The Atlantic states recognize their marine fish populations are rich resources, producing high economic yield, supporting recreational and commercial fishing opportunities, creating jobs, and providing seafood for consumers in U.S. and global markets. These fish species are also essential to their marine ecosystems, impacting the food web and helping to shape habitats. The science-driven, interstate management system in place is a way to balance short- and long-term economic and environmental considerations.
The main objective of fisheries management is to allow enough harvest to sustain and build the fishing and seafood industries while protecting the productivity and sustainability of the marine ecosystems. In order to meet this overarching goal, the Commission strives to meet seven main objectives, contained within the Commission’s ASMFC Five-Year Strategic Plan, which is reviewed and updated every five years. Four of those objectives directly pertain to fisheries management and ensuring fisheries sustainability:
Objective 1 – Rebuild, maintain, fairly allocate, and promote Atlantic coastal fisheries.
Objective 2 – Provide the scientific foundation for and conduct stock assessments to support informed management actions.
Objective 3 – Promote compliance with fishery management plans to ensure sustainable use of Atlantic coast fisheries.
Objective 4 – Protect and enhance fish habitat and ecosystem health through partnerships and education.
The bulk of the Commission’s fisheries decision-making occurs through the Interstate Fisheries Management Program (ISFMP), where species management boards determine management strategies that the states implement through fishing regulations. The Program promotes the conservation of Atlantic coastal fishery resources, is based on the use of sound science, and provides an opportunity for public participation.
The ISFMP Policy Board is responsible for the overall administration and management of the Commission's fishery management program and provides direct oversight to the individual species management boards. It monitors species stock performance, establishes overarching policies to guide decision-making, considers appeals made by the states regarding management actions, and receives reports from various supporting committees. The Board is comprised of the Commissioners from the fifteen member states and representatives from the District of Columbia (DC), the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC), NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Board also includes one non-voting member of the Commission’s Law Enforcement Committee.
The accompanying graphic shows the flow of decision-making, with the Commission being the highest level, and advisory panels, technical committees, plan development and review teams providing support to the species management boards and sections.
ISFMP staff play an important role by helping to coordinate the activities of all the above committees. A list of staff and their respective species responsibilities can be found here. Board and committee membership lists can be found here.
For more details about our fisheries management process, including management structure, fishery management plan development, opportunities for public input, state/federation coordination, and compliance, go to Management 101.
ASMFC Compact, Rules and Regulations (revised February 2016)
ISFMP Charter (revised August 2019)