Council Operations: Council Guide

This guide to the Council process can be used to guide you through a formal Council meeting or to get involved in management issues even if you do not have time to attend Council meetings. It explains which fisheries the Council manages, how they are managed, and who to contact with your comments and questions. Download a PDF Version of the Council Guide

What Does the Pacific Fishery Management Council Do?

The Pacific Fishery Management Council recommends fishery management measures for waters off Washington, Oregon, and California to the Secretary of Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Service.

What Species Does the Council Manage?

The Council manages fisheries for salmon, groundfish, coastal pelagic species (sardines, anchovies, and mackerel), and highly migratory species (tunas, sharks, and swordfish) in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), three to 200 miles off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Council also works with the International Pacific Halibut Commission to manage Pacific halibut fisheries. The Council’s Fishery Ecosystem Plan helps incorporate ecosystem issues into the Council’s fishery management plans. For more information, see the following fact sheets:



Other Fisheries

Habitat and Ecosystem

Who Serves on the Council?

The Council has 14 voting members and five non-voting members. The voting Council members include:

  • The directors of state fish and wildlife departments from California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, or their designees.
  • The Regional Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service (West Coast Region) or his or her designee.
  • A representative of a federally-recognized West Coast Native American tribe.
  • Eight private citizens who are familiar with the fishing industry, marine conservation, or both. These citizens are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce from lists submitted by the governors of the member states. They include one “obligatory member” from each state, which ensures that someone from each state is represented. The other four are “at-large” members who may come from any state.

There are also five non-voting members who assist the Council in decisionmaking. They represent:

  • The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, which coordinates data and research for the Pacific states.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which serves in an advisory role.
  • The State of Alaska, because both fish and the people who fish for them migrate to and from Alaskan waters.
  • The U.S. Department of State, which is concerned about management decisions that have international implications.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard, which is concerned about enforcement and safety issues.

Obligatory, at-large, and tribal members serve three-year terms and may not serve more than three consecutive terms. The private citizens on the Council are paid for the time they spend in Council meetings, but not for the time they spend preparing for meetings or working with constituents.

Financial Interest of Members

Council members’ financial interests are important because they could influence how members make decisions. Council members may have a financial interest in any harvesting, processing, or marketing activity as long as they disclose the extent of this interest to the public. This ensures that knowledgeable fishing industry members can serve on the Council. Council members are not allowed to vote on matters that would benefit only them or a minority of other people within the same sector or gear group. Financial disclosure forms are available for public inspection at the Council office, at Council meetings, and on the Council Members Biographies and Financial Disclosure webpage.

The Council Staff

Council staff support the Council by providing information for management decisions, informing the public about Council activities, helping the public participate in the process, coordinating the process and meetings, creating fishery management documents, and assisting advisory groups.

The Council staff consists of an Executive Director, Deputy Director, support staff, and staff officers. Staff officers oversee each fishery management plan (groundfish, coastal pelagic species, highly migratory species, and salmon), and also focus on economics, social science, habitat, and outreach and education. There are typically 15 Council staff members.

The Council is a nonprofit organization; as such, the Council staff are not federal government employees. The Executive Director carries out tasks assigned by the Council and, with the Deputy Director, directs and oversees the staff.

How Do I Attend a Council Meeting or Make a Comment on Regulations?

All Council meetings are open to the public. To get the details, see:

Are There Other Councils?

The Pacific Council is one of eight regional U.S. fishery management councils. The others are the North PacificWestern PacificGulf of MexicoCaribbeanNew England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. While these councils all operate in similar ways, they have regional differences.

How about the States, Tribes, and Federal Government?

The entire fisheries management process is overseen by Congress, which controls funding for the councils, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Coast Guard. States are also involved through their membership on the councils, their legislatures, and sometimes through research and enforcement. Interstate fishery management commissions help coordinate state efforts. For example, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission coordinates efforts between Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho and regional fishery management councils.