Federal rules govern all fishing from 3 to 200 miles offshore. Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries is active in federal advocacy on species such as herring, scallops, groundfish, offshore habitat protection and access rights for Maine fishermen in federal waters, which is the dominant federal issues for coastal fishermen.
With the exception of lobster, Maine fishermen have lost the right to fish in federal waters. In 2012,only 2% of Maine fishermen had permits to fish outside three miles for anything except lobster. Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries was an early supporter of Amendment 18, the “Fleet Diversity Amendment,”proposed to prevent excessive consolidation that has resulted from the move to catch-share management in that fishery. New England’s coastal fleet is at risk of being entirely excluded from the groundfish fishery.
Federal management operates under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, and involves both the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce, and regional fishery management councils. Councils set the approach to management and NMFS puts those policies into regulation. Enforcement is shared by NMFS and the US Coast Guard.
The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), one of eight in the country, manages federal fishery resources off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The 18 voting members of the council include the state fishery directors from each member state (in Maine, the Commissioner of Marine Resources), the Regional Administrator of NMFS for the region, plus 12 members nominated by the governors of the states and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce for three-year terms. These members represent interests such as commercial and recreational fishing and conservation.