The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, headquartered in Charleston, S.C., is responsible for the conservation and management of fish stocks within the federal 200-mile limit of the Atlantic off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida to Key West.
Role of the Fishery Management Councils
When Congress passed Public Law 94-265, the Magnuson Fishery Conservation And Management Act of 1976 (MFCMA), it extended the U.S. jurisdiction of fisheries out to 200 miles and created a new form of regional government through the eight regional fishery management councils.
The role of the councils is to develop fishery management plans needed to manage fishery resources within federal waters. The area encompassing federal waters, sometimes referred to as the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ, extends offshore from state waters (three miles in the South Atlantic) to 200 nautical miles. Outer boundaries of the EEZ off the southeastern coast vary according to areas where jurisdictional boundaries meet with Bermuda, the Bahamas and Cuba.
Overview of Federal Fisheries Management Law
In 1996 the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) became law and amended the Magnuson Act and changing the name to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Congress passed the SFA to protect marine fish stocks with requirements to prevent and stop overfishing, minimize bycatch, and protect habitat.
On January 12, 2007, President Bush signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006. The new law is groundbreaking in several respects: it mandates the use of annual catch limits and accountability measures to end overfishing, provides for widespread market-based fishery management through limited access programs, and calls for increased international cooperation. For the latest information regarding the Reauthorization Act, visit: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/msa2007. Follow the link to access a copy of the Reauthorized Magnuson Act.
The 40th Anniversary of the Magnuson Stevens Act was celebrated in 2016. Read an overview of accomplishments from each regional Fishery Management Council over the course of history since the Act was enabled.
Citizens from each of the southeastern states (NC, SC, GA and the east coast of FL) who are knowledgeable of some aspects of the fisheries are eligible to become Council members. Members serve three-year terms and are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce from lists of nominees submitted by the governors of the states. Appointed members may serve a maximum of three consecutive terms. The Council consists of 17 total members made up of 13 voting members and four non-voting members to include:
- The Southeast Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
- The directors or designees of the four South Atlantic state marine resource management agencies.
- Eight citizens (two per state) of the southeastern states.
- Non-voting members include representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard, State Department, and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The Council meets four times each year, once in each of the southeastern states. Before final action on any proposed rule change is taken, the Council involves the public through informal public scoping meetings, public hearings, and input at Council meetings. Proposed rule changes are then sent to NMFS for further review, public comment, and final approval by the Secretary of Commerce before being implemented.
In addition, the Council receives input and recommendations from knowledgeable people from other state and federal agencies, universities, and members of the public who serve on various committees and panels. These include Advisory Panels, the Scientific & Statistical Committee, and Stock Assessment Panels.
Learn more about the U.S. Regional Fishery Management Council System.
All noticed meetings are recorded. Minutes are either available by request or provided in meeting materials online.