This year marks 40 years since the passage of landmark Congressional legislation that fundamentally overhauled how the $90 billion U.S. commercial fisheries industry is managed. It established a unique public-private partnership in which the industry, working with scientists and both federal and local authorities, would regulate fishing according to agreed-upon scientific standards for environmental sustainability, even as the industry stretched to meet skyrocketing demand for seafood. As the world’s marine science and fisheries experts convene in Boston this week at the International Boston Seafood Show, the implications of the bold decisions taken in 1976 on U.S. fisheries should be assessed in light of a race to the bottom of the seas elsewhere due to overfishing.
Prior to 1976, federal regulations for marine fisheries were virtually non-existent, leading to rampant exploitation of our oceans and fisheries. But the Magnuson Stevens Act changed that in two important ways. First, it eliminated foreign fleets from a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, reserving these waters for U.S. vessels alone. And second, it established a system of regional management councils to regulate federal fisheries, laying the foundation for a strict and transparent science-based approach to fisheries management that has enabled the U.S. to emerge as a model of seafood sustainability around the world.
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