Vision 2020: The Future of U.S. Marine Fisheries

The Marine Fishery Advisory Committee (MAFAC) has been requested by NOAA Fisheries Service to create a stakeholders consensus on the future state of domestic and international fisheries. As part of this task, we have been asked to recommend what US fisheries stewardship policies should be undertaken over the next 15 years to prepare for this future. The Committee has researched and discussed many drivers and factors influencing the future of US fisheries and has summarized our major findings (Table 1, the general recommendations) into four theme areas: commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, fisheries management, and aquaculture. For each theme we sought to identify:

  1. The strongest influences on the future of fisheries;
  2. A desired outcome or state;
  3. A recommended course of action to get there;
  4. Critical success factors; and
  5. Resources commensurate with achieving the outcome.

MAFAC members represent a diverse constituency and have a wide range of expertise, and we will be taking our recommendations back to our respective organizations and associations to inform them of our findings and to help validate and refine the product. In addition, additional stakeholder perspective on the issues we identified is being sought using this website to see if a more broadly-based stakeholder consensus exists on these topics. To accomplish this, we are inviting input from stakeholders in response to the findings contained in Table 1 using the following trigger questions:

I. Are the described end-states in each of the four theme areas:

II. For any/all of the four theme areas, please describe:

Please reply to these trigger questions (via email to Your written responses will be analyzed and synthesized by our support staff to identify significant commonalities and differences in perspective that MAFAC will consider in finalizing its report to NOAA Fisheries on the future of US fisheries. We thank you in advance for your time and contribution to this important endeavor

Before listing the recommendations, the committee notes the following regarding the demand for and need for quality seafood.

Seafood Quality

  1. Consumers domestically and world wide are informed about the wide array of health benefits from aquatic foods and empowered to tailor their consumption decisions to individual health needs, accurately informed conservation concerns and economic status.
  2. Both industry and government worldwide strengthen food safety programs, including cooperative efforts through CODEX.
  3. Continue free trade policies and pursue elimination of non-tariff trade barriers through WTO, bilateral and multilateral agreements.


Commercial Fisheries

  1. Achieve and maintain sustainable levels of stocks.
  2. Match fleet capacity with available, sustainable harvest.
  3. Limited access privilege programs should have tripled by 2020. Assignable fishing rights or limited access programs should be thoroughly analyzed for applicability in all fishery management plans for participants in the commercial and recreational sectors.
  4. Commercial fishers, processing businesses, and trade associations working with NOAA Fisheries should seek ways to integrate wild stock production with aquaculture productions to maximize the value of domestic seafood production and related industries, including, but not limited to efforts to develop “niche” markets for value added products and wild products.
  5. Work with states and coastal communities to ensure continued infrastructure necessary to support viable seafood industry along our coasts.

Recreational Fisheries

  1. The value of recreational fishing as an economic engine for coastal communities should be recognized and exploited to a greater degree.
  2. A recreational registry must be implemented and used.
  3. Fishery management plans should include analyses of quota transfer between recreational and commercial sectors and should incorporate market mechanisms where appropriate.
  4. Efforts should be directed to enhance a conservation ethic and pride of a national resource amongst all fishery user groups.
  5. The recreational fishing experience could rival or exceed recreational fishing catch, as a prime motivator for recreational fishing.


  1. Coastal and ocean habitat protection must be a primary concern of fishery managers as a basic platform for robust and sustainable fish stocks.
  2. Ecosystem-based management, including assessments that integrate both habitat protection and multi-species interactions, should be the norm and not the exception for U.S. fisheries management.
  3. Cooperative management efforts among states, regional management authorities and federal managers should be maintained and enhanced as a basis for sound domestic fisheries management.
  4. Stock status and catch data must be available to provide the information needed to make informed management decisions.
  5. Stock status and catch data must be accessible to all stakeholders.
  6. Seafood safety and associated human health should be enhanced through enforcement, research, outreach and education.
  7. Public health benefits of seafood should continue to be researched, understood and communicated.
  8. Subsistence fishing is recognized as an important source of protein for rural and native communities. However it needs to be accounted for as part of total catch with an efficient, comprehensive, and uniform method of data collection implemented to monitor catch.
  9. The U.S. should exert strong leadership in the international forums that manage fish stocks beyond countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones.


  1. Growth of an environmentally sound domestic aquaculture industry should be supported and facilitated by providing a coordinated and efficient regulatory process and additional government investments and funding. The National Offshore Aquaculture Bill should be passed by Congress and implemented immediately.
  2. The domestic aquaculture industry should receive similar financial and technical support to that available to the American agricultural industry.
  3. Efficient regulatory practices and comprehensive monitoring are needed to safeguard wild stocks and limit environmental impacts of facilities.
Vision 2020 FINAL