Fisheries Management
Fisheries Management
Fisheries Management
Fisheries Management
Fisheries Management

Fisheries Management

About the ISFMP Program

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 ISFMP Policy Board is responsible for the overall administration and management of the Commission's fishery management programs and provides direct oversight to the individual species management boards. The Program promotes the conservation of Atlantic coastal fishery resources, is based on the use of sound science, and provides adequate opportunity for public participation.


ISFMP Policy Board: The ISFMP Policy Board is comprised of the Commissioners from the fifteen member states and representatives of the District of Columbia (DC), the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC), NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It meets at least bi-annually to establish and monitor the program.

Species Management Boards: These species-specific management boards are composed of Commissioners from the states that have declared an interest in the species’ management program. The management boards consider and approve the development and implementation of fishery management plans (FMPs), including the integration of scientific information, proposed management measures, and considerations for habitat conservation and the management of protected species/fishery interactions. All Commission boards/sections and committee meetings are held in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order. The species management boards establish and oversee the activities of their respective Plan Review Teams, Plan Development Teams, Technical Committees and Advisory Panels. 

Technical Committees: Species technical committees are comprised of representatives from each state, jurisdiction, and federal agency with a declared interest in the fishery. Technical committees are responsible for providing the species management boards the best scientific information available for guidance in the management process.

Advisory Panels: Advisory panel members are citizens who represent a cross-section of commercial and recreational fishing interests and other stakeholders who are concerned about fisheries conservation and management. The Advisory Panel provides the Management Board with advice concerning species’ management activities.

Plan Development and Review Teams: Species Plan Development Team is responsible for preparing all documentation necessary in the development of a FMP, Amendment, or Addendum. Once a management program is adopted by a Species Management Board, the Plan Review Team is responsible for providing annual advice concerning implementation of the management program. 

Program Goals

The ISFMP operates according to the standards and procedures contained in the Commission’s Charter. These are:

  1. Conservation programs and management measures shall be
  2. Designed to prevent overfishing and maintain over time, abundant, self-sustaining stocks of coastal fishery resources. In cases where stocks have become depleted as a result of overfishing and/or other causes, such programs shall be designed to rebuild, restore, and subsequently maintain such stocks so as to assure their sustained availability in fishable abundance on a long-term basis.
  3. Based on the best scientific information available.
  4. Designed to achieve equivalent management results throughout the range of a stock or subgroups of that stock.
  5. Designed to minimize waste of fishery resources.
  6. Designed to protect fish habitats.
  7. Development and implementation of FMPs shall provide for public participation and comment, including public hearings
  8. Fairness & equity
  9. An FMP should allow internal flexibility within states to achieve its objectives while implemented and administered by the states; and
  10. Fishery resources shall be fairly and equitably allocated or assigned among the states.

Species Under Management

Currently, the ISFMP coordinates the conservation and management of 27 Atlantic coastal fish species or species groups (see left sidebar). For species that have significant fisheries in both state and federal waters (e.g., Atlantic herring, summer flounder, Spanish mackerel and spiny dogfish), the Commission works jointly with the relevant East Coast regional fishery management council to develop fishery management plans.  The Commission also works with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop compatible regulations for the waters within the exclusive economic zone (3 – 200 miles offshore).

How Fisheries Management Plans are Developed 

The management process starts with the identification of a problem associated with one of the Commission managed species. This may be identified by a species management board, as a result of new scientific research, or through stakeholder input. Once a problem is identified the appropriate species management board tasks that species plan development team with the creation management measures. The plan development team may seek assistance or input from the technical committee, advisory panel, Law Enforcement Committee, as needed for the successful development of the proposed management plan. The proposed management plan then is distributed for public comment and public hearing may be held in states with an interest in the fishery. Input is also sought from the technical committee, as appropriate, and the advisory panel. The species management board takes into consideration the public comments received and the recommendations of the species technical committee and advisory panel during the deliberations for approval of the management program. If the proposed program is approved by the species management board, it is then the responsibility of the involved states to implement the approved management measures in their jurisdiction.      

Public Input and Advisory Panel Process

The public plays an important role in the development of fisheries management plans, amendments, and addenda, from providing input to Commission members to attending general public information meetings and hearings to serving on the Advisory Panel.

The Advisory Panel process arose in part as a result of the Commission's increasing responsibilities under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act.  The Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Act mandates, among other things, that the Commission provide adequate public participation in its fisheries management planning process, including at least four public hearings (for amendments and new plans) and procedures for submission of written comments to the Commission. Today, we have 21 active advisory panels that provide advice to management boards and sections for all of the species managed through the Commission process.


There are many ways to become involved in the Commission’s fisheries management process. Here are some suggestions:

Attend Commission Meetings

All Commission meetings are open to the public. Interested parties are encouraged to attend to learn more about Commission activities and share their views (click here to learn more about guidelines for public participation at species board meetings). Find out about the Commission’s meetings by subscribing to Fisheries Focus -- the Commission’s monthly newsletter that is available free of charge. You can also learn about upcoming meetings via our Meetings page.

Become an Advisory Panel Member

The Commission has 21 active species advisory panels for diadromous, shellfish and marine fisheries. Contact your state Commissioners if you are interested in becoming a member.

Attend Public Hearings

The fishery management plan development process calls for public meetings and public hearings to solicit public views on proposed management actions. Attend these meetings to learn more and express your views.

Mail, Fax or Email Us Your Comments

Submitted comments are forwarded to the appropriate management board and/or Commission staff for review and incorporation in the public record. Feel free to email, mail, fax comments to the Commission using the contact information below.



Toni Kerns, Director, Interstate Fisheries Management Program
Tina Berger, Director of Communications


Guiding Documents

ASMFC Compact, Rules and Regulations (revised February 2016)

ISFMP Charter (revised November 2017)

ASMFC Appeals Process

Conservation Equivalency: Policy and Technical Guidance Document (October 2016)

Technical Support Group Guidance and Benchmark Stock Assessment Process (February 2016)

Advisory Panel Primer

Advisory Panel Nomination Form

Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (1993)

Status of the Stocks Overview



Management, Policy, and Science Strategies for Adapting Fisheries Management to Changes in Species Abundance and Distribution Resulting from Climate Change (February 2018)

State Climate Change Initiative Gaps and Recommendations (February 2018)

Guiding Principles for Quota Transfer Related to Safe Harbor (May 2017)

ISFMP Policy Board Proceedings

ASMFC Business Session Proceedings