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The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the main law governing the management of living marine resources in the United States and guides nearly all Council actions. Originally designed to encourage local level participation and representation through the eight regional councils, the Magnuson-Stevens Act set up a regional fishery management council system and described how it would work. The Act extended control of U.S. waters to 200 miles, phased out foreign fishing within this area, and created measures to prevent overfishing and conserve and manage fishery resources.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) became law in 1976, establishing a system of federal fisheries management in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or waters three to 200 miles offshore. Named after the late Senators Warren Magnuson of Washington and Ted Stevens of Alaska, the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) was designed to address overfishing and to manage and conserve fishery resources through stakeholder participation. 


As a measure of MSA’s implementation, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was set up under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to oversee federal fishery policy nationwide. In addition, eight councils were created to advise NMFS and the Secretary of Commerce on federal fishery policy decisions at a regional level, and to provide an opportunity for stakeholders in the fishery to participate in management.

In Alaska, NMFS manages federal fisheries based on recommendations from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (one of the eight regional councils). The State of Alaska generally manages fishing in waters within three miles of the coast via the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the State also manages a few fisheries in federal waters as well.

Congress has revised the Magnuson-Stevens Act several times since its creation in 1976. Over the course of AMCC’s twenty-five-year history, we have been actively involved in each reauthorization. 

Reauthorization can be a long process, but it’s happening right now! Please stay tuned for ways in which you can contribute to the current Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization and take action for more sustainable fisheries in Alaska.

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