April 2024 Decision Summary Document

April 6-11, 2024 

Council Meeting Decision Summary Documents are highlights of significant decisions made at Council meetings. Fishery policy decisions made by the Council are formally transmitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as recommendations and are not final until NMFS approval.  Results of agenda items that do not reach a level of highlight significance are typically not described in the Decision Summary Document.  For a more detailed account of Council meeting discussions, see the Council meeting record and transcripts.  

Habitat Issues

Current Habitat Issues

The Council expressed support for the Habitat Committee to 1) develop a draft comment letter on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Hells Canyon Complex Hydropower Dam relicensing, for consideration at the June Council meeting, and 2) provide an update on California water and habitat issues at a future meeting.

Pacific Halibut Management

Incidental Catch Limits for the 2024 Salmon Troll Fishery—Final Action  

Under the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan, the salmon troll fishery is provided a portion of the non-tribal commercial halibut allocation for incidental retention of halibut.  The Council adopted catch ratio and vessel limits for incidental halibut retention in the ocean salmon troll fishery which are effective from May 16, 2024 through the end of the 2024 salmon troll fishery, and beginning April 1, 2025, until modified through inseason action or superseded by the 2025 management measures.  License holders may land no more than one Pacific halibut per two Chinook, except one Pacific halibut may be landed without meeting the ratio requirement, and no more than 35 halibut landed per trip (1+1 per each 2, 35). 

Salmon Management

Methodology Review Preliminary Topic Selection

The salmon methodology review ensures that any new or updated methods used in salmon management are reviewed prior to implementation.  The review is a multi-step process that begins in April and concludes in November. In April, candidate topics for the review are brought forward for Council consideration, typically by the Salmon Technical Team (STT) and the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC).  At the April 2024 Council meeting, the Council considered the STT and SSC reports, but did not identify any topics for review at this stage of the process.  The Council will discuss the topic again in September and can consider topics that have the supporting analysis ready for a full review in October.  The results of the salmon methodology review are provided to the Council in November.  

2024 Management Measures—Final Action  

The Council adopted management measures for 2024 ocean salmon fisheries and will transmit its recommendations to National Marine Fisheries Service for implementation by May 16, 2024. Detailed management measures and a press release are posted on the Council’s webpage. 

Groundfish Management

National Marine Fisheries Service Report  

The Office of Protected Resources provided a presentation to the Council regarding the formation of a West Coast Take Reduction Team (TRT) to address 3 strategic marine mammal stocks (i.e., Central America/Southern Mexico humpback whales, Mainland Mexico humpback whales, and Eastern North Pacific blue whales) and 5 commercial fisheries, including Federal sablefish pot, CA Dungeness crab pot, OR Dungeness crab pot, WA Dungeness crab pot, and CA spot prawn pot.   The TRT will be convened by no later than November 30, 2025, and additional fisheries and/or marine mammal stocks may be included in the notice formally establishing the TRT.  

The TRT is expected to include commercial fishermen from the Dungeness crab and sablefish pot gear fisheries, along with representatives from relevant governmental agencies. At the June meeting, the Council will identify and recommend TRT representatives who are familiar with the sablefish pot fisheries. 

Biennial Harvest Specifications for 2025-26 Fisheries—Final Preferred Alternatives   

The Council adopted a final preferred alternative for all species in the Groundfish Fishery Management Plan as default harvest control rule harvest specifications for 2025-2026 fisheries, except for rex sole, shortspine thornyhead, Dover sole, and quillback rockfish off California. They also adopted and utilized results from the Washington cabezon catch-only update. The final preferred alternatives adopted for rex sole, shortspine thornyhead, and Dover sole were Alternative 2, as listed in the table below. P* values reflect the Council’s level of risk tolerance in setting an overall harvest level for those stocks, which are less risk adverse than the default harvest control rules from the last biennial cycle.  For quillback rockfish off California, the Council adopted the ABC rule as a preliminary preferred alternative for their rebuilding strategy and removed the default harvest control rule and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife proposal from further analysis. Final action on quillback rockfish in California harvest specifications for 2025-2026 and the associated rebuilding plan is scheduled for June 2024.  

Groundfish Stock Final Preferred Alternative 
Rex sole ACL = ABC, P * = 0.45 
Shortspine thornyhead ACL < ABC, P * = 0.45, 40-10 rule applied due to stock in the precautionary zone 
Dover sole ACL = ABC, P * = 0.45 

Inseason Management – Final Action   

No inseason adjustments to Council-managed groundfish fisheries were taken by the Council.  

Sablefish Gear Switching—Final Action and Fishery Management Plan (FMP) Amendment   

The Council selected as its final preferred alternative (FPA) a modified version of its preliminary preferred alternative.  Under the FPA, gear switching would be limited only in years when sablefish quota pound (QP) availability is low—specifically, when the northern sablefish annual catch limit (ACL) is below 6,000 mt.  The limitation would be imposed through the issuance of gear-specific QP (any-gear QP and trawl-only QP). In years with an ACL above 6,000 mt, there would be no restrictions on gear switching.  Some of the more substantial FPA provisions that differed from the preliminary preferred alternative include: qualified gear-switching participant status (“legacy participant” status) would not last more than 15 years (legacy participants receive 100 percent any-gear QP for their eligible quota share—QS); and as legacy participants reduce and eliminate their holdings of QS, the proportion of any-gear QP issued for all other QS would increase, such that the total amount of any-gear QP issued during each limitation year would remain at 29 percent.  Also, the Council included provisions for transfer of ownership among family members that occur before April 10, 2024 and for the estates of deceased individuals.  These provisions address qualification for legacy status and determination of amounts of QS held as of and since the control date (the latter of which is considered “eligible QS”).  And, the Council adopted plan amendment language related to the FPA.  At a future meeting, the Council will review the regulations developed to implement its FPA.  One of the focuses of that review will be on the definition of family used for the regulations.  As they become available, a complete description of the Council action and supporting analyses will be posted on the Council’s Gear-Switching webpage.  

Preliminary Preferred Management Measure Alternatives for 2025-26 Fisheries  

The Council adopted preliminary preferred alternatives (PPA) for the 2025-26 groundfish management measures at this meeting. The Council reviewed the analysis completed by the Groundfish Management Team (GMT) and Council staff and considered reports from the tribes, states, Groundfish Advisory Subpanel, GMT, and public comment in their decision-making process. The Council adopted status quo management measures for the majority of items; however, the Council did adopt several changes for the next biennium as PPA.  The tribes recommended, and the Council adopted as PPA, a decrease of 60 mt to the petrale sole set-aside, an increase of 8 mt for yelloweye rockfish, and a 2 mt starry flounder set-aside, which was inadvertently omitted in the tribes’ November recommendations. The Council adopted status quo two-year trawl and non-trawl allocations, except for widow rockfish. In this case, the Council reduced the non-trawl portion to 300 mt annually, with the remainder allocated to trawl.  The Council also removed the statewide copper rockfish annual catch target (ACT) and, instead, adopted a copper rockfish south of 34° 27′ N. lat. recreational ACT. The Council adopted a measure to modify the majority of non-trawl trip limits from monthly to bimonthly as PPA (see appendix 1 of GMT Report 5).  Though the trip limits would be bimonthly, overall there was no net increase or decrease to the trip limits, with the exception of open access lingcod north of 42° N. lat. This trip limit decreased by 1,000 lbs. The Council adopted all new management measures as the PPA except for the sorting requirement proposed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in November 2023 (see GMT Report 1). This measure will be reconsidered in September 2024 under the groundfish workload and prioritization agenda item. The Council directed the GMT to prioritize development of the rebuilding plan for the California stock of quillback rockfish and modifications to the shortspine thornyhead allocation structure for consideration at the June 2024 meeting. Additionally, the Council considered proposed changes to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan which would establish the California stock of quillback rockfish rebuilding plan, but did not adopt changes at this time. Final action for the 2025-26 groundfish management measures is scheduled for the June 2024 Council meeting. 

Coastal Pelagic Species Management 

I2024-25 Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP)—Final Action  

The Council approved the two EFP proposals by the California Wetfish Producers Association.  I.2 Attachment 1 describes the Coastal Pelagic Species Nearshore Cooperative Survey, which provides point set sampling to validate aerial estimates and provides biological sampling of coastal pelagic species biomass in shallow waters off Southern and Central California inaccessible to NOAA ships.  I.2 Attachment 2 describes biological sampling in Southern and Central California waters, to continue a time-series of fishery-dependent biological data for use in sardine biomass models and stock assessments. The requested amounts are 150 mt and 520 mt, respectively.   

Pacific Sardine Harvest Specifications and Management Measures for 2024-25 Fisheries  

The Council adopted the 2024 Pacific Sardine Stock Assessment and Supplemental Appendix (Agenda Items I.3, Attachments 1 and 3) and the following harvest specifications and management measures for the 2024 – 2025 fishing year: 

Biomass 58,614 mt 
OFL 8,312 mt 
P* Buffer 0.4 
ABCTier 2 6,005 mt 
ACL 6,005 mt 
ACT 5,500 mt 
  1. Incidental landing limit of sardines in other coastal pelagic species (CPS) fisheries of 30 percent. 
  1. If landings in the live bait fishery attain 3,000 mt, a per-landing limit of 1 mt of Pacific sardine per trip will apply to the live bait fishery. 
  1. If the ACT of 5,500 mt is attained, a per-trip limit of 1 mt of Pacific sardine applies to all CPS fisheries. 
  1. An incidental per-landing allowance of 2 mt of Pacific sardine in non-CPS fisheries until the ACL is reached. 
  1. These harvest specifications accommodate the EFP amounts described the two proposals in Agenda Item I.2: 

Administrative Matters  

Fiscal Matters  

The Council approved convening the Budget Committee in June 2024 for the purpose of reviewing and providing recommendations to the Council on the 2025-2029 Grant Application and 2024 Operational Budget, and in September 2024 for the purpose of reviewing the 2025 no-cost extension budget and project list. 

Council Operations and Priorities  

The Council reviewed the Committee of the Whole report (G.2.a, COTW Report 1) which contained considerations for aligning expenditures with appropriations and addressing staff and advisor workload, while maintaining effective decision making.  The Council recommended that the Executive Director further outline recommendations for consideration at the June Council meeting.  

Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures  

The Council roster was updated as follows: 

  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Director Curt Melcher retired on April 1, 2024. Ms. Davia Palmeri is the interim ODFW Director.   
  • Mr. Craig Fleming was appointed as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service representative on the Sacramento Fall Chinook Workgroup. 
  • Mr. John Alto was appointed, on an interim basis, to the Oregon Troll position on the Salmon Advisory Subpanel.