Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act


Read the full text of the Magnuson-Stevens Act

Read the full text of the Magnuson-Stevens Act

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the principal law governing marine fisheries in the United States. It was originally adopted to create a U.S. fishery conservation zone out to 200 nautical miles off the U.S. coast; to phase out foreign fishing activities within this zone; to prevent overfishing, especially by foreign fleets; to allow overfished stocks to recover; and to conserve and manage fishery resources.

The MSA is named after the late Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington and the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. Congress passed the original MSA in 1976. It has since been amended several times, most recently in 2006. Among other things, the MSA explains the role of regional fishery management councils and describes their functions and operating procedures. The MSA includes national standards for management and mandates the contents of fishery management plans. In addition, it authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to review, approve, and implement fishery management plans and other recommendations developed by the councils through Federal rulemaking.

In 1996 Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) which revised the MSA and reauthorized it through 1999. That revision brought new requirements to prevent overfishing and rebuild over- fished fisheries. The SFA required that each fishery management plan (FMP) specify objective and measurable criteria for determining when a stock is overfished or when overfishing is occurring, and to establish measures for rebuilding the stock. The SFA also added definitions for “overfishing” and “overfished.” The SFA added three new National Standards to address fishing vessel safety, fishing communities, and bycatch. Several existing standards were revised. The MSA now contains 10 National Standards for fishery conservation and management, with which all FMPs must comply.

In late 2006, Congress revised and reauthorized the MSA again. This revision (called “Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006”) did not add any new National Standards, but it did make a number of changes related to establishment of annual catch limits, function of the Scientific and Statistical Committee, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process, rebuilding provisions, limited access privilege programs, and other areas.


  1. Prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield.
  2. Be based upon the best scientific information available.
  3. Manage individual stocks as a unit throughout their range, to the extent practicable; interrelated stocks shall be managed as a unit or in close coordination.
  4. Not discriminate between residents of different states; any allocation of privileges must be fair and equitable.
  5. Where practicable, promote efficiency, except that no such measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.
  6. Take into account and allow for variations among and contingencies in fisheries, fishery resources, and catches.
  7. Minimize costs and avoid duplications, where practicable.
  8. Take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities to provide for the sustained participation of, and minimize adverse impacts to, such communities (consistent with conservation requirements).
  9. Minimize bycatch or mortality from bycatch.
  10. Promote safety of human life at sea