June 2023 Decision Summary Document

June 22-27, 2023  

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.   

Pacific Halibut Management  

Scoping Topics for Catch Sharing Plan and Regulation Changes

In response to the scoping topics report (Agenda Item E.1, Attachment 1) and Council discussion, the Council asked for additional analysis to be provided on the following items.  State and federal agencies represented within the Council body agreed to provide staff to conduct the analysis and try to provide as much information as possible for the September 2023 Council meeting.

1)      Update and improve, where needed, the management objectives in the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan for each sector or sub-area with a specific allocation.

2)      Request California review their fishery objectives to achieve a longer season (e.g., delay opening, open fewer days per week).

3)      Expand the PFMC Pacific halibut Catch Sharing Plan’s flexible inseason management provisions to allow transfer of projected unused quota between all WA, OR, and CA recreational sub-areas and commercial sectors after August 15.

4)      Move 0.5 percent of the WA sport allocation and 1.0 percent of the OR sport allocation to the California sport sector in years when:

  • a.       Option 1: when the 2A FCEY is 1.5 million pounds or greater and,
  • b.       Option 2: when the 2A FCEY is 1.3 million pounds or greater.

5)      Move 1 percent from the non-tribal WA sport allocation and 2 percent from the non-tribal OR sport allocation to the CA sport sector.

  • a.       Option 1: when the 2A FCEY is 1.5 million pounds or greater and,
  • b.       Option 2: when the 2A FCEY is 1.3 million pounds or greater.

6)      Regulatory changes as recommended by the Enforcement Consultants (Agenda Item E.1.a, Supp EC Report 1, June 2023).

Ecosystem Management 

Fishery Ecosystem Plan Initiative 4 – Ecosystem Workgroup Update

The Council thanked The Nature Conservancy and endorsed their offer to cosponsor two workshops to further the objectives of Initiative 4. Marine Fisheries Project Director Gway Kirchner noted her intent to create an organizing committee to plan those workshops. 

Coastal Pelagic Species Management 

Pacific Mackerel Assessment and Biennial Management Measures – Final Action

The Council adopted a new benchmark assessment (Agenda Item G.2, Attachment 1) and harvest specifications and management measures for Pacific mackerel for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fishing years (Tables 1 and 2 respectively), which run July 1 through June 30. Should the directed fishery realize the annual catch target (ACT), the directed fishery will close and shift to an incidental-only fishery for the remainder of the fishing year, with a 45 percent incidental landing allowance when Pacific mackerel are landed with other coastal pelagic species (CPS). Up to 3 mt of Pacific mackerel per landing could be landed in non-CPS fisheries. 

Table 1. 2023-2024 Pacific Mackerel Harvest Specifications (in metric tons)  

Biomass  55,681  
OFL  11,693  
ABC P*=0.45 (Category 2)  9,754  
ACL (=ABC)  9,754  
HG  7,871  
ACT  6,871  
Incidental  1,000  


Table 2. 2024-2025 Pacific Mackerel Harvest Specifications (in metric tons)  

Biomass  60,785  
OFL  12,765  
ABC P*=0.45 (Category 2)  10,073  
ACL (=ABC)  10,073  
HG  8,943  
ACT  7,943  
Incidental  1,000  


Essential Fish Habitat Amendment—Final Action

The Council adopted a new CPS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) Appendix as described in Alternative 1b of the Alternatives Document. The new EFH Appendix includes updated EFH identification and description, life history summaries, fishing and non-fishing impacts, research and information needs, new maps, and more. The Council highlighted the need for additional research on krill benthic habitat associations (described in Supplemental HC Report 1), which will be added to the Research and Information Needs section of the EFH Appendix. The Council also approved the proposed FMP amendment language and directed staff to finalize FMP language and prepare an amendment package for transmittal to NMFS. 

 Groundfish Management 

Sablefish Gear Switching – Initial Preliminary Preferred Alternative

The Council adopted two initial preliminary preferred alternatives: No Action and Alternative 2 (gear-specific quota pounds [QP] distributed based on individuals’ status as legacy/non-legacy participants).  At its November meeting, the Council is scheduled to select a preliminary preferred alternative and, if Alternative 2 is selected, will need to make refinements in order to fully specify its provisions.  Selection of a final preferred alternative is scheduled for the March 2024 Council meeting. 

In addition to selecting Alternative 2 as one if its initial preliminary preferred alternatives, the Council eliminated two options from the alternative: QP Distribution Option 3 (which would have allocated any-gear QP only to legacy participants ) and legacy Qualification Option 2 (which, in addition to ownership of quota shares and a permit with qualifying gear-switching history, would have required ownership of a vessel with gear-switching history). 

Amendment 31 Stock Definitions – Final Action

The Council adopted stock definitions for 14 priority groundfish species as detailed in Table 1 below. This action necessitated Amendment 31 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and the Council adopted new language to formalize the stock definitions in the FMP. The Council selected a timeline to integrate the stock definitions process into the overall groundfish biennial harvest specifications and management measure cycle, Council Operating Procedure (COP) 9. COP 9 will be revised to reflect the stock definition process and will be provided to the Council in September for formal consideration.  

Table 1: Groundfish stocks within the fishery management unit (FMU) of the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP and their boundaries, as amended through Amendment 31. 

Stock  Alternative  Stock Definition  
Pacific Spiny Dogfish  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Shortspine Thornyhead  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Dover Sole  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Petrale Sole  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Rex Sole  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Canary Rockfish  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Sablefish  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Squarespot Rockfish  Pacific West Coast FMU  
Lingcod – North  North of 40°10′ N. lat.  
Lingcod – South  South of 40°10′ N. lat.  
Vermilion Rockfish  2a North of 42° N. lat.  
Vermilion/Sunset Rockfish  2a South of 42° N. lat.  
Copper Rockfish – North   2a North of 42° N. lat.  
Copper Rockfish – South  2a South of 42° N. lat.  
Black Rockfish – Washington  North of 46°16′ N. lat.  
Black Rockfish – Oregon  46°16′ N. lat. to 42° N. lat.  
Black Rockfish – California  South of 42° N. lat.  
Quillback Rockfish -Washington  North of 46°16′ N. lat.  
Quillback Rockfish – Oregon  46°16′ N. lat. to 42° N. lat.  
Quillback Rockfish – California  South of 42° N. lat.  

Limited Entry Fixed Gear Follow-On Actions and Fixed Gear Marking – Scoping

The Council provided guidance relative to the limited entry fixed gear (LEFG) follow-on actions and mixed gear marking and suggested moving the items forward into two packages as follows:  

Fixed Gear Marking 

  • Develop gear marking requirements holistically for all fixed gear sectors (LEFG, directed open access, and individual fishing quota gear switchers) 
  • Analyze a range of line marking requirements at 5, 20, and 50 fathoms 
  • Consider prohibiting marks required by other fisheries (e.g., Dungeness crab)  
  • Analyze different types of line marking methods such as unique line, tape, paint, etc. 
  • Consider a phased approach if unique sector-specific line is required that could include interim gear marking (e.g., tape or paint) during the transition to sector-specific line 
  • Consider other surface gear marking concepts as described in NMFS Report 1 
  • Look at changes to the position of escape panels (required component of pot/trap gear) to not be on the bottom as described in NMFS Report 1  
  • Consider other entanglement risk reduction measures 

LEFG Follow-On Action 

  • Examine changes to LEFG gear endorsements, including allowing slinky pots to be used by vessels registered to longline-endorsed permits, removing the longline and pot endorsements to create a single LEFG endorsement, or removing gear endorsements entirely so that vessels could utilize any legal non-trawl groundfish gear to harvest their limited entry limits 
  • Allow vessels to stack four sablefish tier permits for those owners without an owner-on-board exemption 
  • Require permit price reporting, potentially for all LEFG-endorsed permits 
  • Remove the base permit designation 
  • Develop a cost recovery program for the LEFG primary tier program, including an option for the GAP recommendation that the permit owner is responsible for paying cost recovery, not the vessel 
  • Change start and end times of the sablefish tier fishery from noon to midnight 

The Council removed a potential management measure that would consider allowing multiple non-sablefish cumulative landing limits for vessels in the tier fishery and instead look at ways to provide opportunity through the harvest specifications or inseason process.  At the September 2023 Council meeting, the Council is scheduled to consider a range of alternatives for these items. 

Electronic Monitoring (EM) Implementation Update

Starting January 1, 2024, the EM video review rate for vessels operating under optimized retention rules (i.e., bottom trawl, fixed gear, and non-whiting midwater trawl) will be a random selection of ten percent of hauls per trip with a minimum of one haul per trip reviewed. The Council’s Ad Hoc Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Policy Advisory and Technical Advisory Committees, Enforcement Consultants, and the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel recommended that any determination made requiring additional review be made on a case-by-case basis. The Council agreed and recommended that NMFS include the following text in the EM Program Manual:  

“Allowable discard species are approved by National Marine Fisheries Service and listed in the regulations and Vessel Monitoring Plans.  If review indicates non-compliant behavior, it will be noted in the drive report.  In such cases, the vessel operator will be notified and EM data, rather than logbook data, will be used to debit the vessel account for discards.” 

Currently there are differences between the discard species list in regulation, which will be effective January 1, 2024, and the list in the Vessel Monitoring Plans currently used in the exempted fishing permit fishery. NMFS is seeking interim (2024) and long-term solutions to maintain the current discard species allowances.  Moving the discard species list from regulation to the Vessel Monitoring Plans is on the Council’s groundfish workload priorities list and has not yet been scheduled for consideration. 

Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup Report

The Council reviewed the Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup  (GESW) report and did not recommend any management measures based on the findings of that report for consideration in the 2025-2026 Groundfish Biennial Management Process. The Council provided guidance to NMFS to continue to investigate eulachon take estimation, streamer lines, and humpback whale concerns as described in the GESW’s report. The Council recommended NMFS continue to provide updates during the Groundfish NMFS report on endangered species issues as they have in the past. The Council noted they are continuing work on the fixed gear marking as a separate action, which addresses concerns related to humpback whales and entanglement. 

2025-2026 Harvest Specifications and Management Measures Planning 

The Council adopted the proposed schedule and process for developing the 2025-26 harvest specifications and management measures as shown in Agenda Item H.7. Attachment 1, June 2023. The Council also requested an updated rebuilding analysis for quillback rockfish off California to be reviewed and endorsed by the Scientific and Statistical Committee in time for the November 2023 Council meeting. The Council acknowledged, based on the action taken under H.3, that harvest specifications for the newly-defined stocks would be provided at the same scale as they are defined. Management measures, either routine or new, can be recommended for development at the September and/or November meetings under the appropriate harvest specification and management measure agenda items. 

Inseason Management – Final Action 

The Council recommended a lingcod minimum total length size limit of 22 inches for all commercial groundfish fisheries south of 42° N. latitude, as described in Agenda Item H.8.a, Supplemental GMT Report 1, June 2023.  The Council also recommended increasing trip limits to bocaccio south of 40° 10′ N. lat. for periods 4 through 6 in the limited entry fixed gear fishery to 8,000 lbs per two (2) months and the open access fishery to 6,000 lbs. per two (2) months as described in Agenda Item H.8.a, Supplemental CDFW Report 2, June 2023. 

The Council requested the GMT provide analysis on the time/area aspects of Chinook salmon bycatch in the at-sea sector, as described in Agenda Item H.8.a, Supplemental GMT Report 1, June 2023. The Council also requested the whiting sector cooperatives report to the Council in September with information on practices and measures that are being taken to avoid bycatch, and any further plans for managing salmon bycatch and the catch of set-aside species through the fall. The Council requested this information in advance of the September 2023 Council meeting. It is expected the Council will discuss these requests under the Groundfish Inseason Adjustment agenda item in September. 

Salmon Management  

Sacramento River Fall Chinook and Klamath River Fall Chinook Conservation Objectives – Scoping

Based on information provided in the scoping report (Attachment 1) and Council discussion, two ad-hoc technical workgroups were formed to review and evaluate the conservation objectives for 1) Sacramento River fall Chinook (SRFC) and 2) Klamath River fall Chinook (KRFC).  The Council adopted draft Terms of Reference documents which describe the purpose, membership, milestones, and general timeline for each Workgroup.   

The KRFC Workgroup Terms of Reference were provided in Supplemental Attachment 2.  The Council reiterated that the KRFC Workgroup focuses first on developing recommendations to the Council for interim management measures in time for the 2024 preseason planning process.  A progress report from the workgroup is anticipated in November 2023.   

The SRFC Workgroup Terms of Reference were provided in  Supplemental Attachment 3.  The draft Terms of Reference for the Sacramento River ad-hoc technical workgroup was modified to include planning for a technical workshop at the SRFC workgroup’s first meeting. The Council also tasked the SRFC workgroup to 1) provide a summary report no later than the spring of 2024 to describe scoping of a revised SRFC conservation objective and related harvest control rule and reference point alternatives, and 2) update the Council on the recommended next steps, timeline, and process to evaluate the conservation objective and related management measures. 

Highly Migratory Species Management  

International Management Activities  

The Council adopted the following recommendations for U.S. position at upcoming regional fishery management organization meetings.  

Eighth Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission-Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (IATTC-WCPFC) Joint Working Group on Pacific Bluefin Tuna 

  • Pacific bluefin tuna management strategy evaluation (MSE): 
    • Evaluate a fishery impact ratio of 70:30 between the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and Eastern Pacific Ocean. Securing this allocation of opportunity in the long-term harvest strategy should be a key priority in future negotiations.
    • Narrow the list of evaluated reference points and harvest control rules according to U.S. proposal JWG08-DP13 (Supplemental Attachment 2).  
    • Prioritize consideration of the safety, status, and stability management objectives and related performance indicators as identified in the April 19, 2023, U.S. Stakeholder Meeting on Harvest Strategy Components for a Management Strategy Evaluation for Pacific Bluefin Tuna. 
  • Oppose Korea’s proposal (JWG08- DP-12, Supplemental Attachment 1) that would exempt fisheries that “do not target Pacific bluefin tuna, such as set net fisheries,” from catch limits and increases the percentage of small fish (<30 kg) quota that may be converted to large fish (≥30 kg) quota. These provisions reduce accountability and lack scientific justification. 
  • Secure adoption of an interim Pacific bluefin harvest strategy with measures to ensure overfishing cannot occur. 

WCPFC Northern Committee 

  • Propose and seek adoption of a complementary measure for the area between equator and 20⁰ N latitude that is consistent with CMM 2022-02 for North Pacific swordfish in the area north of 20⁰ N latitude. 

101st Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission meeting 

  • Support the recommendations of the General Advisory Committee (GAC) to the U.S. Section to the IATTC and the Scientific Advisory Subcommittee (SAS) to the GAC. 

Other Issues 

  • Consistent with the IATTC SAS recommendation, support scientific studies to determine the stock boundaries of North Pacific striped marlin, noting the unassessed portion occurs in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This would help the U.S. to press for action to address the depleted status in both the eastern Pacific Ocean and Western and Central Pacific Ocean.  

Exempted Fishing Permits – Preliminary  

The Council made the following recommendations to NMFS on exempted fishing permit (EFP) applications submitted in 2023 and 2022 applications on which the Council had deferred a decision. 

  1. Do not issue EFPs to Mr. Hemstreet (Attachment 4) and Mr. Efhan (Attachment 5) for standard buoy gear in the Southern California Bight.  These applications were for the use of standard deep-set buoy gear (DSBG), which is now authorized under the HMS FMP. The applicants should instead obtain a DSBG-endorsed General HMS Permit, apply for a limited entry permit to fish in the Southern California Bight, or both. 
  1. Extend Mr. Nathan Perez’s night-set buoy gear (NSBG) EFP for another two years (Attachment 3). 
  1. Approve the 2022 PIER EFP application (Agenda Item I.3, Attachment 6) for Extended-Linked Buoy Gear with 100 percent observer coverage until NMFS determines enough data have been collected, with a minimum of 10 observed sets per vessel. 
  1. Do not issue EFPs for testing simultaneous deployment of more than 10 pieces of DSBG or NSBG, including those applications submitted to the Council in 2022 for this purpose, which the Council deferred a recommendation on, and the application from Perez, Krebs, and Mintz considered at the June 2023 meeting (Attachment 1) until the authorized fishery has been operational for two seasons. 

In addition, for consideration at the September 2023 Council Meeting, the Council requested Mr. Krebs clarify that his request (see Attachment 2) is for his own EFP rather than a modification of another EFP.  

Drift Gillnet Bycatch Performance Report

The Council thanked the HMS Management Team for its report (J.4.a, Supplemental HMSMT Report 1). The HMSMT Report showed that in 2021 humpback whale take exceeded the monitoring threshold established by the Council, based on two observed takes. The Council will continue to monitor estimated bycatch to assess whether mitigation measures are warranted, recognizing that the fishery is currently scheduled to permanently close by the end of 2027. 

Swordfish Fishery Management Workshop – Scoping  

The Council acknowledged that the Swordfish Monitoring and Management Plan (SMMP) still has value but requires significant revision. Therefore, a new document should be developed to replace the SMMP that considers the range of species, in addition to swordfish, that have been economically important in the large mesh drift gillnet fishery. Because this fishery is slated to close, new fishing opportunities must be explored. This could be facilitated by developing priorities and methods for future EFPs.  

To begin designing a potential workshop to further these objectives, the Council directed its HMSMT and HMSAS to hold a joint session coincident with the September Council meeting. In planning a workshop, these advisory bodies should consider as topics changes to plan goals reflecting the change in its scope, the design of EFPs addressing revised goals, transition of drift gillnet fishery participants to new gear types, timing and location of a workshop to facilitate stakeholder participation, and how an outside facilitator could help in the design and execution of such a workshop. 

Administrative Matters  

Council and Process Efficiencies  

 The Council considered the staff proposal to merge the Council’s grant renewal process with the Council and Process Efficiencies topic. This would involve staff analysis that examines process and structural changes the Council may wish to make to address the need to balance the Council’s budget alongside the development of the next grant, a process that will occur throughout 2024. As part of this agenda topic, the Council agreed to schedule a committee-of-the-whole to discuss any changes to Council process and structure in early 2024. Council advisory bodies and the public will have continued opportunities to weigh in on this topic in the fall of 2023 and much of 2024.  

Marine Planning Update 

 The Council considered several Marine Planning issues related to offshore wind energy development.  Based on recommendations included in the Marine Planning Committee’s Supplemental Report 2, the Council directed staff to develop a quick response letter to the five California offshore wind Lessees, requesting that the Council be included in the audience for communications, outreach, and reporting. The letter will also encourage continued engagement between the Council, Lessees, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and will remind Lessees of the significant concerns about deployment and the importance of removing survey-related equipment that could represent a hazard to fishing gears.   

The Council heard a verbal update from BOEM Pacific Region Director Doug Boren, who emphasized BOEM’s commitment to continued engagement with the Council. He also said that BOEM is in the process of developing responses to recent letters the Council has sent to BOEM. John Hansen, Director of the West Coast Ocean Alliance (WCOA), also provided a verbal update.  WCOA, which is the designated Regional Ocean Partnership (ROP) for the Pacific Coast, has initiated a strategic planning process, is planning an October ROP meeting and Tribal workshop, and is planning an offshore wind summit at some point in the future. 

Fiscal Matters

The Council approved a 2023 calendar year operating budget of $5,898.682. 

Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures (COP)

The Council’s membership roster was updated as described in the Situation Summary.  Additionally, the following appointments were made:  

  • The Council appointed Mr. Christian Heath to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife position on the Groundfish Management Team. 
  • The Council appointed Mr. Clayton Wraith to the Commercial Troll position on the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel. 
  • Chair Gorelnik appointed Mr. Chris Oliver to the Parliamentarian position on the Council. 

Mr. Brad Pettinger will serve as Council Chair and Mr. Pete Hassemer will serve as Council Vice-Chair for the August 11, 2023 to August 10, 2024 term. 

Solicitations for the 2022-2024 Term 

The Council is soliciting nominations for the following positions. Applications should be submitted via JotForm by 5 PM on Monday, August 7, 2023

Continuation of the Ad-Hoc Marine Planning Committee 

The Council considered the existing form and function of the Ad-Hoc Marine Planning Committee and agreed to continue the committee for another two years without making any changes.  

Changes to Council Operating Procedures and Professional Conduct 

The Council adopted modifications to COP 1-4 and 6 to reflect current hybrid meeting practices for public comment registration, motions, and voting procedures (Attachment 5).  

The Council adopted staff recommendations for promoting a respectful and harassment-free environment, as detailed in Attachment 6. Measures include revisions to the COPs that allow the Council to remove advisory body members when they fail to adhere to proper decorum and show respect to Council participants. The COP will also state that the Council will not tolerate harassment or retaliation against those who report harassment. The Council requested improvements to the harassment reporting and investigation process, including the development of an anonymous reporting system. The Council adopted Ground Rules, with modifications proposed by the SAS, to govern advisory body meetings and requested that advisory bodies prepare committee-specific Operational Guidelines. The Intent to Serve form will also be modified to outline expectations surrounding conduct during Council-sponsored meetings (online and in-person), noting the expectations apply for the duration of travel for such meetings, including when the meeting is in recess.  The Council requested further development of materials including examples of harassment, a code of conduct, and a statement of intent regarding protections for vulnerable individuals to increase retention of Council participants.  The Council also expressed their intent to require harassment prevention and reporting training for Council members, staff, and advisory body members.