Successfully Rebuilding American Fisheries Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is working to protect and rebuild America's ocean fish populations. Rebounding fish populations create jobs, support coastal economies, repair damaged marine ecosystems, provide increased recreational fishing opportunities and supply fresh, local seafood. In the early 1990s, many of our nation's fish populations were in severe decline because of overfishing. In response, Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1996 to require that depleted (also called overfished) fish stocks be rebuilt in as short a time as possible, but not to exceed 10 years, with certain limited exceptions.

As a result, our nation has been making remarkable strides toward restoring overfished populations to healthy, sustainable levels, with significant economic and ecological benefits:

  • Since 2000, 34 commercially and recreationally important fish stocks have rebuilt from an overfished status to healthy population levels.
  • Two-thirds of all overfished stocks have either rebuilt or made significant progress since the Magnuson-Stevens Act rebuilding requirements were strengthened in 1996, amounting to a 92 percent (54 percent, adjusted for inflation) increase in commercial revenues for these stocks since the start of their respective rebuilding plans.
  • U.S. seafood landings and revenues set a 14-year record in 2011 (with a value of more than $5.3 billion), and recreational fishing generated $58 billion in sales impacts in 2012.