Title: Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Mid-Atlantic Unmanaged Forage Fish Omnibus Amendment

Docket ID: NOAA-NMFS-2017-0013

Agency: NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service,

Comments Close: May 30, 2017



The purpose of this action is to prevent the development of new, and the expansion of existing, commercial fisheries on certain forage species until the Council has adequate opportunity and information to evaluate the potential impacts of forage fish harvest on existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem. 



Mid-Atlantic Council stakeholders identified managing forage species as a key concern for future action during a 2011 strategic planning and visioning process. The Council recognized that although it already manages several forage species that are the target of directed commercial fisheries (Atlantic mackerel, longfin and Illex squid, and butterfish), there are other unmanaged species that serve as prey for species important to commercial and recreational fisheries managed within the Mid-Atlantic. Due to the importance of forage fish species to the marine ecosystem and the health of important commercial and recreational fisheries, the Council sought to prevent the further expansion of commercial fishing effort on forage species.

Since introducing an action in December of 2014, the Council has held scoping meetings (2015) and public hearings (2016). The Council submitted the final forage amendment on March 20, 2017, and deemed the regulatory actions in the amendment to be necessary and appropriate under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.



 The amendment prevents the development of new, and the expansion of existing, commercial fisheries on certain Mid-Atlantic forage species until the Council can collect the information necessary to more fully evaluate the potential impacts of forage species harvests on existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem. In order to accomplish this, the Council will do the following, in addition to several other actions that can be found in the main text:

  1. Designate 15 species and species groups as ecosystem component species of Fishery Managemet Plans under the Council’s jurisdiction. Under the Magnusen-Stevens Act, this means that the Council is expected to consider measures to mitigate and minimize bycatch of these species and to track the species over time. The Council will periodically evaluate their status to assess whether any management is needed under the fisheries management plan, at which point the ecosystem component species could be reclassified as a management unit species. 
  2. Introduce regulations specific for the existing Atlantic chub mackerel fishery, including a temporary annual catch limit and possession limit in federal waters that will last for 3 years. 
  3. Require an exempted fishery permit and sufficient Council review before further development of any fishery for the fish in (1) above. 
  4. Set the stage for adaptive management by expanding framework provisions in the all of the Council's Fishery Management Plans to allow future changes to annual landing limits and possession limits for Mid-Atlantic forage species.

Contributor: M.S. Student, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences