The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission was formed by the fifteen Atlantic coast states more than fifty years ago to assist in managing and conserving their shared coastal fishery resources. With the recognition that fish do not adhere to political boundaries, the states formed an Interstate Compact, which was approved by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President in 1942. The states have found that their mutual interest in sustaining healthy coastal fishery resources is best achieved by working together cooperatively, in collaboration with the federal government. Through this approach, the states uphold their collective fisheries management responsibilities in a cost-effective, timely and responsive fashion.
Each state is represented by three Commissioners, which include: the director for the state's marine fisheries management agency; a state legislator; and an individual knowledgeable in fisheries appointed by the state governor. These Commissioners participate in deliberations in the Commission's five main policy arenas: interstate fisheries management, research and statistics, habitat conservation, sport fish restoration, and law enforcement.
In January 1994, the Commission became responsible for implementing fishery management requirements for all Atlantic coast interjurisdictional fisheries under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act. The species regulated under this program are: American eel, American lobster, American shad and river herring, Atlantic croaker, Atlantic herring, Atlantic menhaden, Atlantic sturgeon, bluefish, northern shrimp, red drum, scup and black sea bass, Spanish mackerel, spot, spotted seatrout, striped bass, summer flounder, tautog, weakfish, and winter flounder.
Through the Interstate Fisheries Management Program (ISFMP), Commissioners determine management strategies which the states implement through fishing regulations. The ISFMP operates under the direction of the ISFMP Policy Board and the species management boards. The ISFMP Policy Board, comprised of Commissioners from the fifteen member states and representatives of the District of Columbia, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, oversees the program and meets at least bi-annually to establish and monitor the direction of the program.
The species management boards, also comprised of Commissioners and federal agency representatives, consider and approve the development and implementation of fishery management plans, including the integration of scientific information, proposed management measures, and considerations for habitat conservation and the management of protected species/fishery interactions. The species management boards are also responsible for ensuring that adequate opportunity for public input is provided during the plan development or amendment process.
With implementation of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act, public participation was further encouraged through the development of advisory panels for all Commission-managed species and the establishment of a public hearing process. The Commission's advisory panels are comprised of representatives from the commercial, charter boat, and recreational fishing industries, as well as conservation interests from coastal states participating in the management of a given species. The advisors' role is to provide input into the fishery management planning process from plan development and implementation through to any plan changes or amendments.
The waters for public participation were first tested in 1994 with the development of the Atlantic Striped Bass Advisory Panel and the initiation of public hearings for Addendum VI and Draft Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. Since that time, advisory panels have been developed to work with the American Eel, American Lobster, American Shad and River Herring, Atlantic Croaker, Atlantic Sturgeon, Bluefish, Scup and Black Sea Bass, Tautog, Weakfish, and Winter Flounder Management Boards, and the Northern Shrimp and the Atlantic Herring Sections.
Public hearings have also become an important part of the Commission's fishery management planning process, with at least four public hearings being held along the coast for the development of any interstate fishery management plan, plan amendment or addendum. Additionally, the Commission widely disseminates notice of any plan changes and provides opportunities for the submission of written comments.
Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the National Marine Fisheries Service (part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the National Marine Fisheries Service (part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.