National Marine Fisheries Service
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is a United States federal agency. A division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , pronounced , like "noah", is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere...

 (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce
United States Department of Commerce
The United States Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with promoting economic growth. It was originally created as the United States Department of Commerce and Labor on February 14, 1903...

, NMFS is responsible for the stewardship and management of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical...

, which extends seaward 200 nautical mile
Nautical mile
The nautical mile is a unit of length that is about one minute of arc of latitude along any meridian, but is approximately one minute of arc of longitude only at the equator...

s from the coastline (about 370 kilometers).

In recent years, the agency has come under intense scrutiny from the fishing industry, both commercial and recreational, and Congress leading to a multi-part investigation by the Commerce Department Inspector General which found serious problems and misuse of funds.

During her confirmation hearing, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator in the Obama Administration, expressed a commitment to fix a relationship between the fishing industry and NMFS. Lubchenco herself called the relationship between NMFS and those whom it regulates "seriously dysfunctional." NOAA oversees the NMFS.

Using the tools provided by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the NMFS assesses and predicts the status of fish stocks, ensures compliance with fisheries regulations and works to end wasteful fishing practices. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act
The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was the first article of legislation to call specifically for an ecosystem approach to natural resource management and conservation. MMPA prohibits the taking of marine mammals, and enacts a moratorium on the import, export, and sale of any marine mammal,...

 and the Endangered Species Act
Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the dozens of United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973, it was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and...

, the agency is also tasked with recovering protected marine species such as wild salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

, whale
Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti . This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga...

s and sea turtle
Sea turtle
Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...


With the help of the six regional science centers, eight regional fisheries management
Fisheries management
Fisheries management draws on fisheries science in order to find ways to protect fishery resources so sustainable exploitation is possible. Modern fisheries management is often referred to as a governmental system of appropriate management rules based on defined objectives and a mix of management...

 councils, the coastal states and territories, and three interstate fisheries management commissions, NMFS conserves and manages marine fisheries to promote sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

 and to prevent lost economic potential associated with overfishing
Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....

, declining species, and degraded habitats. While the coastal states and territories generally have authority to manage fisheries within near-shore state waters, the NMFS has the primary responsibility to conserve and manage marine fisheries in the U.S. exclusive economic zone
Exclusive Economic Zone
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical...

 beyond state waters. The agency also attempts to balance competing public needs for the natural resources under its management.

Law enforcement

The NMFS also serves as a federal law enforcement agency, working closely with state enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

, and foreign enforcement authorities. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement is a federal police part of the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland...

 is based in Silver Spring, Maryland
Silver Spring, Maryland
Silver Spring is an unincorporated area and census-designated place in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States. It had a population of 71,452 at the 2010 census, making it the fourth most populous place in Maryland, after Baltimore, Columbia, and Germantown.The urbanized, oldest, and...


Dale Jones, former director of federal fishing law enforcement, and his deputy director Mark Spurrier were removed from their positions in April 2010 of after a series of audits by U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser. Mr. Zinser and his investigators found that Jones had presided over wildly excessive and disproportionate treatment of New England fishermen, misuse of government funds, and a document shredding party while Zinser was actively investigating his department. Andrew Cohen, Special Agent in Charge NER, was relieved of his position in September 2010 due to findings of overzealous law enforcement practices.

During 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General issued four Reports or Reviews of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Programs and Operations. Here are the links to the four reports January 2010 OIG Report, April 2010 OIG Report on Destruction of Documents at NOAA Fisheries During an Ongoing OIG Review, July 2010 OIG Report on Asset Forfeiture Fund, September 2010 Final OIG Report. The cluster of OIG Reports found such a troubling situation within NOAA that on September 23, 2010 Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke reached down into NOAA and took command himself for resolving the issues raised by Inspector General Zinser Secretary Locke to Appoint Special Master to Review NOAA Law Enforcement Cases, Restricts Use of the Asset Forfeiture Fund.


The NMFS regulatory program is one of the most active in the federal government, with hundreds of regulations published annually in the Federal Register
Federal Register
The Federal Register , abbreviated FR, or sometimes Fed. Reg.) is the official journal of the federal government of the United States that contains most routine publications and public notices of government agencies...

. Most regulations are published to conserve marine fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act; other regulations are published under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. The NMFS also regulates fisheries pursuant to decisions of "regional fishery management organizations"(RFMOs) and other RFMOs to which the U.S. is a party, such as the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission is an international commission that is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean.-History:The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission was created by the Convention for the...

, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program, etc.

Some regulations by NMFS are quite controversial. For example, in 2007, the NMFS issued regulations to protect endangered whales from fatal fishing-gear entanglements after environmental groups sued to force action on the rules, which were proposed in early 2005. The rules were enacted to specifically protect the North Atlantic Right Whale
North Atlantic Right Whale
The North Atlantic right whale which means "good, or true, whale of the ice") is a baleen whale, one of three right whale species belonging to the genus Eubalaena, formerly classified as a single species. With only 400 in existence, North Atlantic right whales are among the most endangered whales...

, of which about only 350 remain. Marine gear entanglements and ship strikes are the top human causes of right whale deaths. On July 1, the shipping lanes in and out of Boston Harbor were rotated to avoid an area with a high concentration of the right whales.

Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers Library

The National Marine Fisheries Service maintains the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers Library in Seattle. This library was founded in 1931. As of 2011 this library contained 16000 books and subscribed to 250 periodicals. Its subject interests include aquatic science, biochemistry, fisheries biology, fisheries management, food science, and marine science.

See also

External links

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