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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Historical Analysis of U.S. Fisheries Science, Development and Management, 1945–1995


The take-home message from this study, as stated in the final report to California Sea Grant, is that “science has had little direct influence on the development of American fisheries policy.” Furthermore, contrary to common opinion, the United States has played a decisive, if not dominant, role in shaping international fisheries management processes in place today. In particular, at key moments in history, it promoted the principle of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) as the basis for first domestic and then international fisheries management policy to further its foreign policy objectives and Cold War territorial claims, not because the science was there to substantiate it.

The objective of this study has been to document the historical development of U.S. fisheries policy, in the hopes of understanding why fisheries management has, in many cases, failed to protect fish stocks, fishing jobs and fishing communities.

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