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Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC): The annual catch level recommended for a stock or stock complex by a regional fishery management council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). The council then sets an annual catch limit (ACL), which by law cannot exceed the ABC. The ABC recommendation should incorporate consideration of the stock’s life history, reproductive potential, and vulnerability to overfishing, and the degree of uncertainty in the science upon which the ABC recommendation is based, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Accountability Measures (AMs): Regulations that try to keep the total fish catch under the annual catch limit (ACL). AMs can be either (a) in-season measures or (b) measures that correct overages (total catch exceeding ACL). In-season AMs take place during the fishing season. They are usually short-term and can include trip or bag limits, area closures, or temporary closure of a fishery. If an ACL is exceeded, a correction is made to reduce the ACL for the following fishing season.

Allocation: Distribution of the opportunity to fish among user groups or individuals. The share received by a group or individual is sometimes based on historic harvest amounts.

Annual Catch Limit (ACL): The amount of fish that can be caught by fishermen over a period of one year. Also known as the total allowable catch (TAC). A regional fishery management council sets the ACL for each stock or stock complex based on the acceptable biological catch (ABC) recommendation. Fishery scientists and managers use the best scientific information available (including catch and effort data) to determine the maximum amount of fish that can be caught without harming a fish stock. This amount of catch is called the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). MSY is the annual amount of catch (measured by numbers or weight of fish), corresponding with the overfishing limit (OFL). Overfishing occurs when annual catch exceeds the OFL. Since the OFL does not account for scientific uncertainty, scientists must determine an acceptable biological catch (ABC) that accounts for data gaps; the greater the uncertainty, the lower the ABC. The law requires ACLs to be at or below the ABC. ACLs can apply to all fishermen combined (e.g., entire fleet) or be assigned to different groups of fishermen, such as commercial and recreational or state and federal fishermen. Each group may have its own ACL for the same fish stock.

Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE): With respect to the Northeast groundfish fishery, the share of the annual catch limit (ACL) for each Northeast groundfish stock that is allocated to an individual sector. The ACE is based on the cumulative fishing history attached to each permit participating in that sector in a given year. Specifically, the ACE is equal to the sum of the potential sector contributions (PSCs) for each moratorium right identifier (MRI) participating in a sector, multiplied by the commercial groundfish fishery ACL of each stock for that year.

At-Sea Monitor: With respect to the Northeast groundfish fishery, a person responsible for observing, verifying, and reporting the areas fished and the catches and discards of a fishing vessel while it is at sea. At-sea monitors are required as part of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program. They keep track of all species by gear type for sector trips as part of an approved sector at-sea monitoring program.

Biological Reference Points (BRP): Benchmarks of stock status from a biological perspective. During a stock assessment, BRPs are generated that compare the current mortality rate and abundance of the stock relative to the life history of the fish and management objectives for the stock. BRPs allow managers to determine whether a stock is overfished or subject to overfishing.

Biomass: The total weight of a species in a given area.

BMSY: Long-term average biomass that would be achieved if fishing occurred at a constant fishing mortality rate equal to FMSY.

Budget Request (NOAA): A request for funding developed late in the year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and submitted to Congress as part of the President’s budget in March of the next year. The request reflects what the agency requires to continue its operations and to implement any new initiatives toward strategic objectives. It may also reflect deletions of items that are no longer required, that were added by Congress, or that were one-time expenditures. The request may also seek congressional approval to move funds from one activity to another.

Bycatch: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act defines bycatch as “fish which are harvested in a fishery, but which are not sold or kept for personal use, and includes economic discards and regulatory discards. Such term does not include fish released alive under a recreational catch and release fishery management program.” Because that definition does not include marine mammals, seabirds, and other resources, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) uses the following definition of bycatch for its National Bycatch Strategy and bycatch reduction efforts: “Discarded catch of any living marine resource, plus unobserved mortality due to a direct encounter with fishing gear.”

Catch: The total of fish, usually reported in pounds, caught by fishing operations in an area over some period of time. This includes fish that are caught but released or discarded instead of being landed. The catch may take place in an area different from where the fish are landed, such as when fish are caught offshore and landed at a port some distance away.

Catch Share Program: A general term used to describe fishery management programs that allocate a specific percentage of the annual catch limit (ACL) of a fishery to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities. It includes more specific programs defined in statute such as Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs) and Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs). It also includes Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) that grant an exclusive privilege to fish in a geographically designated fishing ground. The recipient of a catch share is directly accountable to stop fishing when its specific share of annual quota is reached. Not defined in Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Examples of catch share programs are the West Coast Shorebased IFQ Program and Northeast Multispecies Sector Program.

Common Pool Vessel: With respect to the Northeast groundfish fishery, any vessel issued a limited access Northeast multispecies permit or open access Northeast multispecies handgear B permit that is not a member of an approved sector for a particular fishing year and that is not operating under the provisions of an approved sector operations plan.

Control Date: A date set by a regional fishery management council or by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to establish eligibility criteria for determining future access to fisheries or sectors of fisheries.

Cost Recovery Fee: A fee charged by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to recover the costs of management, data collection and analysis, and enforcement programs that are directly related to and in support of a limited access privilege program (LAPP) or community development quota program. The relevant costs to recover are the incremental costs, i.e., those costs that would not have been incurred but for the LAPP, since cost recovery is not authorized for non-LAPP fisheries. Such fee shall not exceed 3 percent of the ex-vessel value of fish harvested under any such program, and shall be collected at either the time of the landing, filing of a landing report, or sale of such fish during a fishing season or in the last quarter of the calendar year in which the fish is harvested.

Economic Discards: Fish that are targeted and caught by fishing operations but that are not retained because they are of an undesirable size, sex, or quality, or for other economic reasons.

Effort: The amount of time and fishing power used to harvest fish. Fishing power includes gear size, boat size, and horsepower.

Electronic Monitoring System (EMS): Equipment, such as video cameras, which are installed on a vessel to capture information on fishing location, catch, and discards.

Ex-vessel: Refers to activities that occur when a commercial fishing boat lands or unloads a catch. For example, the price received by a captain for the catch is an ex-vessel price.

Ex-vessel Value: A measure of the dollar value of commercial landings, usually calculated as the price per pound at first purchase of the commercial landings multiplied by the total pounds landed.

Fiscal Year (FY):  The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. A regional fishery management council budget year runs from January 1 through December 31.

Fishery: A unit determined by an authority or other entity that is engaged in raising or harvesting fish. Typically, the unit is defined in terms of some or all of the following: people involved, species or type of fish, area of water or seabed, method of fishing, class of boats, and purpose of the activities.

Fishery Management Plan (FMP): A fishery management plan developed under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). The MSA establishes both required and discretionary FMP components. Pursuant to the mandatory provisions, FMPs must include: 1) provisions “necessary and appropriate for the conservation and management of the fishery, to prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks, and to protect, restore, and promote the long-term health and stability of the fishery;” 2) a description of the fishery; 3) specification of “the maximum sustainable yield and optimum yield” from the fishery; 4) description and identification of essential fish habitat and measures to minimize adverse effects to the extent practicable; 5) measurable criteria for identifying overfished fisheries and measures to prevent or end overfishing and rebuild the stock; and 6) a fishery impact statement. In addition, ten national standards guide FMP promulgation.

Fishery-Dependent Data: Data collected about fish or a fishery from commercial or sport fishermen and seafood dealers.

Fishery-Independent Data: Data collected on fish or a fishery by scientists who catch the fish themselves, rather than depending on fishermen and seafood dealers.

Fishing Mortality (F): A measurement of the rate of removal of fish from a population by fishing. Fishing mortality can be reported as either annual or instantaneous. Annual mortality is the percentage of fish dying in one year. Instantaneous is that percentage of fish dying at any one time. The acceptable rates of fishing mortality may vary from stock to stock.

FMSY: The rate of fishing mortality that, if applied constantly, would result in maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

FMAX: The level of fishing mortality (rate of removal by fishing) that would produce the greatest yield from the fishery. Also, a biological reference point. It is the fishing mortality rate that maximizes equilibrium yield per recruit. FMAX is the F level often used to define growth overfishing. In general, FMAX is different (and higher) than FMSY depending on the stock-recruitment relationship.

Groundfish Advisory Panel (GAP): A fishing industry advisory committee established and maintained by a regional fishery management council to provide information and recommendations on, and assist in the development of, fishery management plans (FMPs) and amendments to such plans.

Groundfish Plan Development Team (PDT): A team established by a regional fishery management council to assist in the collection and evaluation of information relevant to the development of a fishery management plan or plan amendment for a fishery.

Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ): A federal permit under a limited access system to harvest a quantity of fish, expressed by a unit or units representing a percentage of the annual catch limit (ACL) of a fishery that may be received or held for exclusive use by an individual, corporation, partnership, association, or other entity.

Landings: The amount of fish, usually reported in pounds, unloaded at a dock by commercial fishermen or brought to shore by recreational fishermen for personal use. Landings are reported at the locations where fish are brought to shore, which often differs from the locations of catches.

Limited Access Privilege: A federal permit, issued as part of a limited access privilege program (LAPP), to harvest a quantity of fish expressed by a unit or units representing a portion of the annual catch limit (ACL) or total allowable catch (TAC) of the fishery that may be received or held for exclusive use by a person.

Limited Access Privilege Program (LAPP): A program whereby limited access privileges to harvest a quantity of annual catch limit (ACL) or total allowable catch (TAC) in a fishery are issued in the form of a federal permit.

Limited Access System: A system that limits participation in a fishery to those satisfying certain eligibility criteria or requirements contained in a fishery management plan (FMP) or associated regulation.

Limit Reference Points: Benchmarks used to indicate when harvest should be constrained substantially so that the stock remains within safe biological limits. The probability of exceeding limits should be low.

Limited Entry: A program that changes a common property resource like fish into private property for individual fishermen. License limitation and the individual transferable quota (ITQ) are two forms of limited entry.

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA): Federal legislation that governs fishery management in federal waters within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Enacted in 1976, the MSA (formerly the Fishery Conservation and Management Act) established “[a] national program for the conservation and management of fisheries resources in the United States” with the purpose “to prevent overfishing, to rebuild overfished fish stocks, to insure conservation, and to realize the full potential of the Nation’s fishery resources.” The MSA charged the Secretary of Commerce, by and through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to regulate domestic marine fisheries when “necessary and appropriate.” Eight regional fishery management councils were created to develop fishery management plans (FMPs) for those fisheries requiring “conservation and management.”

Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY): The largest long-term average catch or yield that can be taken from a stock or stock complex under prevailing ecological and environmental conditions. This is often used as a management goal.

Maximum Fishing Mortality Threshold (MFMT): The threshold above which a stock is said to be experiencing overfishing.

Minimum Stock Size Threshold (MSST): The greater of (a) one-half BMSY, or (b) the minimum stock size at which rebuilding to BMSY will occur within 10 years of fishing at the maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT).

Moratorium Right Identifier (MRI): With respect to the Northeast groundfish fishery, a unique identifying number, used for tracking purposes, for each limited access groundfish permit’s landings history, qualifications, attributes, and specifications. The MRI travels with the permit, regardless of what happens to the vessel or its owner.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS): A U.S. federal agency with scientists, research vessels, and a data collection division responsible for managing the nation’s saltwater fish. It oversees the implementation of the fishery management plans (FMPs) prepared by the regional fishery management councils.

National Standards: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires that a fishery management plan and its regulations meet ten standards. The ten national standards were developed to identify the nation’s interest in fish management.

Northeast Multispecies Sector Program: The catch share program for the Northeast multispecies limited access groundfish fishery.

Observer: Any person required or authorized to be carried on a vessel for conservation and management purposes by regulations or permits under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).

Optimum Yield (OY): The harvest level for a stock that achieves the greatest overall benefits, including economic, social, and biological considerations. Optimum yield is different from maximum sustainable yield (MSY) in that MSY considers only the biology of the stock. The term includes both commercial and recreational yields.

Overfishing: A rate or level of fishing mortality that jeopardizes the capacity of a fishery to produce the maximum sustainable yield on a continuing basis.

Overfished: An overfished stock or stock complex is one “whose size is sufficiently small that a change in management practices is required in order to achieve an appropriate level and rate of rebuilding.” A stock or stock complex is considered overfished when its size falls below the minimum stock size threshold (MSST). A rebuilding plan is required for stocks that are overfished.

Potential Sector Contribution (PSC): With respect to the Northeast groundfish fishery, an individual vessel’s share of the annual catch limit (ACL) for each stock of regulated species or ocean pout that is derived from the fishing history associated with the permit issued to that particular vessel for the purposes of participating in a sector and contributing to that sector’s annual catch entitlement (ACE) for each stock allocated to sectors under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.

Quota: The maximum amount of a stock or stock complex that can be legally caught in a time period. It can apply to the total fishery or an individual fisherman’s share under a catch share program.

Quota Pounds (QP): With respect to the West Coast groundfish fishery, the amount of fish, expressed in round weight of fish, that a quota share (QS) permit owner is allowed to catch during a fishing year. Quota pounds are issued annually to each QS permit owner in the Shorebased IFQ Program based on the amount of QS that they own and the amount of fish allocated to the program. QP have the same species/species group and area designations as the QS from which they are issued.

Quota Share (QS): The percentage of each year’s annual catch limit to which the holder of quota shares has access to catch. This percentage is not affected by changes in the catch limit over time. With respect to the West Coast groundfish fishery, the amount of fishing quota for an individual species/species group and area expressed as a percentage of the annual allocation of fish to the Shorebased IFQ Program. The QS is used as the basis for the annual calculation and allocation of a QS permit owner’s QP.

QS Permit: With respect to the West Coast groundfish fishery, a permit issued to owners of limited entry trawl permits and shorebased whiting first receivers who meet the qualifying criteria.

Reference Points: Values of parameters (e.g., BMSY, FMSY, F0.1) that are useful benchmarks for guiding management decisions. Reference points can be biological or socioeconomic. Biological reference points are typically limits that should not be exceeded with significant probability (e.g., MSST) or targets for management (e.g., OY).

Regional Fishery Management Councils: The primary forums for developing conservation and management measures for marine fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Eight regional fishery management councils were created by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, now the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). The regional fishery management council system was designed to allow regional, participatory governance by knowledgeable people with a stake in fishery management. The eight councils develop management plans for marine fisheries in waters seaward of state waters of their individual regions. Fishery management plans (FMPs) and specific management measures (such as fishing seasons, quotas, and closed areas) are developed based on scientific advice, and they are initiated, evaluated, and ultimately are adopted in a transparent and public process. The plans and measures are implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Regulatory Discards: Fish that, whenever caught, fishermen are required by regulation to return to the water, or to retain but not sell.

Sector: (1) With respect to the Northeast groundfish fishery, a group of persons holding limited access Northeast multispecies permits who have voluntarily entered into a contract and agree to certain fishing restrictions for a specified period of time and who have been allocated a portion of the annual catch limits (ACLs) of stocks managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan to achieve objectives consistent with the applicable goals and objectives of the plan. (2) With respect to the West Coast groundfish fishery, management groupings within the overall fishery according to target species, gear types, locales, vessels, and/or processing arrangements. Amendment 20 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP divided the limited entry groundfish trawl fishery into three main management sectors: the shorebased sector (whiting and non-whiting) managed by IFQs, and the mothership and catcher/processor sectors (at-sea whiting) managed by separate coop programs.

Shorebased IFQ Program: The catch share program for the shorebased fleet participating in the West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl fishery.

Spillover Effect: With respect to the Northeast and West coast groundfish fisheries, an increase in competition and congestion in non-groundfish fisheries that potentially could result from enhanced ability of groundfish vessels participating in the catch share programs to increase their participation in non-groundfish fisheries.

Stock: A grouping of fish usually based on genetic relationship, geographic distribution, and movement patterns. Also a managed unit of fish.

Sub-ACL: A percentage of an annual catch limit (ACL) allocated to a defined group of fishermen, such as a group of fishermen participating in the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program or the West Coast Shorebased IFQ Program. The sum of the sub-ACLs must not exceed the overall stock ACL. Also known as a sector-ACL.

Target Reference Points: Benchmarks used to guide management objectives for achieving a desirable outcome (e.g., optimum yield, or OY). Target reference points should not be exceeded on average.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC): The annual recommended catch for a stock or stock complex. With respect to the Northeast groundfish fishery, the pooled potential sector contribution (PSC) from all members of a sector is the sector’s TAC proportion. When an annual catch limit (ACL) is determined for each allocated stock, the relevant TAC proportion is multiplied by the ACL to determine the sector’s annual catch entitlement (ACE) in weight units.

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS): A device that hooks into the on-board electronics of a vessel and transmits, via satellite, the vessel’s position at regular intervals.

Yield: The production from a fishery in terms of numbers or weight.

Information Sources

Many of the above definitions come from or are adapted from the NOAA Glossary of Catch Share Terms, the NOAA Fisheries Glossary, and the ASMFC Acronyms and Glossary of Commonly Used Terms.