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The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act ("Magnuson-Stevens Act") provides the statutory framework for the management of federal fisheries in the United States. Critics of fishery management law have suggested that the Magnuson-Stevens Act needs to be revised to allow for a more ecosystem-based management approach. Although a variety of other statutes can be applied to provide various degrees of overlapping protections for marine ecosystems, the purpose of this paper is to explore the extent to which the Magnuson-Stevens Act on its own provides a statutory basis for managing our fisheries using ecosystem principles. The article begins by defining what is meant by "ecosystem management," then reviews the development of law, focusing particularly on the evolution of central themes such as overfishing, optimum yield, bycatch, and habitat. This is followed by an examination of how NMFS has interpreted key statutory provisions and assessment of the extent to which current fishery management law and regulations allow for, and encourage, ecosystem-based management. In conclusion this article explores the extent to which statutory changes may be needed to allow for a more ecosystem-based management approach.



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