Skip directly to content

East Coast States Draft a New, Ecosystem-Based Approach to Protecting Depleted Fish Populations in the Atlantic

In a draft strategic plan, East Coast states will take a new approach to preserving fish populations by protecting the complete ecosystem that supports them.



The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a compact of East Coast states, sees a future where fisheries and their ecosystems are managed in a more nuanced fashion.


The Commission recently released a draft five-year strategic plan for managing state ocean fisheries from 2014 to 2018. According to the Herring Alliance, a coalition working to protect and restore ocean wildlife and ecosystems along the Atlantic coast, “The new plan would improve the Commission’s (conservation) approach by better accounting for the complexity of ocean ecosystems and more actively engaging the public in decision-making.”


Whereas in the past fish species have been managed individually, the newly proposed plan would regard different species as part of a total ecosystem. Interactions among species, the importance of habitat and the effects of climate change, for example, would all be considered under the proposed plan.


The plan further strengthens partnerships among decision makers, scientists, fishermen and the public.


The draft strategic plans follows a pioneering decision made in June of last year by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) to cap the amount of river herring and shad bycatch, a critical food source for many ocean predators which have seen a decline in population of nearly 98 percent in the last 50 years due to commercial overfishing.  


ASMFC is an interstate compact of the Atlantic coastal states ratified by the states and approved by the U.S. Congress in 1942. Member states of ASMFC acknowledge the necessity of working together to manage shared migratory fishery resources and affirm their commitment to cooperative stewardship in promoting and protecting Atlantic coastal fishery resources. For over 70 years, ASMFC has served as a deliberative body of the Atlantic coastal state, coordinating the conservation and management of 25 nearshore fish species.

What You Can Do


Show your support for the new draft strategic plan via the Herring Alliance website.


Check out this video from the Pew Charitable Trust explaining the importance of Ecosystem-based fisheries management: