NOAA 99-080
Contact: Gordon Helm

Managers to have better control over fishing gear that can harm fish and habitat

The National Marine Fisheries Service has completed its implementation of a list of allowable fisheries and fishing gear that is expected to provide better management of fish stocks and habitat essential to their long-term health, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

Required under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the list incorporates substantial input from fishing industry members, fishing managers, and others concerned that some gear types or fisheries may have been left off a proposed list earlier this year.

By completing the list, managers in NOAA Fisheries and the regional fishery management councils now have a new tool that will inform them on any potential adverse effects of a fishing gear before it is used, thus enabling them to take action to protect fish stocks before fishing is begun, if necessary.

"We can now proactively manage new gear or fisheries," said Penny Dalton, assistant administrator for NOAA and director of NOAA Fisheries. "In the past, fishermen were free to fish for any species or use any gear unless managers took action to restrict them. These new regulations are part of a precautionary approach to fisheries management, adopted under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and by the United States under the international code of conduct for responsible fisheries."

In late January, NOAA Fisheries managers published a list of allowable fisheries and fishing gear that could be used in U.S. fisheries. The regulations, which affect all federally managed marine waters, were to have become effective July 26, 1999, and prohibited any person or vessel from using fishing gear or participating in a fishery that was not included in the published list, without notifying fishery managers 90 days in advance.

The 180-day delay in implementing the rule, from January until July, was to allow fishermen ample opportunity to identify any final changes needed in the list. However, fisheries managers received comments asserting that the list did not include all gear currently used in some fisheries, nor all of the fisheries in federal waters. So, NOAA Fisheries managers delayed the effective date of the list of allowable gear and fisheries until Dec. 1, 1999, and added a comment period that ended on Sept. 13, 1999. The list has now been revised and the new requirements are now in effect.

New gear types can be used and/or new fisheries can be opened, but only after one of the regional fishery management councils, or NOAA Fisheries in the case of Atlantic highly migratory species, has an opportunity to review the impact the gear or fishery may have on fish stocks under its stewardship.

A copy of the implementing rule, including the list of fisheries and gear, can be obtained on the Internet at: