The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) is an organization of the five states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida), whose coastal waters are the Gulf of Mexico. This compact, authorized under Public Law 81-66, was signed by the representatives of the Governors of the five Gulf States on July 16, 1949, at Mobile, Alabama. It has as its principal objective the conservation, development, and full utilization of the fishery resources of the Gulf of Mexico, to provide food, employment, income, and recreation to the people of these United States.
Fifteen Commissioners, three from each of the five Gulf States, work to set policy, approve GSMFC's budget and provide direction for GSMFC activities. Of these voting members, one-third are appointed by the state legislatures, one-third are private citizens with a knowledge of and interest in marine fisheries who are appointed by the states' governors, and the remaining third are state fishery resource agency directors. The offices of chairman, first vice-chairman and second vice-chairman of the GSMFC are rotated annually among the states.
One of the most important functions of the GSMFC is to serve as a forum for the discussion of various problems and programs of marine management, industry, research, etc. and to develop a coordinated policy to address those issues for the betterment of the resource and all who are concerned. The annual meeting of the GSMFC is held each year during the third week in the month of October. The spring meeting is held each year during the third week in the month of March. Upon written request of a majority of the Commissioners of each state from three or more states, the chairman shall call a special meeting of the GSMFC. The regular meetings are rotated among the states in order that the GSMFC may better familiarize themselves with the fisheries and coastal areas of the entire Gulf of Mexico.
Located in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the GSMFC staff administers the GSMFC's programs; participation in public forums and other councils, commissions, and committees; and inter-organizational efforts. When the GSMFC is joined by the Atlantic States and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commissions on national fisheries issues, a 24 state voice is raised in unison to foster the needs of coastal fisheries.
The Commission's activities are funded through dues from its member states, federal grants and special contracts.
Another important function of the GSMFC is to provide coordination and administration for cooperative state/federal programs regarding marine fisheries resources. The programs that are administered by the GSMFC include:
- Fisheries Information Network (FIN)
- a cooperative program to plan and effect the collection, management, and dissemination of statistical data and information on the Gulf Region's commercial and recreational fisheries
- Fisheries Disaster Recovery Program (FDRP)
- aimed at improving the public perception and confidence in Gulf of Mexico seafood following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster
- Interjurisdictional Fishery Program (IJF)
- designed to develop management plans for transboundary stocks that migrate freely through state and federal jurisdictions
- Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP)
- a state/federal/university program for the collection, management and dissemination of fishery-independent data and information in the southeastern United States
- Sport Fish Restoration Administrative Program
- designed to provide coordination of the recreational fisheries programs in the five gulf states
It is the intent of the GSMFC, through these programs, to continue to be responsive to the regional needs of the marine resources and the state agencies that are charged with the responsibility of managing those resources to the benefit of the citizenry of the Gulf of Mexico region.