U.S.C. §§1801-1891d
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Statute Outline

U.S. sovereign rights to fish and fishery management authority

The United States claims sovereign rights and exclusive fishery management authority over all fish, and all continental shelf fishery resources, within the exclusive economic zone. [16 U.S.C. §1811]

The United States claims exclusive fishery management authority over all anadromous species throughout the migratory range of each such species beyond the exclusive economic zone, except when they are found within any waters of a foreign nation, and all continental shelf fishery resources beyond the exclusive economic zone. [16 U.S.C. §1811]

Highly migratory species

The United States shall cooperate directly and through appropriate international organizations with nations involved in fisheries for highly migratory species to ensure conservation, and shall promote achievement of optimum yield of such species throughout their range, both within and beyond the exclusive economic zone. [16 U.S.C. §1812(a)]

In managing fisheries under international fisheries agreements to which the United States is a party, the appropriate Council or Secretary shall take into account traditional participation in the fishery, relative to other nations, by fishermen of the United States on U.S. fishing vessels. [16 U.S.C. §1812(b)]

If a relevant international fisheries organization does not have a process for developing a formal plan to rebuild a depleted stock, an overfished stock, or a stock that is approaching a condition of being overfished, this statute shall be communicated to and promoted by the United States in the international or regional fisheries organization. [16 U.S.C. §1812(c)]

Foreign fishing

The statute prohibits foreign fishing vessels from engaging in fishing within the exclusive economic zone, or for anadromous species or continental shelf fishery resources beyond such zone, unless the vessel has a valid permit. [16 U.S.C. §1824]

International fishery agreements

The Secretary of State shall, upon the request of and in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce, initiate and conduct negotiations to enter into international fishery agreements that allow U.S. fishing vessels equitable access to fish over which foreign nations assert exclusive fishery management authority and that provide for the conservation and management of anadromous species and highly migratory species. [16 U.S.C. §1822(c)]

The Secretary of State shall evaluate the effectiveness of each existing international fishery agreement that pertains to fishing for highly migratory species. [16 U.S.C. §1822(e)]

The Secretary of State shall seek to secure an international agreement to establish standards and measures for bycatch reduction that are comparable to the standards and measures applicable to U.S. fishermen for such purposes in any fishery regulated pursuant to this statute for which the Secretary of Commerce determines an international agreement is necessary and appropriate. [16 U.S.C. §1822(h)]

No governing international fishery agreement, bycatch reduction agreement, or Pacific Insular Area fishery agreement shall become effective before being considered by Congress according to procedures set forth in the statute. [16 U.S.C. §1823]

Prior to entering a Pacific Insular Area fishery agreement, the Western Pacific Council and the appropriate governor shall develop a three-year marine conservation plan that identifies conservation and management objectives, and prioritizes planned marine conservation projects. [16 U.S.C. §1824(e)]

Import prohibitions

The Secretary of Commerce is authorized to prohibit the importation into the United States of fish and fish products from a fishery if the Secretary determines that a foreign nation is not complying with its obligations under any existing international fishery agreement as set forth in the statute. [16 U.S.C. §1825]

International monitoring and compliance

The statute authorizes the Secretary to undertake activities to promote improved monitoring and compliance for high seas fisheries, or fisheries governed by international fishery management agreements, and to implement requirements as set forth in the statute. [16 U.S.C. §1829]

Fishery management plans

The statute establishes national standards for fishery conservation and management. The Secretary shall establish advisory guidelines based on these standards to assist in the development of fishery management plans. [16 U.S.C. §1851]

The statute establishes eight Regional Fishery Management Councils, which shall reflect the expertise and interest of the constituent states in the ocean area over which each Council is granted authority. Each Council shall prepare and submit to the Secretary a fishery management plan for each fishery under its authority that requires conservation and management. Each plan must meet the required provisions set forth in the statute. [16 U.S.C. §1852]

A Council may submit, and the Secretary may approve, a fishery that is managed under a limited access privilege program to harvest fish if the program meets the requirements set forth in the statute. [16 U.S.C. §1853a]

Upon receiving a fishery management plan or plan amendment from a Council, the Secretary shall (1) immediately commence a review of the plan or amendment to determine whether it is consistent with national standards, other provisions of the statute, and any other applicable law; and (2) immediately publish in the Federal Register a notice stating that the plan or amendment is available and open for public comment. [16 U.S.C. §1854]

The Secretary shall approve, disapprove, or partially approve a fishery management plan or amendment within 30 days of the end of the public comment period. If the Secretary does not notify a council within 30 days of the end of the comment period, then the plan or amendment shall take effect as if approved. [16 U.S.C. §1854]


The statute provides for civil and criminal penalties for violations. [16 U.S.C. §§1858, 1859]

The Secretary is authorized to revoke, suspend, deny, or impose additional conditions or restrictions on any permit issued or applied for by the owner or operator of a vessel or any other person who has violated the statute. [16 U.S.C. §1858(g)]

Transition to sustainable fisheries

If the Secretary determines that there is a commercial fishery failure, as set forth in the statute, the Secretary is authorized to make sums available to be used by the affected state or fishing community, or by the Secretary in cooperation with the affected state or fishing community, for assessing the economic and social effects of the failure. [16 U.S.C. §1861a(a)]

The Secretary is authorized, upon request, to conduct a voluntary fishing capacity reduction program in a fishery if the Secretary determines that the program is (1) necessary to prevent or end overfishing, rebuild fish stocks of fish, or achieve measurable and significant improvements in the conservation and management of the fishery; (2) consistent with the federal or state fishery management plan or program in effect for the fishery; and (3) cost-effective. [16 U.S.C. §1861a(b)]

Regional coastal disaster assistance

When there is a catastrophic regional fishery disaster, the Secretary is authorized to establish a regional economic transition program to provide immediate disaster relief assistance to the fishermen, charter fishing operators, U.S. fish processors, and owners of related fishery infrastructure affected by the disaster. [16 U.S.C. §1864]

Bycatch reduction engineering program

The statute establishes a bycatch reduction program, including grants, to develop technological devices and other conservation engineering changes designed to minimize bycatch, seabird interactions, bycatch mortality, and post-release mortality in federally managed fisheries. [16 U.S.C. §1865]

Cooperative research and management program

The statute establishes a cooperative research and management program to address needs identified in the statute and any other marine resource laws enforced by the Secretary. The program shall be implemented on a regional basis and shall be developed and conducted through partnerships among federal, state, and tribal managers and scientists, fishing industry participants, and educational institutions. [16 U.S.C. §1867]

Restoration study

The Secretary is authorized to conduct a study to update scientific information and protocols needed to improve restoration techniques for a variety of coast habitat types and synthesizes the results in a format easily understandable by restoration practitioners and local communities. [16 U.S.C. §1869]

Fishery monitoring and research

The Secretary shall develop recommendations for implementation of a standardized fishing vessel registration and information management system on a regional basis. [16 U.S.C. §1881]

If a Council determines that additional information would be beneficial for developing, implementing, or revising a fishery management plan, or for determining whether a fishery is in need of management, the Council may request that the Secretary implement an information collection program for the fishery. [16 U.S.C. §1881a]

The Secretary shall initiate and maintain, in cooperation with the Councils, a comprehensive program of fishery research to carry out and further the purposes, policy, and provisions of the statute. [16 U.S.C. §1881c]

The Secretary shall establish an advisory panel to develop recommendations to expand the application of ecosystem principles in fishery conservation and management activities. [16 U.S.C. §1882]

The statute establishes a deep sea coral research and technology program to identify, monitor, and protect deep sea coral areas. [16 U.S.C. §1884]

Full Statute

The statute is available from the U.S. Government Publishing Office: