New Legislation Will Improve U.S. Fisheries’ Resilience to Changing Ocean Conditions

The FISH Act will support science and collaboration needed to secure a robust future for U.S. fisheries

June 18, 2024
Austin Matheny-Kawesch, (858) 395-5577,
Alison Wenzel, (212) 505-2645,

WASHINGTON — Today a measure was introduced to help ensure fisheries in the United States are resilient to changing ocean conditions, including the impacts of climate change.

The Fisheries Improvement and Seafood Health (FISH) Act omnibus, which includes the Resilient Fisheries Act, will create a new program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) dedicated to fisheries and ecological resilience. It will create a durable path for continued implementation of NOAA’s Climate, Ecosystems, and Fisheries Initiative, which aims to provide fishery decision-makers with the information, tools and capacity needed to make sound management decisions that account for changing conditions and threats such as warming oceans, marine heatwaves, ocean acidification and sea level rise.

“The FISH Act will ensure our fisheries are ready for the challenges — and opportunities — of tomorrow,” said Environmental Defense Fund associate vice president for political affairs Joanna Slaney. “Through investments in our fishery data systems, improved stakeholder engagement and effective collaboration, we can better prepare our fisheries to adapt to changing conditions, ensuring resilient fishing communities and healthy oceans for generations to come.”

The FISH Act will play an important role in preparing our nation’s fisheries for the future by:

  • advancing ocean and ecosystem understanding and modeling to project future ocean conditions and inform fishery management;
  • improving our understanding of how changing ocean conditions will impact fish stocks;
  • improving understanding and awareness of how changing fishing and ocean conditions will impact coastal communities, economies and traditional ways of life;
  • developing innovative, science-based tools, processes and decision support systems to meet conservation and management standards;
  • improving engagement with fishermen and fishing communities as well as state, local, tribal and community leaders on future ocean conditions and the impacts of the changing marine environment on fisheries;
  • creating and providing tools, training and support to U.S. Regional Fishery Management Councils for management of and adaptation to changing oceans and fisheries; and
  • coordinating across NOAA and other relevant agencies to streamline efforts to model changing ocean ecosystems and increase fishery resilience.

“Commercial fishermen go to work each day battling wind, waves, and weather to help feed this country and support our coastal communities; yet they are often managed with tools and regulations that cannot adapt quickly enough to a dynamic and changing environment,” said Eric Brazer, Deputy Director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance — the largest organization of commercial grouper and snapper fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico.  “We applaud this effort to improve the systems we need to maintain and grow resilient and competitive seafood businesses and sustain resilient fisheries for today and future generations.”

The collection of fishery-focused legislation in the FISH Act seeks to make fisheries more sustainable and improve and update fisheries policy through a targeted approach.  The FISH Act also includes a study to address domestic seafood’s global competitiveness and will require fishery management measures to consider and account for the effects of changing ecological and environmental conditions.

United States fisheries are among the best managed in the world, with 94% of the nation’s fish stocks managed within sustainable limits last year. According to NOAA, U.S. fisheries supported more than 2.3 million jobs and generated $321 billion in sales in 2022. Sound management is due in large part to strong policies that ensure robust, science-based management of our nation’s fisheries, an approach supported by the collaborative efforts of lawmakers, fishery managers, and industry. Environmental Defense Fund has worked side-by-side with fishery managers and stakeholders to put in place this strong foundation for sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries, and the FISH Act will ensure our fisheries are managed sustainably in the face of a rapidly changing climate. 

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