Non-trawl Sector Area Management Measures

Action status

  • Implemented
  • Undergoing NMFS Review
  • Approved by Council
  • Under development by the Council

In November 2019, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) directed the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel (GAP) to develop the scope of action and draft a purpose and need statement for non-trawl area management during the GAP’s March and April 2020 meetings.  The GAP then submitted Informational Report 4 in June 2020 for Council consideration and scheduling of further scoping of the issues. In April 2021, the Council initiated a scoping process to address modifying existing the Non-Trawl Rockfish Conservation Area (NT_RCA) and developing measures to allow groundfish fishing inside the NT_RCA using only select gears that minimize bottom contact  (Agenda Item F.3, Attachment 2).   

At that meeting, the Council adopted a draft purpose and need statement and directed staff to analyze items related to relaxing restrictions in the NT_RCA as specified in Agenda Item F.3 Motion 3 to: 1) allow limited entry fixed gear (LEFG) and/or open access (OA) fishery sectors to operate within the current boundaries of the NT_RCA with approved hook-and-line gear, and; 2) modify the current seaward and shoreward boundaries of the NT_RCA in specific management areas and allow LEFG vessels to fish within those boundaries.   

In November 2021, the Council further refined the purpose and need statement as well as the range of alternatives (ROAs). The Council expanded the action to include changes to the Cowcod Conservation Areas off California (CCA, including commercial and recreational fisheries), added specific measures that would include access to the NT_RCA off Washington, and included potential changes to essential fish habitat conservation area (EFHCA) designations that may be exposed to fishing activity under the alternatives.

In April 2022, the Council revised the range of alternatives as recommended in Supplemental GMT Report 1 and CDFW Report 1 as described in April 2022 Decision Summary Document. The Council eliminated an alternative which would have removed the NT_RCA from 46° 16 N. latitude to 34° 27 N. latitude from the range of alternatives due to the lack of data available for analysis. This alternative was moved to the groundfish workload prioritization list instead, for consideration at a later date. Additionally, the Council recommended developing block area closures for non-trawl gears under each alternative for mitigating bycatch of other groundfish stocks, as well as protected or prohibited species. The Council also recommended that staff revise the Purpose and Need Statement to reflect the development of new area management measures that provide for the protection and conservation of sensitive habitats.

In September 2022, the Council revised and finalized its purpose and need statement.  In addition, it adopted a final range of alternatives and preliminary preferred alternatives (PPA).  The Council removed an alternative from further analysis that would have moved portions of the seaward boundary of the NT_RCA off Washington for pot gear only.  The PPA as described in the September 2022 Decision Summary Document would allow the use of legal non-bottom contact hook-and-line gear off Oregon and California in directed OA, LEFG, and IFQ gear switching fisheries with the option for natural bait and gear modifications for vertical stationary jig gear, move the seaward boundary to 75 fathoms between 46°16’ N. lat. and 34° 27’ N. lat. for commercial groundfish and non-tribal Pacific halibut with some additional protections for EFHCAs off Oregon, would repeal the CCA and establish new NT_RCA lines and groundfish closed areas off California, and develop BACs for commercial non-trawl fisheries coastwide. 

The Council is expected to take final action in March 2023.