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Policy Directive System

The Policy Directive System, as the repository for NOAA Fisheries policy directives, allows for more widespread distribution of information.

Please note that the contents of these documents do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public. These documents are intended to articulate agency policy and provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law.


What is the Policy Directive System? 

One of the most important functions of leadership in NOAA Fisheries is to establish policy directives to determine how we manage and study living marine resources. Policy directives are statements of and instructions for implementing important, high-level internal direction and positions that guide organization decisions and actions. Establishing written policy directives promotes accountability and consistency in management and science practices, informs constituents of agency positions, and demonstrates NOAA Fisheries' commitment to implementing identified priorities. The Office of Policy facilitates drafting, review, and revision of policy directives with subject matter experts, leadership, and oftentimes external partners and stakeholders.

The Policy Directive System serves as the repository for NOAA Fisheries policy directives, allowing for their widespread dissemination. Policy directives exist in three forms: policies, procedures, and supplements:

  • Policies state NOAA Fisheries directions and objectives and explain why they exist.
  • Procedures provide guidance for how to apply the direction and objectives stated in policies. They are written as instructions or manuals.
  • Supplements adapt procedures to meet the unique geographical needs of individual Regional Offices, Science Centers, and other field offices; and meet the unique needs of specific programs.


Policy directives fall under the following subject areas. Please navigate to each subject area's page below to review the list of and links to our policy directives:

For more information on the Policy Directive System, please contact the Office of Policy.


More Information

NOAA Fisheries also issues guidance documents outside of the Policy Directive System to help articulate and clarify agency processes and regulations, such as Small Entity Compliance Guides, which communicate regulations in plain language. 

Access additional agency guidance documents

Last updated by Office of Policy on February 28, 2020