Fisheries Management 

Fisheries management decisions, like size and catch limits and the length of open seasons, are based on a continuous cycle of collecting data, assessing fishery health, setting catch targets, and making effective regulations to keep those targets from being exceeded. Our goal is to ensure fisheries remain productive – now and for generations to come.

Catch Limits

Catch limits are scientifically established targets to prevent overfishing and allow a stock to rebuild or maintain a healthy status. An annual catch limit, sometimes referred to as an ACL, is the amount of fish that can be caught by fishermen over a period of one year. Regional Fishery Management Councils use NOAA Fisheries data and stock assessments to set ACLs each year. 

To learn more about ACLs and accountability measures, visit the NOAA Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries website and/or the training presentation for the Regional Fishery Management Councils

Economic Assessments

Along with collecting data on fishing catch and effort, a very important aspect of the recreational fishing sector is determining the economic impacts. The NOAA Fisheries Economics Program is tasked with evaluating the benefits and costs of alternative management actions, prioritizing management needs, and facilitating policy design that sustainably maximizes societal benefits from ocean and coastal resources.


Fishing regulations are put in place by fisheries managers to adhere to the scientifically established catch limits. States, Fishery Management Councils, and Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions are responsible for working with NOAA Fisheries, recreational fishermen, and other stakeholders to set regulations.

Federal and State fishing regulations may vary, therefore you should always check prior to going fishing to ensure you are following all necessary regulations to keep our fish populations healthy and sustainable.

Stock Assessments

Stock assessments tell us about the health of a fish population. Scientists conduct regular assessments to examine the effects of fishing and other factors to describe the past and current status of a fish stock, answer questions about the size of a fish stock, and make predictions about how a fish stock will respond to current and future management measures. Stock assessments support sustainable fisheries by providing fisheries managers and scientists with the information necessary to make sound decisions on catch limits and other fishing regulations. 

To learn more about stock assessments, watch The ABC’s of Stock Assessments or click here to be directed to NOAA Fisheries Stock Assessments website.