Accountability measure (AM): 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 fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act. AMs can be implemented during the fishing season to keep the overall catch within the established limits (e.g. closure of specific areas, reduction in fishing effort) or after the season to mitigate or correct any overages that occurred (e.g. reduce annual catch limit by overage the following season).
Amendment: An update to a Fishery Management Plan. Amendments are prepared by a fishery management council with participation and input from various stakeholders, including the fishing industry, government agencies and the environmental community.
Annual catch limit (ACL): The amount of a particular fish species, stock or stock complex that can be caught in a given year (usually measured in weight). The reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that managers implement annual catch limits on most managed fish stocks, based on recommendations of their scientific advisors, in order to prevent and end overfishing in U.S. waters.
Atlantic herring: Small fish found in the ocean off the east coast of North America, from Labrador (Canada) to North Carolina. They are close cousins of alewife and blueback herring, American shad and Atlantic menhaden. Herring are food for a variety of ocean predators including bluefin tuna, cod, whales and dolphins. The U.S. Atlantic herring fishery is managed by federal and state agencies.
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC): A deliberative body comprised of representatives from the 15 Atlantic coast states (from Maine to Florida) and the federal government that coordinates the conservation and management of fishery resources in state waters extending three miles from shore.
Buffer zone: In general, buffer zones offer a protective barrier between an area of industrial activity and an area judged to be ecologically sensitive - such as buffer zones that protect wetlands. The Herring Alliance has advocated for fisheries buffer zones that protect sensitive near-shore areas from industrial herring fishing. A buffer zone was established in 2007, technically referred to as the Purse Seine/Fixed Gear Only Area, to exclude the most destructive herring fishing gear June 1 through September 30 each year. This seasonal buffer zone excludes midwater trawling from an area the size of Massachusetts, reducing bycatch and leaving more herring as food for whales and other ocean wildlife.
Bycatch cap: A limit on the amount of bycatch that can be caught in a particular fishery. If a cap is reached, an area or the entire fishery is closed to additional fishing for the remainder of the year.
Ecosystem-based fisheries management: A fishery management approach that considers the entire ecosystem – including impacts of fishing on target and non-target species, habitats, predator-prey relationships and other ecological interactions – with a goal of maintaining and restoring ecosystem health and sustainability. This approach represents a shift from traditional single-species management, which focuses on maximizing catch of individual species and fails to take into account the complexity and interconnectedness within ecosystems.
Fishing closed area: An area of the ocean where certain fishing gear is prohibited or an area that is entirely closed to fishing during specific times of the year. Fishery closures protect fish habitat to reduce fishing-induced mortality and to allow fish reproduce and grow.
Federal fishery observer: Field technicians or biologists, trained by the NOAA Fisheries Service, to monitor and record information on all fishing activity: fishing effort, estimates on total fish caught (including discards) and interactions with marine mammals and seabirds. This information is used to inform stock assessments, enforce catch limits and caps, and inform management decisions.
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.
Fish stock complex: Multiple fish stocks that are managed as one unit in a fishery.
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. Councils meet at least five times per year and various committees meet more frequently. Our work takes place at the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC ) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC).
Fishery management plan (FMP): Rules that regulate the fisheries managed by the federal government under the NOAA Fisheries Service. FMPs must comply with existing and new federal laws, including those passed in 2006 that require adoption of conservation measures such as annual catch limits and accountability measures.
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 for centuries has functioned as a commercial engine for New England, the U.S. and Canada. Georges Bank forms the southern and eastern boundary of the Gulf of Maine, a semi-enclosed sea that is another one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems. The Gulf of Maine is bordered by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
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 of the ocean, 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 Closed Areas: Five year-round commercial fishing closures (Georges Bank Closed Area I, Georges Bank 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 to protect spawning and juvenile groundfish, such as cod, haddock and flounder, from excessive fishing pressure.
Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA): The Magnuson-Stevens Act 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. The United States federal government 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.
Menhaden: Atlantic menhaden play a vital role in the marine ecosystem from Maine to Florida. By weight, more menhaden are caught than any other fish on the East Coast. One company, Omega Protein, operates a fleet that each year scoops up about three-quarters of the entire East Coast menhaden catch—more than 410 million pounds. The oily fish are typically ground up for use in fertilizer, pet food, dietary supplements, and feed for agriculture and aquaculture. Most of the catch comes from the Chesapeake Bay but the fleet also catches menhaden along the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to North Carolina.
Midwater trawling: A method of ocean fishing in which a vessel tows a large net through the water between the surface and the seafloor. These nets can reach 300 feet in length and use a small mesh width at the back (codend) of the net. Midwater trawl vessels are the largest fishing vessels on the East Coast, up to 165 feet long with a single net capable of capturing 500,000 pounds of sea life in one tow. Contrary to the name, “midwater” trawlers often fish on the seafloor.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS): 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 NOAA’s Fisheries Service.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): 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.
Pair trawling: A fishing practice in which a midwater trawl net is towed between two vessels. Fishing with two vessels enables use of a larger net, towed at higher speeds, in order to catch more fish. See midwater trawling .
River herring: Alewife and blueback herring (together known as river herring) are small fish that spend most of their adult lives at sea but return to freshwater rivers and ponds to spawn in spring. River herring have declined to historic lows. Fishing for river herring is now illegal in most rivers and coastal waters, although some Atlantic states allow limited catch under approved plans. River herring are a separate species from their ocean cousin, Atlantic herring, but often intermix at sea where they are caught unintentionally during fishing operations. Their coastal range extends from Newfoundland to Florida. River herring are listed as a “Species of Concern” by NMFS, and a recent stock assessment stated that, in addition to habitat issues in rivers, ocean bycatch is a factor in their decline.
Shad: similar to river herring, shad spend their adult lives at sea, returning to their native rivers in the spring to breed, are found from Newfoundland to Florida, and populations are at or near historic lows. In 2013, states had to demonstrate sustainable harvest plans otherwise their shad fisheries (both recreational and commercial) closed. They are caught at sea by industrial fisheries targeting other species.