Fishery Management Glossary

Learn how to talk fish!

Accountability Measure: AMs are fishery management rules that prevent annual catch limits from being exceeded (i.e. prevent overfishing) and make corrections when fishing goes over the annual catch limit. They are mandated by the 2006 reauthorization of the nation’s primary fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act. AMs can be implemented during the fishing season to keep fishing within established catch limits—such as closure of specific areas or reduction in fishing effort—or after the season to correct any excesses that may have occurred, such as reducing the annual catch limit by the exceeded amount the following season.
ACL: Annual Catch Limit. The amount of a particular fish stock or stock complex that can be caught in a given year (usually measured in weight). In the U.S., the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that managers implement annual catch limits by 2011 on all managed fish stocks, based on recommendations of their scientific advisors, in order to end overfishing in U.S. waters.
Amendment 16: An update to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. This amendment establishes science-based annual catch limits for cod, haddock, flounder and other groundfish as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to end overfishing in U.S. waters. Amendment 16 also creates a voluntary sector system for the New England groundfish fishery.
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission: A deliberative body made up of representatives from the coastal Atlantic states that coordinates the conservation and management of the states\' shared near shore fishery resources – marine, shell, and anadromous – for sustainable use.
Bycatch: Sea life unintentionally caught while fishing for another species. This sea life is either brought to shore and sold, or discarded at sea, with much of the discarded sea life ultimately dying.
Common pool: In New England, those who fish with a groundfish permit and do not join a fishing cooperative, called a sector, are considered part of the common pool and are regulated by the effort-based management system, days-at-sea, that was in place prior to 2010.
Days-at-sea: A form of fisheries management that regulates catch by limiting the number of days that permitted fishing vessels are allowed to fish and the amount of fish vessels can bring in per day. Days-at-sea has been used to manage the groundfish fishery in New England since 1994. As of May 1, 2010, a minority of fishing vessels continued to operate under days-at-sea management, and are referred to as “common pool” vessels.
Ecosystem-based Fishery Management: Fishery management actions aimed at conserving the structure and function of marine ecosystems, in addition to conserving the fishery resource.
Essential Fish Habitat: The habitat fish require for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity. Thus, the protection of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) is crucial to supporting and maintaining healthy fish populations. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that Fishery Management Councils identify and take action to minimize, to the extent practicable, the adverse effects of fishing on EFH.
Fish stock: A geographic management unit for a portion of a fish population usually defined by a particular migration pattern, specific spawning grounds or because it is fished in a specific area. Single species are sometimes managed as several stocks based on biology, fishery activities, management practicalities or some combination of these. For example, Atlantic cod is currently managed as the Gulf of Maine cod stock and Georges Bank cod stock. Within these stock areas there may be distinct sub-populations.
Fishery Management Councils: Eight regional councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to develop fishery management plans for fisheries in federal waters. Council members include representatives from each state fishery agency, the federal government, commercial and recreational fishing interests and the conservation community. The councils have staff that conduct technical and policy work and serve on the various committees of the council. Councils meet at least five times per year and various committees meet more frequently.
FMP: Fishery Management Plan. Rules that regulate the fisheries managed by the federal government under the NOAA Fisheries Service. FMPs are amended based on new federal laws, including those passed in 2006 that require adoption of conservation measures, such as annual catch limits and accountability measures. The Northeast Multispecies FMP regulates the Northeast multispecies groundfish complex.
Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine ecosystem: Georges Bank is among the most productive ecosystems on the planet. It yields vast quantities of fish, supports marine mammals and other wildlife, and has functioned as a veritable engine of commerce for centuries for New England, the nation and Canada. Georges Bank forms the southern and eastern boundary of the Gulf of Maine, a semi-enclosed sea that is also renowned as one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems. It is bordered by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Groundfish Closed Areas. Five year-round commercial fishing closures (Closed Area I, Closed Area II, Nantucket Lightship Closed Area, Cashes Ledge Closed Area and Western Gulf of Maine Closed Area) located off of New England’s coast imposed to protect spawning and juvenile groundfish, such as cod, haddock and flounder, from excessive fishing pressure.

Groundfish: Bottom-dwelling, or demersal, fish species such as Atlantic cod, haddock, flounders, hake and pollock. These species often share the same habitat and are managed together as a stock complex. Though groundfish spend much of their lives near the bottom, the eggs and larval fish live near the water surface and even adults move up into the water column at various times, such as when pursuing their food.
Groundfish complex: Northeast multispecies groundfish complex. A fish stock complex that includes Georges Bank (GB) cod, Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod, GB haddock, GOM haddock, GB yellowtail flounder, Southern New England yellowtail flounder, Cape Cod yellowtail flounder, American plaice, witch flounder, GB winter flounder, GOM winter flounder, Southern New England winter flounder, redfish, white hake, pollock, Northern windowpane flounder, Southern windowpane flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic halibut, and Atlantic wolffish.
Habitat Areas of Particular Concern: Areas within Essential Fish Habitat that are ecologically important, sensitive to disturbance, or rare.
Individual Fishing Quotas: A conservation and management tool that sets catch limits for individual vessel owners or operators. IFQs are a form of catch shares.
MSA: Magnuson-Stevens Act. The MSA is the law that governs fishing in federal ocean waters. In 2006, new requirements were passed to end overfishing in U.S. waters by 2011 through the use of annual catch limits based on recommendations of scientific advisors. The U.S. has jurisdiction over the waters from three to 200 miles off its shores. Beyond 200 miles are international waters. From zero to three miles is governed by individual states.
NEFMC: New England Fishery Management Council. One of the eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to develop fishery management plans for fisheries in federal waters, NEFMC is responsible for the management of regulated fish stocks in the New England region, including the Northeast multispecies groundfish complex. As such, NEFMC created and approved Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.
NMFS: National Marine Fisheries Service. The federal agency in charge of the management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the U.S. EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone from three to 200 miles offshore). It is responsible for creating sustainable fisheries following the guidelines in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, assessing and predicting the status of fish stocks, and ensuring compliance with fisheries regulations. It is part of NOAA and is also referred to as the NOAA Fisheries Service.
NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A government agency responsible for the regulation and protection of the atmosphere and marine resources. This federal agency is based in Washington, D.C. and falls under the Secretary of Commerce.
Overfished: An overfished population or stock is one that has been depleted so much that the yield to the fishery is compromised, possibly jeopardizing the future of the stock. The abundance of an overfished stock is too low to ensure safe reproduction and to support optimal levels of fishing. In the U.S., law dictates that a rebuilding plan is required for stocks that are deemed overfished. Populations usually rebuild, or grow, when fishing is reduced sufficiently.
Overfishing: The act of removing fish from a population faster than they can reproduce, which will thus deplete the population, or stock. Note that both healthy and depleted (i.e., overfished) populations can be subjected to overfishing (see definition of overfished).
Permit bank: A system in which states or other entities buy fishing permits and lease quota back to fishermen, often at below-market prices. This can help keep the local fleet solvent and reduce individual debt loads.
Sectors: Voluntary, fishermen-run, community-based cooperatives that are allocated a share of the annual catch limit in a fishery. Members of a sector are responsible for how they use the group’s share of the catch. Sectors run under approved operations plans that detail catch monitoring and other key protocols. Starting in May 2010, the groundfish fishery in New England is managed under a voluntary sector system.
Stock complex: Multiple fish stocks that are managed as one unit in a fishery.


Talking Fish reserves the right to remove any comment that contains personal attacks or inappropriate, offensive, or threatening language. For more information, see our comment policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *