Regional Fishery Management Councils
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act created eight regional fishery management councils. These councils are responsible for the fisheries that require conservation and management in their region. Voting and non-voting council members represent the commercial and recreational fishing sectors in addition to environmental, academic, and government interests.
Under the MSA, councils are required to:
- Develop and amend fishery management plans
- Convene committees and advisory panels and conduct public meetings
- Develop research priorities in conjunction with a Scientific and Statistical Committee
- Select fishery management options
- Set annual catch limits based on best available science
- Develop and implement rebuilding plans
We support the councils by conducting the annual nomination and appointment process, training new members, and facilitating periodic meetings of the Council Coordination Committee.
We also work with the councils to designate essential fish habitat for federally managed species. Together we research and describe habitats essential for each life stage of many species, create maps, and designate Habitat Areas of Particular Concern.
Go to regional fishery management council websites:
Nominations and Appointments
Each year, we facilitate the annual process to appointment members to the councils. The ideal council appointee candidate is knowledgeable in commercial or recreational fishery conservation and management. They may have occupational experience, scientific expertise, or related training.
Council Coordination Committee
The Council Coordination Committee consists of the chairs, vice chairs, and executive directors from each management council. The committee meets twice a year to discuss issues relevant to all councils.
We offer an annual training for newly appointed council members. Training topics include provisions of the MSA and other applicable laws, stock assessment science and procedures, and council operations.
Each council holds meetings throughout the year to discuss issues important to the conservation and management of the region’s fisheries.
Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee
The Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee was established in 1971 under a federal charter by the Secretary of Commerce to provide advice on living marine resource matters under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Primarily, these matters fall under NOAA Fisheries.
Members represent a diverse set of perspectives from commercial, recreational, aquaculture, seafood and consumer, tribal, academic, environmental, and protected resources interest groups. Members draw on their expertise and other appropriate sources to advise on:
- Setting national living marine resource policies
- Developing and implementing Departmental initiatives and programs
- Evaluating and recommending needed changes during reauthorization processes for the Magnuson-Stevens, Endangered Species, and Marine Mammal Protection Acts
- Assessing other areas of interest to the Secretary and relevant to the mission and goals of NOAA Fisheries
Committee advice is derived from public deliberations and is typically conveyed in meeting summaries, written findings and recommendations, and formal reports transmitted to NOAA and the Department.
The committee functions solely as an advisory body, complying fully with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. It is available to the Secretary of Commerce and NOAA on an ongoing basis as an expert source for consultation during the development of marine resource policy. The committee generally meets in person a minimum of twice a year and all meetings are open to the public in person or virtually. The Committee is managed by NOAA Fisheries' Office of Policy.
- Secretary of Commerce Appoints Three New Committee Members to NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (September 15, 2023)
- Nominations Sought for Positions on the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee; Nominations are being accepted through July 29, 2021 (June 15, 2021).
- Federal Advisory Committee Recommends Establishing a National Seafood Council;
- Report and recommendations from the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (July 2020)
- A Vision for Salmon and Steelhead: Goals to Restore Thriving Salmon and Steelhead to the Columbia River Basin (October 2020)
- NOAA Fisheries Appoints 11 Members to New Recreational Electronic Reporting Task Force (April 16, 2020)
Please see Meetings and Summaries for upcoming and past MAFAC meeting materials.
For questions or information, please contact:
Heidi Lovett, Acting Director (DFO)
Katie Denman, Policy Analyst
Learn about our partnerships with federal agencies.
NOAA Fisheries partners with a variety of federal agencies as part of our mission to support productive and sustainable fisheries and safe sources of seafood. In conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our National Seafood Inspection Laboratory provides support to seafood dealers and ensures seafood is caught and imported legally. We also partner with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that seafood is safe to eat. The lab supports an inspection program for seafood processors by providing analytical testing of seafood samples for bacterial pathogens, chemical contaminants, and other health hazards.
We’re also working with a number of federal agencies to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud from entering the U.S. marketplace. Partner agencies include:
Department of Agriculture
Department of Defense
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Homeland Security
Department of the Interior
Department of Justice
Department of State
Federal Trade Commission
At both the national and regional level, we work with other federal partners to meet our shared mandates under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. In particular, we co-manage several species under the ESA with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (e.g., marine turtles, Gulf sturgeon, Atlantic salmon) and coordinate closely to ensure common approaches to implementing the ESA. We also work closely with the Marine Mammal Commission, which oversees our implementation of the MMPA and relevant provisions of the ESA, and with the Regional Fishery Management Councils, which are responsible for developing fishery management plans and engage in addressing interactions between protected species and fisheries in the course of fulfilling their management responsibilities.
Under Section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies are directed to carry out programs for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. We assist these agencies with the development of these conservation programs for marine species. Under Section 7(a)(2) federal agencies must consult with us when any project or action they take may affect an ESA-listed marine species or designated critical habitat.
Some of the agencies that we regularly consult with under the ESA include:
Army Corps of Engineers
Department of Defense
Department of the Interior
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
National Science Foundation
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
U.S. Geological Survey
Science & Technology
NOAA Fisheries collaborates with a wide range of federal partners to provide the best available science in support of living marine resource management, including:
Department of Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey): To support of science and conservation of protected species like sea turtles and research on fish habitats; for example, we provide scientific advice and direction for the National Fish Habitat Partnership.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: We provide science to better understand the impacts of energy exploration and offshore energy development on marine species and their habitats as well as the impacts of underwater noise on marine mammals and other species.
Army Corps of Engineers: We work together to support habitat restoration science and conservation.
Department of State: We work together to promote the application of strong fisheries science internationally.
Department of Defense (U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard): We support research on impacts of underwater noise on marine life for the Navy and partner with the Coast Guard on national observer program efforts.
Department of Agriculture
Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
We work with other federal agencies to implement habitat restoration projects where our priorities align. Often, our focus on restoring habitat to recover fish populations can complement other agencies’ efforts to improve water quality or reduce flooding. These partnerships allow us to be more efficient and cost-effective. Our partners include all federal agencies who fund, regulate, and implement resource conservation.
When it comes to law enforcement, we work closely with multiple federal agencies to maximize enforcement efforts and leverage resources. These partnerships are mutually beneficial, as our special agents and enforcement officers routinely assist other federal agencies. With the increase in U.S. Homeland Security and cross-agency collaboration, our expertise applies to various task forces and security activities, including border operations, checkpoints, dock patrols, and inter-agency meetings.
A few of our key federal partners include:
U.S. Coast Guard
Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Department of Justice and United States Attorneys Office
Drug Enforcement Administration
Federal Bureau of Investigation
To facilitate the growth of marine aquaculture in the United States, we work with federal, state, and tribal partners on a variety of initiatives stemming from the 2011 aquaculture policies, the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, and mandates under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Aquaculture Act.
We chair the Aquaculture Regulatory Task Force under the Interagency Working Group on Aquaculture through which federal agencies collaborate with the National Ocean Council to streamline and better coordinate federal permitting for aquaculture. The goal is to produce a more coordinated and consistent federal regulatory process that will provide protection for the ocean environment and increase efficiency, transparency, and predictability in making permit decisions.
Learn about our partnerships with state agencies.
We work with three Interstate Fisheries Commissions to manage shared coastal fishery resources and collect data.
We also work closely with state and territory partners to collect data, conserve fish habitat, assess the status of fish stocks, and implement effective management programs to ensure the sustainability of U.S. fisheries.
States and territories are critical partners in protecting and recovering ESA-listed species. They often possess scientific data and expertise within their borders and have close working relationships with local governments and landowners that can benefit ESA management decisions. Together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we recognized this role with a long-standing policy commitment by state agencies for engagement and collaboration on many aspects of ESA implementation.
Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 also provides a way for us to cooperate with states in the conservation of threatened, endangered, and candidate species. Under section 6, we are authorized to enter into agreements with any state or U.S. territory that establishes and maintains an "adequate and active" program for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. After entering an agreement, we are authorized to assist in and provide federal funding for their conservation program. Federal funding in the form of grants can be used to support management, research, monitoring, and outreach projects that have direct conservation benefits for listed species, recently de-listed species, and candidate species that reside within that state or territory.
Science & Technology
We work with several cooperative state-federal fisheries data collection and statistics programs, also known as the Fisheries Information Networks, to meet the needs of fishery managers, scientists and fishermen and produce national level summary information on U.S. fisheries. The Fisheries Information Networks are supported by the Fisheries Commissions (Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific) and include:
We work with state natural resource agencies to help us prioritize habitat conservation needs for the state and implement projects. We also partner with state agencies to implement restoration plans addressing natural resources that were injured by oil and chemical spills. Working together allows us to maximize funding and achieve greater outcomes than if we were working alone. We work with all coastal states and the agencies that fund and implement resource conservation. For example, we are engaged in landscape-scale conservation partnerships in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, Great Lakes, and the San Francisco Bay/Delta.
Similar to our federal partnerships, when it comes to law enforcement we partner with numerous state, territorial, and commonwealth marine conservation law enforcement agencies to help protect and conserve marine resources. Through these partnerships, enabled by the Cooperative Enforcement Program, we supplement enforcement efforts with thousands of specially trained and authorized conservation law enforcement officers.
Since the inception of the Cooperative Enforcement Program, these partner agencies have provided critical law enforcement activity our behalf. In return, we have provided substantial funding, training, and support to partners to ensure the continued enforcement of federal and state marine conservation laws.
With the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act in 2007, territories, commonwealths, and U.S. possessions became eligible to participate in the program. We currently have joint enforcement agreements with 28 state, territory, and commonwealth natural resources enforcement agencies. The primary goal of these agreements is to enhance the enforcement of federal laws and regulations while improving the ability of the partner agencies to perform their routine marine conservation obligations.
Federal, state, and local agencies have many similar and overlapping aquaculture interests. Tools developed by our aquaculture program are shared with state and local officials to help coastal managers understand aquaculture. The Coastal Aquaculture Planning Portal brings together data from throughout NOAA—NOAA Ocean Service, NOAA Fisheries, and NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research—to provide coastal managers with the best available aquaculture science and tools.
We also regularly work with states as part of the National Shellfish Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to increase populations of shellfish in our nation’s coastal waters—including oysters, clams, abalone, and mussels—through both sustainable commercial production and restoration activities. Since its inception, we have made welcome progress on many fronts with our partners and several coastal states have created their own regional initiatives. Learn more about the National Shellfish Initiative.
The relationship between the United States government and federally-recognized Indian tribes is one of government to government. Central to this unique relationship is the trust responsibility of the U.S. government, which is an obligation on the part of the United States to carry out the mandates of federal law while considering the rights and interests of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages.
Understanding each tribe's unique political, historical, and cultural characteristics allows us to better understand tribal government priorities, concerns, and needs, which helps us be better stewards of our environment. We are committed to developing policies and procedures that improve our relations with federally-recognized Indian tribes on a government-to-government basis. NOAA's Tribal Relations Team works to ensure an accountable process for meaningful and timely consultations on policies that might have tribal implications. We also have a tribal consultations handbook (PDF, 34 pages) with guidelines for how we consult with federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native corporations. Review these best practices for engaging with and incorporating traditional ecological knowledge in decision-making.
We collaborate closely with tribal governments in a number of regions as well as nationally. For example, our Species Recovery Grants to Tribes support tribally-led recovery efforts for eligible species under our jurisdiction, including species listed under the Endangered Species Act and others. Grants support a range of recovery efforts, including management, research, and outreach activities.
Alaska Natives have a long history of self-regulation, based on the need to ensure a sustainable take of marine mammals for food and handicrafts. In Alaska, we consult with tribes and Native corporations about federal actions that might affect tribal governments and their members. Executive Order 13175 sets the framework for regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with Alaska Native representatives in the development of policies, legislation, regulations, and programs.
The best available scientific information as well as traditional and contemporary Alaska Native knowledge and wisdom are used for decisions regarding Alaska marine mammal co-management to the extent allowed by law. Our co-management agreements with Alaska Native organizations encourage full and equal participation by Alaska Natives in decisions affecting the subsistence management of marine mammals, as a tool for conserving marine mammal populations in Alaska. Agreements encourage the exchange of information regarding the conservation, management, and use of marine mammals in U.S. waters in and around Alaska.
In the Greater Atlantic Region, we coordinate and strive to build positive, productive relationships with tribes in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. With knowledge of tribal government processes and cultural practices, we can better understand tribal positions and needs and, together, be better stewards of our environment.
Partnerships with the tribes include working on issues related to protected species such as Atlantic salmon, marine mammals, and sea turtles; ecosystem restoration; aquaculture; and ocean acidification. Tribes in this region have awarded species recovery grants to support management, outreach, research, and monitoring projects that directly benefit ESA-listed species, recently de-listed species, species proposed for listing, and candidate species.
Although the Pacific Islands Region does not have any federally recognized tribes, we recognize the value of working with native Hawaiian groups and others on resource management issues. We partner with many indigenous Pacific Islander groups throughout the region who have interest in NOAA's activities and want to assist in executing our mission in a culturally responsible manner.
For instance, we engage with native Hawaiian cultural practitioners in marine mammal stranding responses whenever possible. We invite cultural practitioners to participate in helping us become more culturally sensitive about being respectful to an individual animal and to the people of the community where these strandings occur. It is our goal to continue to build respectful relationships and responses that expand this effort, while remaining in compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act.
We recognize the rights of federally-recognized Indian tribes to self-government and sovereign power over their members and territories. In the West Coast region, we protect those rights by partnering with Pacific Northwest Indian tribes to address natural and cultural resource issues.
Partnerships with the tribes include the formation of salmon recovery teams and development of implementation plans, task forces such as the Columbia Basin Partnership, education opportunities such as the Discovery Internship Program with the Northwest Indian College, and funding opportunities through various grants such as the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, as well as providing resource tools and guides for tribal interaction and government-to-government consultation.
We work with tribal governments across the country to conserve habitat on tribal lands while respecting their history and culture. Working together, we can help leverage additional funding and technical assistance to ensure that projects are completed efficiently and with the support of the tribal government.
Many non-government organizations that focus on ocean issues have goals that significantly overlap with NOAA mandates. These organizations and their members are critical public stakeholders. Many of these organizations have well-developed and influential social networks—domestically and internationally—that can amplify mutually beneficial messages, initiatives, and campaigns. These deep-seated communication and outreach mechanisms, which equip organizations with the capability to gain public interest and support, make it imperative to have a strong working partnerships. Additionally, our partners often provide a forum for collaborative meetings among various stakeholders (industry, public, academia, governments). Non-government organizations include universities, stranding networks, and aquariums, among others.
We partner with a variety of non-government organizations to conduct research that supports sustainable fisheries management. For example, through the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program we support the development of technological solutions and changes in fishing practices designed to minimize bycatch. We provide funding and often work directly with universities, the fishing industry, and individual fishermen.
Our protected species partners provide a range of vital resources, expertise, data, and even funding for activities to make important progress on recovery and conservation. We work alongside:
Academic Institutions: We look to academic institutions for their expertise in species biology, recovery, and conservation and to provide membership on technical working groups and advisory bodies as we implement the ESA and MMPA.
Non-Government Organizations: We work with non-government organizations to identify key resources and innovative approaches to recover and conserve protected species, including relying upon them for marine mammal and sea turtle stranding and entanglement response, among other things.
Private Sector: We partner with private companies to implement recovery actions, including commercial and recreational fisheries, the aquaculture industry, the whale watching industry, and oil and gas companies.
Science & Technology
To support, produce, and ensure the best available science for managing living marine resources, we partner with a range of non-government organizations, including:
Center for Independent Experts: We support science quality assurance by helping fund the Center of Independent Experts. The Center reviews the agency’s science used for policy decisions. Reviews satisfy mandated peer review standards.
Partners in support of cooperative research: We fund cooperative research to foster coordination, cooperation, communication, and mutual respect among scientists, managers, and stakeholders as well as enhance the data upon which fishery management decisions are made.
Academic institutions: We support research at a number of academic institutions around the country to help provide the best available science in support of living marine resource management. We also help support faculty and students at academic institutions around the country to help train the next generation of NOAA Fisheries scientists.
Non-government organizations: Examples include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, and Nature Conservancy.
Professional societies: We work with professional societies on a number of projects to improve science and coordination. Examples include the American Fisheries Society, Ecological Society of America, Association for Professional Observers, and Alaska Marine Safety Education Association.
We work with restoration partners across the country---from local community groups to national environmental groups---on the common goal to conserve habitat. Our partners help us to develop protection and restoration priorities, implement projects, and leverage significant additional funding and in-kind support. This results in far greater outcomes than we can achieve with NOAA funding alone. Some of our partners who work on a national and regional scale include: The Nature Conservancy, Restore America’s Estuaries, Ducks Unlimited, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and the National Fish Habitat Partnerships. Local partners include “friends of” groups, estuaries partnerships, and coastal advocacy organizations.
We partner with numerous non-government organizations, such as World Wildlife Fund and Oceana, on law enforcement issues. We often participate in collaborative meetings with various stakeholders to discuss cooperative activities and develop broad-based collaborative strategies, which address issues that impact sustainable fisheries and protected species and the law abiding public that depends on these living marine resources.
We collaborate with various organizations on aquaculture outreach, disseminating scientific research and general aquaculture information to help coastal communities better understand the importance of aquaculture to our economy.