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Operational Guidelines

All fishery management actions must comply with the MSA as well as with other applicable laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Regulatory Flexibility Act, Endangered Species Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and the Paperwork Reduction Act. The Operational Guidelines provide guidance on the development, review, and implementation of federal fishery management plans, amendments, and regulations. This guidance reflects and builds on the progress that NOAA Fisheries and the councils have made toward fostering a cooperative and accessible public process for managing our nation’s fisheries since implementation of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976.
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2015 Operational Guidelines

The 2015 Operational Guidelines supersede all other versions produced by NOAA Fisheries and the councils. Unlike prior versions of the Operational Guidelines, this approach sets forth high-level goals and outlines objectives for achieving those goals. The core of the document consists of 7 guiding principles for NOAA Fisheries and council partnership that apply to all actions taken to develop, review, and implement MSA fishery management actions. These guidelines recognize the importance of Regional Operating Agreements as the basis for how those guiding principles are implemented and how the regions and councils describe their own processes and procedures. The appendices contain additional information on terminology, a description of the process, discussion of other applicable laws and the rulemaking process, and links to additional resources.

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Regional Operating Agreements

Details of how each council/NOAA Fisheries region pair implements the MSA and other requirements throughout the fishery management process are set forth in Regional Operating Agreements (ROAs). The ROAs confirm the mutual interests and describe the working relationships between a NOAA Fisheries region and the council, and may also include the corresponding NOAA Fisheries Science Center and Office of Law Enforcement. ROAs give NOAA Fisheries and the councils a platform to specify coordination mechanisms and roles and responsibilities in the fishery management plan process and identify necessary tasks and ensure they are appropriately assigned and completed.

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Templates and Examples

As described in the Operational Guidelines, some council/NOAA Fisheries region pairs use standardized templates to develop fishery management plans, amendments, and other documents. If you’d like a copy of these templates, please contact nmfs.sf.webmaster@noaa.gov.

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