Magnuson Act Requirements for Peer Review

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) specifies that fishery conservation and management measures shall be based upon the best scientific information available (BSIA). The MSA states "the Secretary [of Commerce] shall establish advisory guidelines (which shall not have the force and effect of law), based on national standards, to assist in the development of fishery management plans". These national standards include National Standard 2 (NS2) which provides guidance on the "best scientific information available" standard, including guidance on standards for establishing a peer review process.

The MSA provides that: "The Secretary and each Council may establish a peer review process for that Council for scientific information used to advise the Council about the conservation and management of the fishery". The decision to establish a peer review process, including the terms of reference for a review within that process, is a joint decision made by the Secretary and a Council. If the Secretary and a Council establish such a process, it will be deemed to satisfy the requirements of the Information Quality Act, including Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The NS2 guidelines provide guidance and standards to establish a peer review process and describe criteria for evaluating best scientific information available for the effective conservation and management of fisheries managed under Federal fishery management plans. Such criteria include relevance, inclusiveness, objectivity, transparency, timeliness, verification, and validation.

NS2 also specifies that scientific peer review is an important process in the determination of the BSIA, and adopts many of the OMB peer review standards required of Federal agencies. These standards emphasize the importance of expert qualifications; balance in knowledge and perspectives; lack of conflicts of interest; independence from the work being reviewed; and transparency of the peer review process. NS2 specifies that the degree of independence for a peer review may vary depending of the novelty, controversy, and complexity of the scientific information being reviewed. For reviews requiring a high degree of independence, the Center for Independent Experts (CIE) has often been used as an independent selection process for obtaining highly qualified experts to participate on review panels. NS2 also provides guidance for the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) participation in peer review. Regional peer review processes established jointly by the Secretary and respective Councils are NS2 compliant with the peer review standards of NS2.

In addition to the peer review processes jointly established by the Secretary and Council pursuant to the MSA, other important peer review processes are employed to ensure BSIA standards are met in Federal fisheries management and conservation, such as those pertaining to international fisheries management agreements.