When developing or amending fishery management plans, it may not always be obvious as to why we must consider impacts to protected species. But species such as sea turtles, marine mammals and sea birds can be negatively impacted by fishing activities in a number of ways including general disturbance, competition for prey, and serious injury or mortality from unintentional capture. There are several federal laws designed to protect and conserve these species including the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Measures within fishery management plans need to be in compliance with these protected species mandates. Learn about protected species' management and conservation efforts in the South Atlantic region.
Endangered Species Act
The five species of sea turtles found off the southeast Atlantic coast are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Many marine mammal and seabird species occurring off our shores are also listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA. Section 7 of the ESA, requires all Federal agencies to participate in the conservation and recovery of listed threatened and endangered species. Section 7 states that federal agencies must ensure that any activity they authorize, fund or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in destruction of designated critical habitat. To facilitate compliance with Section 7, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council prepares a biological assessment to evaluate the likely effects of our proposed action(s) on endangered and threatened species and designated critical habitat(s) occurring within the action area. Biological assessments are included within our fishery management plans or amendments. For more information on how the ESA intersects with fishery management, please see ESA and Fisheries (PDF).
View a table of listed species in the South Atlantic region with links to downloadable (pdf) species' factsheets.
Marine Mammal Protection Act
All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which was enacted in 1972. The primary goals of the Act are to maintain marine mammal stocks at their optimum sustainable population level and to restore depleted stocks. The MMPA established a moratorium, with certain exceptions, on the taking of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas. The term “take” is defined to mean “to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal”. The 1994 reauthorization of the MMPA introduced substantial changes to the Act including a requirement for NOAA Fisheries to develop a long-term strategy for governing interactions between marine mammals and commercial fishing operations (Sections 117 and 118). For more information on the MMPA’s requirements regarding fisheries, please see MMPA and Fisheries (PDF).
Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Executive Order 13186
Almost all seabirds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918. The MBTA prohibits taking any migratory bird except as permitted by regulations issued by the Department of the Interior. Another, more recent mandate regarding the conservation of migratory birds, is Executive Order (E.O.)13186, signed January 2001, by President Clinton. This E.O. requires every Federal agency that takes action(s) likely to have a measurable negative impact on migratory birds to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who has federal jurisdiction over managing and conserving seabirds. The MOU outlines how an agency will promote the conservation of migratory birds. Additional obligations under E.O. 13186 include supporting other conservation efforts already underway and incorporating bird conservation into agency planning. The latter includes considering impacts on migratory birds while conducting National Environmental Policy Act analyses and reporting annually on the level of take. For more information on how the MBTA and E.O. 13186 intersect with fishery management, please see Seabirds and Fisheries (PDF).