2015-2016 Final Rule for Biennial Harvest Specifications and Management Measures and Amendment 24 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP

National Marine Fisheries announces that the final rule for the 2015-2016 harvest specifications and management measures published and is effective March 10, 2015.  This action also approves Amendment 24 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP.

A public notice, which describes the 2015-2016 Management Measures, Shorebased Trawl Allocations, and Trip Limits is available on the NMFS West Coast Region website here in PDF form.

The final rule is available here.

January 9, 2015 Notice: Additional interim 2015 quota pounds available early next week

The National Marine Fisheries Service is increasing the interim quota pounds available. Those pounds will begin being added to accounts during the week of January 12, 2015.  For additional information, please see the complete notice below.

2014 Year-End and January 2015 Trip Limits

This notice provides information regarding trip limits and Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) boundaries in effect on January 1, 2015.  These measures are anticipated to be in effect until superseded by the 2015-2016 Harvest Specifications and Management Measures in March 2015.  View the entire notice online at:


West Coast Trawl IFQ Fishermen Face Severe Challenges

The following letter appears in the December 2014 issue of Fishermen's News.


In October’s issue of Fishermen’s News, Will Stelle, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, noted the significant conservation gains seen since the trawl IFQ program went into effect. He rightly credited fishermen, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and other fishery stakeholders for creating and implementing a fishery management system that has led to major recent announcements from the Marine Stewardship Council and the Seafood Watch Program about the sustainability of trawl-caught species. One of those “other fishery stakeholders” is my employer, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which has worked alongside West Coast fishermen for years.

The Note from NOAA column (Something Good is Happening on the Water, October 2014) also described how fewer fishing trips are yielding higher revenues, along with dramatically reduced bycatch. At first glance, this all sounds positive. Under catch shares we are seeing fewer trips, with larger deliveries and higher revenues. As every fisherman and every business owner understands, however, higher revenues don’t increase the bottom line – net income – unless you also keep costs under control. When operating costs increase along with or faster than revenue, you’re either treading water or slowly going down.

While that Note from NOAA was on newsstands, my EDF colleagues and I were at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Spokane, listening as one trawl industry leader after another spoke of razor-thin profits, burdensome reporting requirements, ongoing struggles to schedule expensive observers, and additional looming costs with the potential to sink the non-whiting fleet. All against the backdrop of Council and agency processes that move far slower than the seasons fishermen live by.

It was clear at that meeting that satisfaction with management of this fishery is at a dangerously low ebb. Consider what West Coast trawlers from Bellingham to Morro Bay are dealing with as they try to generate profits.

  •  Buyback loan payments: Five percent off the top for their share of payments on a restructured permit and vessel buyback loan with approximately $26 million still outstanding – nearly as much as when the loan was implemented in 2003.
  • Agency cost recovery: Three percent off the top for the mandated cost-recovery fee levied on fishermen to pay for management of the IFQ program.
  • Observer cost and logistics: Mandatory but difficult-to-schedule observers, with day rates of $465, and a likelihood of that rate climbing significantly from there.

Management of any complex, multi-species trawl fishery is extremely tough, and NOAA has a lot to be proud of. This fishery, as demonstrated already by that MSC label, truly has the potential to serve as an international model. But only if – and this is the big if – fishermen can sustain themselves economically. Whether or not they will is very much an open question.  

True sustainability for the West Coast groundfish industry won’t be measured by revenue numbers; it will be achieved through responsive regulatory processes, flexible management practices, and profitable deliveries.


Shems Jud is Pacific Oceans Progam Regional Director, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). He serves on the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Groundfish Advisroy Subpanel, and works with industry leaders and regulators coast-wide to strengthen fishery management practices.

November Council Meeting Information

The Pacific Fishery Management Council and its advisory bodies will meet November 12-19, 2014 in Costa Mesa, California to address issues related to coastal pelagic species, groundfish, Pacific halibut, salmon, highly migratory species management, and habitat matters.

Here is all the information you need regarding the agenda, location, submitting comments and streaming the meeting.

Agenda and Meeting Notice

Listed below are some key agenda items, which include Council considerations to:

  • Adopt final preferred alternatives for bluefin tuna management measures for 2015-2016 fisheries;
  • Adopt a final preferred alternative for the Pacific sardine harvest fraction parameter;
  • Adopt final changes to the 2015 Pacific halibut catch sharing plan and annual fishery regulations;
  • Adopt final recommendations for any changes to the lower Columbia River natural coho harvest matrix;
  • Take final action to rescind or revise previous Council action of open access registration under groundfish plan Amendment 22;
  • Adopt recommendations for adjustments to 2014 and 2015 groundfish fisheries.
  • Adopt final changes to salmon methodologies or conservation objectives, and the 2015 preseason management schedule;
  • Download a PDF copy of the November 2014 Meeting Notice and Agenda

Please refer to the detailed proposed agenda for a complete list of issues to be addressed.  A schedule of advisory group meetings is provided on the last page.  Copies of briefing materials prepared for the meeting can be found at www.pcouncil.org the week of October 29.

Meeting Locations and Arrangements

Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa
3050 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: 714-540-7000

Public Comment Guidelines

The public is encouraged to comment, either verbally at the meeting or in writing.  Timing of agenda items may change as the meeting progresses, and items not completed on the scheduled day will be carried over to later in the meeting, usually the next day.

Oral public comments will be accepted during the meeting prior to action on each agenda item.

Written public comments are accepted by the Council via one of the methods described below.  The public is encouraged to submit written comments as far in advance of the meeting as possible, either by mail, fax, of email addressed to pfmc.comments@noaa.gov.  Electronic copies of written testimony is encouraged.

  • Comments received by 11:59 p.m. October 20, 2014 will be included in the briefing books mailed to Council members prior to the meeting.
  • Comments received after October 20 but by 11:59 p.m. November 5, 2014 will be distributed to Council members at the onset of the meeting.
  • If you cannot meet this latter deadline and are going to testify at the meeting, you can provide written testimony for distribution by one of the following methods at the meeting.  However, please note these need to be provided to Council staff at the meeting well in advance of your testimony.
    • Provide an electronic copy to be posted with other briefing materials, or
    • Provide 40 photocopies with the Agenda Item Topic Number in the upper right corner of the front page of each copy.  Refer to the attached agenda for the topic numbers; i.e., Agenda Item B.1 refers to public comment under Open Comment Period.

This meeting is open to the public and is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Carolyn Porter at 503-820-2280 or 866-806-7204 at least five days prior to the meeting date. 

Live Stream Available

The broadcasts begin at 2 p.m. Pacific Time (PT) Friday, November 14, 2014-Wednesday, November 19, 2014.  Broadcasts end daily at 6:00 p.m. PT or when business for the day is complete.  Only the audio portion and presentations displayed on the screen at the Council meeting will be broadcast.  The audio portion is listen-only; you will be unable to speak to the Council via the broadcast.

To access the meeting online go to http://www.joinwebinar.com and enter the November Webinar ID, 430-417-591 and your email address.  The online attendance can be done using a computer, tablet, or smart phone, using the GoToMeeting application.  It is recommended that you use a computer headset to listen to the meeting, but you may use your telephone for the audio portion only of the meeting.  The audio portion may be attended using a telephone by dialing the toll number 1-646-307-1719; phone audio access code 536-452-326 (not a toll-free number).

Implementation of the Ocean Salmon Conservation Zone and Reapportionment of Darkblotched Rockfish between Catcher/Processor and Mothership Sectors

West Coast Trawlers' Network received the following announcements on the evening of Friday, November 17th.

Ocean Salmon Conservation Zone

Effective: 0800 (8 a.m.) local time, October 20, 2014

When NMFS projects that the Pacific whiting fishery may take in excess of 11,000 Chinook salmon (known as incidental take) within a calendar year, an Ocean Salmon Conservation Zone closing waters shoreward of approximately 100 fathoms (fm) (183 m) is implemented through automatic action, defined at 50 CFR 660.60(d) subpart C, per §660.131(c).

As of October 17, 2014, the best available information indicates that the Pacific whiting fishery had taken at least 11,000 Chinook salmon. Accordingly, vessels fishing in the Pacific whiting primary seasons for the Shorebased IFQ Program, Mothership (MS) Coop Program, or Catcher/ Processor (C/P) Coop Programs shall not target Pacific whiting with midwater trawl gear in all waters shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 100 fm (183 m) depth contour as of 0800, local time, October 20, 2014.

Coordinates for the 100-fm boundary line are available at §660.73 and can be downloaded from the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region website at:  www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/groundfish_closures/rockfish_areas.html


Reapportionment of Darkblotched Rockfish 

Effective: 2000 (8 p.m.) local time, October 17, 2014

The best available information on October 14, 2014 indicated that the 6.3 metric ton (mt) darkblotched rockfish bycatch limit for the Pacific whiting mothership sector (§660, Subpart C, Table 2b) had been reached and exceeded by approximately 0.7 mt. Catch estimates were based on NMFS observer data. The MS Coop fleet has suspended fishing operations after reaching their darkblotched rockfish bycatch quota in accordance with §660.150(c).

Reapportionment of unused portions of non-whiting groundfish species from the catcher/ processor sector to the mothership sector of the Pacific whiting fishery through automatic action are provided for in regulations at 50 CFR 660.160(c) and 660.60(d) when participants in the catcher/processor sector do not intend to harvest the remaining sector allocation. On October 17th, 2014 the Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative submitted a cease fishing report to NMFS indicating that 3.0 mt of the catcher/ processor allocation of darkblotched rockfish will not be used and is available to redistribute to the mothership sector. Therefore, NMFS is taking action at this time to reapportion the surplus darkblotched rockfish.

For the reasons stated here and in accordance with the regulations at § 660.60(d) and 660.150(c)(5),  NMFS herein announces that effective 2000 (8 p.m.) local time, October 17, 2014 a surplus of 3.0 mt of darkblotched rockfish is reallocated from the catcher/processor sector to the mothership sector. The revised darkblotched rockfish allocations by sector for 2014 are:

Catcher/Processor       6.0 mt,

Mothership                  9.3 mt, and

Shorebased                  11.1 mt (unchanged from original allocation).

Proposed Rule concerning Amendment to Pacific Coast Groundfish Fisheries Trawl Rationalization Program for the Start of 2015

Published in the Federal Register and open for public comment until November 10th, 2014..

This proposed rule would revise regulations for the Pacific Coast Groundfish fishery with a target implementation date of January 1, 2015. Final implementation of the 2015-2016 biennial harvest specifications and management measures will likely be delayed beyond January 1, 2015.

NMFS has identified two issues that must be addressed prior to January 1, 2015, to prevent interruption of ongoing fisheries and to allow harvest of the total allowable groundfish catch. This action would address those issues by revising groundfish regulations in two ways. First, this action would replace language that was inadvertently deleted after a series of temporary rulemakings. This would reinstate a mechanism whereby NMFS can issue interim groundfish allocations at the beginning of the year, allowing the Pacific coast groundfish fishery to continue in years when annual groundfish harvest specifications are expiring and new ones are not yet finalized, as is likely for January 1, 2015. Second, this action would amend regulations to extend NMFS' authority to issue the full shorebased trawl allocation of groundfish to current quota share holders in the Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota Program. Specifically, the rule would allow NMFS to issue that portion of the allowable catch currently allocated to an Adaptive Management Program (AMP), to quota share holders until final criteria and a process for distribution of the AMP quota shares is developed and implemented.

For more information on this Proposed Rule, and to submit comments, please click through to the Federal Register.

Pacific Council Selects Preferred Alternatives for Trawl Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Program

At the September 2014 Council meeting in Spokane, WA, the Council selected their final preferred alternatives for an electronic monitoring program for the Pacific coast limited entry trawl groundfish fishery catch shares program. See the “Fishery specific tables that show the Council’s final preferred alternatives” (PDF format). More detail regarding the Council’s decision will be provided in the near future on the Council’s website.

The Council also provided guidance to NMFS regarding preservation of the IFQ Program goals and the development performance standards when developing regulations to implement an EM Program. In order to preserve the conservation and accountability aspects of the IFQ Program, the EM Program must accurately capture discard events (i.e., whether discard has occurred), amount of discard (i.e., volume in weight and size of individual fish), disposition of discard (i.e., if we are to consider providing survivability credit for released fish, such as halibut), and do so even for rare events (e.g., catch and discard of rebuilding rockfish, by species).

In developing performance standards and accountability measures, the Council recommends NMFS consider the economic incentives to misreport or underreport catches and mortalities of overfished rockfish and Pacific halibut.

Individual accountability in the fisheries will hold only so far as monitoring programs are able to counteract these incentives. As such, having adequate enforcement to ensure compliance with the EM Program with strong consequences in place for violations are keys to success.

Performance standards examples are listed below:

  1. Require recording of discards in logbooks with estimated weights given for each species for each haul or set;
  2. Require a minimum of 30% video review during times of gear retrieval and 30% of video review of the remainder of the trip; compare to logbook entries for logbook certification;
  3. Logbook certification is achieved if video review determines that logbook amounts are within 20% accuracy of video review, by species;
  4. If logbook amounts do not meet 20% accuracy standard, then a 100% video review is triggered at vessel account holder expense and vessel cannot commence another fishing trip until video has been reviewed and vessel account has been debited;
  5. If the 100% video review is triggered more than twice within a six-month time period, then 100% video review is in effect for all fishing trips for the six months following the commencement of fishing activity, again at the vessel account holder’s expense.

Council to Consider Electronic Monitoring for Catch Share Fisheries

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and its advisory bodies will meet September 10-17, 2014 in Spokane, Washington to address issues related to management of groundfish, highly migratory species, coastal pelagic species, salmon, ecosystem management, and habitat matters.


Listed below are some key agenda items, which include Council considerations to:

  • Take final action on alternatives for electronic monitoring regulations in groundfish fishery sectors where possible and provide direction on next steps for other sectors and issues.
  • Adopt preliminary preferred alternative and public review draft amendment language for incorporating protection to unmanaged forage fish in Council fishery management plans.
  • Preliminarily adopt exempted fishing permits to improve the swordfish fishery for the 2015-2016 fishing years.
  • Adopt a range of alternatives for routine management measures for 2015-2016 highly migratory species fisheries and consider further process for measures outside of the biennial specifications process.
  • Adopt a preliminary preferred alternative for a harvest control rule for lower Columbia River natural coho.
  • Adopt a preliminary preferred alternative for the Pacific sardine harvest fraction parameter.
  • Adopt for public review proposed changes for the 2015 Pacific halibut catch sharing plan and annual fishing regulations.
  • Adopt inseason adjustments to the current groundfish fishery.

A complete list of issues to be addressed is provided in the proposed meeting agenda.  A schedule of advisory group meetings is provided on the last pages of the proposed meeting agenda.  Copies of briefing materials prepared for the meeting can be found on the PFMC website www.pcouncil.org by August 29.

Meeting Locations and Arrangements

Meetings of the Council and its advisory entities will be held at the following location

DoubleTree by Hilton Spokane City Center
322 N. Spokane Falls Court
Spokane, WA 99201
Phone: 509-455-9600

All meetings are open to the public, except a closed executive session scheduled for 8 AM on Friday, September 12 to discuss litigation and administrative appointments.  For more information on the meetings, refer to the proposed meeting agenda or call the Council office at 503-820-2280 or 866-806-7204 toll free.

September Council Meeting Draft Agenda

Here is a draft agenda for the September Council meeting.

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