Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management Underlies the NOAA Fisheries Mission

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitats, interactions and ecosystems. NOAA Fisheries' primary mandates are derived from numerous key statutes including the:

  • Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act
  • National Aquaculture Act
  • National Environmental Protection Act

NOAA Fisheries must address all these mandates simultaneously and, to do that, is implementing its living marine resource stewardship responsibilities in an ecosystem context. NOAA Fisheries has adopted a policy of EBFM to more efficiently and effectively fulfill its mandates and promote consideration of not only cumulative effects, but also tradeoffs across various management regimes and human uses, as well as the impacts of these management decisions on human systems (Executive Order 13547 of July 19th 2010; Ocean Research Advisory Panel 2013). There are facets of ecosystem considerations in each of these mandates, but an ecosystem-based approach is needed to achieve the objectives across all of them simultaneously. 

From these mandates, NOAA Fisheries has stewardship responsibilities for providing a range of science-based assessments and management advice for more than 450 regulated fishery stocks/stock complexes, nearly 100 threatened or endangered species, and over 100 marine mammal species. In addition, NOAA Fisheries provides science-based information to conduct restoration projects at over 2,000 habitats nationwide and protect 100’s of thousands of square miles of habitat. To meet NEPA requirements, in 2012 alone, NOAA Fisheries conducted over 100 environmental assessments, wrote 12 environmental impacts statements, and issued several hundred categorical exclusions. NOAA Fisheries also oversees research and siting for a growing number of sustainable marine aquaculture activities. NOAA Fisheries has stewardship responsibilities for living marine resources in 11 Large Marine Ecosystems, comprising 16.5 million square kilometers, an area 1.7 times the land area of the continental U.S. and roughly 5 percent of the world ocean’s surface area.

Across all this range of responsibilities, to most efficiently and effectively meet these challenges is to adopt ecosystem-based fisheries management. It is the best way to be able to consider the full range of tradeoffs, interactions, and cumulative effects required across this range of responsibilities.