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Allocation of Fishery Resources

The term “allocation” refers to the distribution of the opportunity to participate in a fishery among user groups or individuals. Allocation of fishery resources is challenging due to the perceptions of fairness that arise with allocation decisions. 


Allocation and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

Language relevant to allocation decisions is found throughout the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s National Standard Guidelines in relation to optimum yield, allocation, economic efficiency, and communities. NOAA Fisheries created specific guidance for the councils to implement these national standards. In addition, Magnuson-Stevens Act section 303A on Limited Access Privilege Programs (a type of catch share program) includes multiple requirements that apply to program allocation decisions. Since these programs allocate a portion of the catch to individual or groups of fishermen, the Magnuson-Stevens Act outlines requirements for determining who is eligible for quota and how much quota they receive. 

Partners in Allocation Policy

NOAA Fisheries works in partnership with the eight regional fishery management councils to address allocation at the regional and national levels. We actively support council actions related to fishery allocations. 

In addition, NOAA Fisheries collaborated with a Council Coordination Committee to develop two procedural directives that provide guidance for the periodic assessment of fishery allocations among users. They also help improve understanding of the process behind such allocation decisions.

In 2016 we created an Allocation Policy to help ensure fisheries allocations are periodically evaluated so they remain relevant to current conditions. The policy defines roles and responsibilities for NOAA Fisheries and the councils in reviewing allocations. It also defines how the two procedural directives work together.

The Allocation Policy and Procedural Directives were initiated in response to a 2012 report (Lapointe) that compiled fisheries allocation issues through interviews with fishermen and fisheries managers.

Multiple reports and technical memoranda provide guidance on making allocation decisions. Report discussions center around economics, fairness, and catch shares, with some covering more than one topic. 

More Information

Laws, guidance, court cases, and allocation case studies

Morrison and Scott 2014

Allocations to Catch Share Programs:

Anderson and Holliday 2007

Pooley 1998 

Huppert (ed) 1987 

General Allocation Decision Information

Plummer et al. 2012

Edwards 1990

Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on February 05, 2018