Congress asked the Academy, in 2002, to conduct an independent study of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and its ability to meet its legal missions and requirements.
At that time, an increasing number of fishery management actions were being challenged in federal courts, legislated mandates had created increased and sometimes conflicting responsibilities, and fishery productivity had leveled off at about ten percent below its high in the early 1990s.
An Academy Panel, along with the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences, made numerous recommendations to improve fisheries management, including changes in management and regulatory processes, constituent relations, and NMFS’ program budget and science activities. This follow-up report summarizes key actions that NMFS has taken to address the Academy Panel and NRC recommendations, as well as its approach to improving fisheries management. The information should be very useful as Congress considers reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Administration takes action to respond to reports of the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
The National Academy staff identified numerous fundamental changes under way in NMFS that directly address many of the concerns the Academy and NRC reported in 2002. NMFS management has expended considerable effort in developing and implementing new management approaches aimed at improving the timing and quality of fisheries management decisions, the agency’s ability to set priorities and devote appropriate resources to many mission goals, and interactions with its constituencies and partners. However, it remains to be seen whether NMFS can successfully implement all of the planned changes, especially in light of what agency officials see as limited resources. Success will depend on the continued support of Congress and the Administration, the fishery management councils, NMFS’s constituents and partners, as well as NMFS’s own strong and determined leadership.