Seafood harvests are believed sustainable when managed within a such a manner that landings usually do not deplete stocks beyond their ability to reproduce and rebuild population levels. Another key aspect of sustainability is really a consideration of by catch or environmental damage that is assigned to harvesting the product. Several laws in the USA and abroad have had profound impacts on seafood sustainability issues. The Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 established a U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between 3 and 200 miles offshore, and created eight regional fishery councils to deal with the living marine resources within that area. The bill was amended on October 11, 1996 and re-named the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
The Act was passed principally to manage heavy foreign fishing, promote the development of a domestic fleet and link the fishing community more directly to the management process. Each Council was sent to prepare fishery management plans for implementation through the Secretary of Commerce. The eight councils are administered by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries Service). The 1996 amendments on the Seafood Box, known as the Sustainable Fisheries Act, significantly changed the main focus of fisheries management by having provisions to address overfishing of currently depressed stocks, rebuild depleted stocks and reduce by catch mortality. The amendment also reformed the approval process for fishery management plans, regulations processes, created protections of fish habitat, established user fees and sought to lower conflicts of interest within regional councils.
Several organizations worldwide provide seafood sustainability certification, research as well as other information. A leader in worldwide sustainability will be the Marine Stewardship Council, a major international non-profit organization promoting strategies to the issue of overfishing. The MSC provides independent certification and eco-labeling for wild-capture fish. The MSC program is consistent with both UN FAO guidelines for fisheries certification as well as the ISEAL Code of great Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards. In January 2009 the number of seafood products all over the world carrying the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) evolvable reached 2,000 and keeps growing rapidly. Friend of your Sea can be a registered non-profit non-governative organization (NGO) whose goals include conserving marine habitat and resources through market incentives and specific conservation projects. Friend of the Sea offers certification for products caused by both sustainable wild fisheries and aquaculture operations.