April 13, 1976: President Gerald Ford signs the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, which affects Maine’s fishing industry directly.

The law, which takes effect in 1977 and later is amended several times, establishes an exclusive fishing zone 200 miles out to sea from all U.S. coastlines. The law, which prescribes fishery management through eight regional councils, is partly a response to declining fish stocks and overfishing by foreign vessels.

The State and Defense departments lobbied against the bill, but Ford promised lawmakers from New England that he would support it. Nonetheless, after signing, he says he hopes for an international agreement that would replace it in the coming months.

The law does not ban foreign fishing operations completely. They may catch fish not needed by U.S. fishermen, provided they carry permits issued by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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