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When Congress passed the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 (Magnuson-Stevens Act or Act), and subsequently amended the Act in 1996, it recognized the need to establish a comprehensive conservation and management program for the fisheries found off of the U.S. coast. Since enactment in 1976, there has been an expansion in the capacity of the U.S. fishing fleet, and there also has been a growing debate among fisheries managers about whether fishery management plans (FMP) should include provisions limiting U.S. fishing effort and allocating the fish among U.S. fishermen. The purpose of this Article is to examine the issues associated with one such allocation system-individual fishing quotas (IFQs). This Article begins in Part II by outlining the legal framework for U.S. fisheries management. The Article then analyzes, through an examination of legislative history, case law, and governmental agency opinions, the legal basis for management-based IFQ plans. This analysis continues in Part III by discussing the various provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which have been involved in IFQ litigation and also discusses recent amendments to the Act that may be cited in future litigation. This Part discusses the legal arguments that have been made, and those that may be made in the future both for and against the legality of IFQ plans. Next, Part IV examines whether IFQs are an effective management tool by analyzing the three U.S. fisheries in which IFQ or ITQ plans have been established. Finally, this Article concludes that the legal precedent, legislation, surveys, and empirical data demonstrate that there is both a legal and conservation basis for IFQs.



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