Background: Groundfish

The Council manages more than 90 species of groundfish, which are fish that live near the bottom of the ocean. They include rockfish, flatfish, roundfish (like hake and lingcod), certain sharks, skates, and other species. See a full list of groundfish managed by the Council.

Many types of gear are used to target groundfish. The trawl fishery harvests most groundfish, but they are also caught with troll, longline, hook-and-line, pots, gillnets, and other gear.

The West Coast groundfish fishery is divided up into several different management sectors: limited entry trawl, limited entry fixed gear, open access, tribal, and recreational.

Learn more about these sectors [see below].

Groundfish fisheries are controlled through measures like quotas, harvest guidelines, trip and landing limits, area closures or restrictions, seasonal closures, and gear restrictions. The groundfish fishery management plan contains the rules for managing the fishery. See the management schedule here [from old web page].

In the past, X groundfish species were designated as overfished. As required by Federal law, the Council took immediate action to rebuild the fisheries, and now only X groundfish species are overfished. These species are expected to rebuild by X.

How to Get Involved

The Council has two permanent advisory groups that deal with groundfish issues: the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel and the Groundfish Management Team. Other advisory bodies may focus on short-term issues like X. Council advisory body meetings are always open to the public, and you are welcome to attend. 

For more information, contact X or join our mailing list.


Trawlers are generally large vessels (40 feet and more) that pull nets behind them, scooping up fish as they go. There are many different types of trawlers, and many new gear types that allow trawlers to target certain species (like flatfish) while letting others (like salmon) go. Trawlers typically target groundfish and pink shrimp on the west coast. Trollers, on the other hand, tend to be smaller vessels that pull fishing lines behind them. On the West Coast they typically target salmon and tuna.


Limited entry trawl. This sector is made up of fishermen who have limited entry permits that are endorsed for trawl gear. The limited entry program limits the number of vessels allowed to participate in a fishery. This sector is organized into a system of individual fishing quotas and harvest cooperatives. See Groundfish Amendment 20 for more information.

Limited entry fixed gear. This sector mainly targets sablefish, although some fishers also target rockfish. It includes fishers who have limited entry permits endorsed for line or pot/trap gears. Those who have a sablefish endorsement may target sablefish during the primary season (April through October) to catch individual vessel limits (termed tier limits) of sablefish. 

Open access. This sector targets groundfish without limited entry permits, and includes those who participate in non-groundfish fisheries who incidentally catch groundfish. Trawl gear may not be used in this sector, except for vessels targeting pink shrimp, California halibut, ridgeback prawns, and sea cucumbers.

Recreational. This sector includes anglers targeting groundfish as well as those targeting other species who incidentally take groundfish using recreational gear. West Coast recreational fisheries are managed by the coastal states with management coordinated in the Council process.

Tribal. This sector is made up of tribal commercial fishers who have a Federally-recognized treaty right to fish for groundfish in their “usual and accustomed” fishing areas. These tribes, all located in Washington state, include the Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah. The tribes have formal allocations for sablefish and Pacific whiting. Other groundfish species allocations for this sector are decided by annual Council action.