Marine Fisheries Law is an area of the law that regulates the fishing industry and its practices.

This law governs who, where, and when fishermen are allowed to fish and why they may or may not use a specific fishing technique.

Much of the legislation in this area also seeks to account for and govern the harvestability of fish species and sustainable practices for their use.

Finally, marine fisheries law governs the payment for the use of a fishery resource and the allocation of fishery rights.

As part of the United States legal system, fisheries law addresses issues related to protecting endangered species of fish and their habitats. The laws also address issues concerning the safety of consumer fish products and the regulation of commercial and recreational fishing activities, such as fishing licenses, permits, catch limits, and fishing dates.

Magnuson-Stevens Act

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) is the primary source of national law regarding marine fisheries in the United States. It was first enacted in 1976 to consolidate control over territorial waters and establish eight regional councils to manage fish stocks.

Although it was amended several times, it ultimately failed to prevent overfishing. In response, the Sustainable Fisheries Act was introduced in 1996, consolidated much of the MFCMA's legal provisions, and added some new regulations.

The overall function of the Act (now encompassing parts of two Acts) was to preserve fisheries and promote domestic commercial and recreational fishing industries' best use of coastal fisheries by "controlling nature of fishing practices, consolidating control over territorial waters, and establishing eight regional councils to manage the fishery resources under its jurisdiction sustainably."

Conserve our fishery for future generations:
  • Support the enforcement of international fishing agreements and treaties.
  • Use and promote fishing techniques that align closely with conservation principles;
  • Optimize fishing yields according to FMPs to maintain fish populations;

Interjurisdictional management of fisheries is beset with problems, not the least of which is a lack of a consistent management paradigm. As Arecely, Chase et al. (2012) note, "each state has a separate bureaucracy responsible for its fish and wildlife, and state priorities often differ" (p. 31). Although interstate management provides democratic opportunities for states are entitled to one vote, fishery management decisions often overlook the potential between state actions that benefit a fishery (e.g., management occurring in state _A_ with AA populations in state _B_ that subsequently diminishes by turning to state _B_ to fish in _C_). In short, no single agency holds full authority over a fishery's managementit's not an issue in which one party alone designates the management measures for a fishery, but rather the views of many agencies must be balanced and harmonized in a way that ensures equitable fishery management practices and ecosystem stewardship.
  • Develop the natural methods used to harvest healthier sources of protein.
  • Protect important fishes habitats; and
  • Increase fish catches, aiming to increase the living of the local population and stop the overexploitation of some specific species.

Regulatory mechanisms are the security mechanism to ensure the proper operation of the network.

The eight Regional Fishery Management Councils are responsible for developing and implementing fishery management plans. Strategic fishery management, which can include maintaining existing fisheries, alleviating overfishing, rebuilding depleted fish stocks, and avoiding and managing potential conflicts with other uses, is a central component of each council's mission. Additionally, council members are tasked with drafting and implementing regulations that aim to balance the needs of fishermen as well as fish conservation and environmental concerns.

The Regional Councils (TVFC, MFC, and CSTFC) work together to implement fishery management plans with detailed regulations for setting annual catch limits, individual catch limits, and other criteria.

The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is designed to protect, preserve, and conserve marine mammal populations. It is an element of marine mammal conservation that ensures species are not hunted to extinction and sets out the annual catch limit (ACL) that measures how close fishermen can come to catching fish species to prevent drives of a species towards extinction. It also restricts the types of gear fishermen can use, requires licensing for captains and vessels, and restricts the number of marine mammals that observers can apply to fish boats.