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Speak up for fisheries, habitat & communities

In response to clear concerns about declining fisheries in Alaska and around the nation as well as ongoing habitat destruction and alarming ecosystem changes resulting from rapid climate change, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)(also informally known as NOAA Fisheries)  under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking and is seeking public comment on the need for potential revisions to the current Guidelines for National Standards 4, 8 and 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). National Standard 4 addresses fair and equitable allocations, National Standard 8 considers community access and sustained participation of fishing communities and National Standard 9 addresses bycatch management. 


Click here for a one-page fact sheet from Ocean Strategies about MSA’s National Standards, why NMFS is proposing a guideline update and how to comment.

Sometimes called the Fisheries Bill of Rights, the National Standards are principles that must be followed in any fishery management plan to ensure sustainable, responsible and equitable management of federal fisheries (fisheries held in trust relationship with Alaska Native tribes, whose sovereignty includes the right to govern one’s community, preserve one’s culture and control one’s own economy). It is important that NMFS hears from anyone whose livelihood and cultural well-being will be affected - and/or can be improved - by proposed changes.

Comments can be submitted through the regulations portal and are due by September 12, 2023.


It has been decades since these guidelines were last revised and the need could not be more urgent to update the guidance language for fisheries management plans in the context of the challenges we face now and into the future. Perspectives from impacted people are essential for correcting course.


Below are talking points to consider for your comments:


  • State your name and your ties to fishing, fishermen, a fishing community and/or your connection to marine and river environments.

  • State your support for revising MSA's National Standard guidelines for NS 4, 8 and 9 to improve fisheries management.

  • Urge NMFS to revise the guidelines to meet its stated intent to increase equity and environmental justice in fisheries management and share what this means for you. (NMFS defines equity as the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment.)

  • Share your observations on fisheries management in a changing climate, the increasingly disproportionate take of bycatch and what injustices have resulted.


  • Regarding National Standard 4 - Current guidance states that allocations shall: be fair and equitable, promote conservation and not result in excessive shares.

    • Highlight the need to prioritize historic directed fisheries that sustain place-based communities over bycatch “allocations” to industrial fishing fleets.

    • Let NMFS know that total allowable catch limits must be responsive to ecosystem constraints, climate impacts and community needs.

    • Emphasize that a Prohibited Species Catch (bycatch) limit is not an allocation right to the bycatch user and must not be treated as such by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council or any other Fishery Management  Council.

    • Help NMFS understand that allocations must consider use of the resource in a manner that minimizes adverse impacts to the marine ecosystem, other fisheries and fisheries-dependent communities in an equitable manner. 

    • Emphasize that allocations should favor fishing gear and fishing practices that result in lower bycatch and include minimization of bycatch impacts to the benthic habitat and fishing communities.


  • Regarding National Standard 8 - Current guidelines consider impacts to communities, provide for sustained participation and minimize adverse economic impacts to the extent practicable. 

    • Ask NMFS to strengthen measures for the sustained participation of fishing communities which are geographically place-based with deep cultural, social and economic dependence on fisheries adjacent to these communities.

    • Emphasize that “sustained participation” means continued access to the fishery which is meaningful and economically and culturally secure.

    • Help NMFS understand that a fishing community is sustained when fishery access is fair and equitable, when new generations of fishermen are able to participate in a fishery and when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council or any other Fishery Management Council decision does not negatively impact the economic, cultural and social well-being of the fishing community.

    • Highlight the need for guideline improvements to consider and provide analysis of impacts of climate change and other environmental hazards to place-based fishing communities.


  • Regarding National Standard 9 - Minimize bycatch, and bycatch mortality, to the extent practicable.

    • Let NMFS know that current management is jeopardizing marine ecosystems and community well-being with high levels of bycatch and habitat impacts in large-scale trawl fisheries and is in conflict with its commitment to environmental and social justice.

    • Share your observations on fisheries management in a changing climate, the increasingly disproportionate take of bycatch and what injustices have resulted.

    • Highlight that bycatch of non-target species, including ecosystem component species and habitat-forming organisms, can impact an ecosystem’s productivity in whole or in part, which can adversely impact the productivity of the fishery in which the bycatch is occurring or of other fisheries.

    • Let NMFS know they must strengthen language to minimize and avoid bycatch which causes adverse impacts to fish stocks and fishing communities that target those stocks.

    • Emphasize the need to modify this guideline to minimize bycatch mortality in a manner that is equitable across different fisheries and gear types and balances needs of bycatch and target fisheries in a manner that is equitable, especially when one or more fisheries are important for underserved communities.

    • Explain that current guidelines have allowed the trawl industry to determine what is “practicable” when it comes to reducing bycatch and have justified decisions that favor industrial fisheries at the expense of sustainable community-based fisheries and healthy ecosystems.

    • Help NMFS understand that “to the extent practicable” should not be defined as no or minimal economic impact to the bycatch user.

    • Share insight on what’s happening in Alaska:

      • Over the past 10 years, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawl fleets have caught, killed and discarded approximately 141 million pounds of salmon, halibut, crab, sablefish and other species each year.

      • In recent years, several major Western Alaskan salmon runs have collapsed and commercial and subsistence activity curtailed and closed.

      • The Bering Sea directed snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries have been shut down or severely limited and halibut quotas have been substantially reduced across both the Gulf and Bering Sea.

      • End by again urging NMFS to update the MSA’s National Standards guidelines to protect fish and habitat, meet the needs of fishery-dependent communities and restore equity to fisheries management.  



  • To read more about a number of fishery management considerations, including those related to climate-ready fisheries and promoting equity and environmental justice, please see the full advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

  • NMFS’ first-ever national Equity and Environmental Justice Strategy is also available as a reference to guide the agency as it focuses on serving all communities more equitably.

  • To read the Fishing Communities Coalition and AMCC's coordinated comments to NMFS, click here.

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