Fishery Management Plan and Amendments: FMP: Amendment 22

Limiting Entry to the Open Access Fishery

Currently In Progress

In 1994, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) implemented a limited entry program for the West Coast groundfish fisheries. The program restricted the number of vessels allowed to target groundfish in order to better align the fishery with the available harvest. However, the program did not reserve all groundfish for the limited entry fleet in order to ensure that vessels in state-managed fisheries and those landing groundfish incidentally could continue to fish for groundfish, and to allow smaller vessels to target groundfish at lower levels than in the limited entry fishery. A percentage of the annual allowable groundfish catch was set aside for the open access (OA) fishery and participation was left unlimited.

Discussion surrounding the conversion of the OA fishery to limited entry management began in April 1998 and was listed in 2000 as a management priority under the Council’s Groundfish Strategic Plan. On September 13, 2006, the Council adopted a control date for considering limitation on the number of vessels that would be allowed to participate in the OA fishery in future years. In June 2007, the Council adopted a range of alternatives for analysis. Due to competing workloads, the Council did not revisit OA fishery limitation again until March 2008, when a preliminary draft environmental assessment was presented. In September 2008, the Council adopted a preliminary preferred alternative for public review which included a license limitation program for directed groundfish landings and a registration for incidental groundfish landings.

Final Council Action

In March 2009, the Council adopted Alternative 2 in the draft Environmental Assessment, which is a simple registration program for fishermen intending to land groundfish in the open access fishery. The registration requirement would extend to all commercial fishing vessels that seek to retain specified groundfish, whether fishing directly for (targeting) those species or taking them incidentally while fishing for non-groundfish species (e.g., salmon, pink shrimp, California halibut) or nearshore species (e.g., cabezon, black rockfish). Under this system, a fisherman could register for the open access fishery at any time of the year for the following year. In addition to the registration requirement, fishermen participating in the open access fishery in federal waters will still be required to have a vessel monitoring system installed and functioning on their vessels to land federally managed groundfish.

At its June 2009 meeting in Spokane, Washington, the Council voted to affirm its March 2009 recommendation to require owners of all open access fishing vessels to register their vessels with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the year prior to fishing for specified groundfish. The vote came after hearing a report from the NMFS citing potential duplication of effort between the proposed registration process and the Vessel Monitoring System. Prior to the vote, Council members cited the need for consistency in its decision process and the potential for interruption of some business decisions by fishery participants based on the March 2009 recommendation.

NMFS is reviewing the Council’s final action on open access registration for possible implementation at a later date. Registration will not be required in 2010 for the 2011 fishing year.

For more information

  • For more information on Amendment 22, contact Mr. LB Boydstun at (916) 844-4358.

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