March 2024 Decision Summary Document

March 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.  

Salmon Management

Review of 2023 Fisheries and Summary of 2024 Stock Forecasts

The Council adopted the stock abundances, overfishing limits, acceptable biological catches, and annual catch limits as presented in the 2024 Preseason Report I, for use in 2024 salmon management.  The Council also received an update on salmon stock status and noted changes based on information reported in the Review of 2023 Ocean Salmon Fisheries.  For Chinook stock status Klamath River fall Chinook and Queets spring/summer Chinook continue to meet the criteria for overfished status.  Based on spawner escapement estimates for 2020-2022, Queets natural coho and Strait of Juan de Fuca natural coho now meet the criteria for rebuilt status (declared overfished in 2028).

Chinook20202021202220233-yr Geo meanMSSTSMSYStatusComment
Sacramento Fall138,091105,58461,862133,63895,56991,500122,000RebuiltNo change, rebuilt in 2021. 
Klamath River Fall26,18529,94221,95641,62330,13430,52540,700OverfishedNo change, overfished since 2018.
Queets – Sp/Su342280434NA346350700OverfishedNo change, overfished since 2022.
Coho20202021202220233-yr Geo meanMSSTSMSYStatusComment
Queets4,1815,75212,083NA6,6244,3505,800RebuiltChange to rebuilt in 2023, pending NMFS confirmation.
Juan de Fuca8,54820,83716,977NA14,4617,00011,000RebuiltChange to rebuilt in 2023, pending NMFS confirmation.
Snohomish42,67597,52385,692NA70,91531,00050,000RebuiltNo change, rebuilt in 2022.

Klamath River Fall Chinook Workgroup Report and 2024 Management Options – Final Guidance

The Klamath River Fall Chinook Workgroup provided a range of options for Council consideration that would affect the management measures for Klamath River fall Chinook.  The options were designed to offer additional protection to these Chinook stocks in light of their current status as overfished and the impacts to the in-river environment caused by the dam removal project currently underway in the Klamath River. 

Based on the 2024 forecast, the maximum exploitation rate allowed under the Pacific Salmon Fishery Management Plan is 25 percent.  The Council adopted a 20 percent buffer to that rate, which reduced the maximum exploitation rate to 20 percent.  2024 fisheries will be planned to manage Klamath River fall Chinook at an exploitation rate of no more than 20 percent.

Adopt 2024 Management Alternatives for Public Review

The Council adopted for public review three management measure alternatives for the 2024 ocean commercial and recreational salmon fisheries beginning May 16. The Council also adopted three alternatives proposed by the Tribes for 2024 treaty Indian ocean salmon fisheries. Details of the alternatives can be found on the PFMC 2024-2025 upcoming season management website. The Council is scheduled to adopt final 2024 ocean salmon regulations at its April 2024 Council meeting.  The Oregon and California alternatives included inseason actions that were taken during the Council meeting to modify fisheries previously scheduled to occur prior to May 16, 2024.

In 2024, salmon ocean season north of Cape Falcon, Oregon may be structured similar to past years, but coho opportunity is likely to be reduced due to the lower forecasted abundance.  Off the Oregon coast south of Cape Falcon, seasons will likely be a mixed bag when compared to last year, with lower coho abundance and slightly higher Chinook abundance.  Ocean salmon seasons off the coast of California may offer some opportunity compared to the full closure last year, but any fisheries that occur will be managed with quotas and vessel limits to help assure conservation objectives are met for California salmon stocks. 

Appoint Hearings Officers

The Council appointed officers and reviewed plans for the 2024 public salmon hearings.  The Washington and California hearings are scheduled in-person for Monday, March 25, and the Oregon hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26 and will be held online.  Public comment will be accepted in person at each hearing and can also be submitted electronically via the E-portal in advance of the April Council meeting. 

 Cross Fishery Management Plan  

Office of National Marine Sanctuaries: Coral Restoration and Research Plan – Range of Alternatives and Preliminary Preferred Alternative

The Council adopted a Range of Alternatives for the purposes of coral research and restoration, that includes three areas within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Ano Nuevo, Ascension Canyon, and Sur Ridge) that would be closed to groundfish commercial bottom contact gears. The alternatives are further described in Agenda Item E.2, Attachment 1, with the modifications described in Agenda Item E.2.a, Supplemental EC Report 1. The Council directed staff to work with NMFS and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to confirm details of the modified areas (e.g., coordinates and depth), conduct any additional analysis, and provide the alternatives for final action at the June 2024 meeting.

Marine Planning

The Council approved sending a comment letter (E.3, Supplemental Attachment 1) on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) related to the issuance of wind energy leases off the Southern Oregon Coast.  The Council also directed the Marine Planning Committee to draft a quick response comment letter for Council Consideration on the California Energy Commission’s Assembly Bill 525 (AB 525) Draft Strategic Plan for Offshore Wind Development, and directed Council Staff to reach out to partner agencies and organizations to explore who might partner and/or lead an effort to develop a coast-wide long-term cumulative effects analysis, as described in Supplemental MPC Report 2.

Groundfish Management 

Consideration of Additional California Quillback Rockfish Analyses and Adopt Rebuilding Analysis

The Council adopted the California quillback rockfish rebuilding analysis, as described in Agenda Item F.2, Attachment 1, with Appendix B removed.  The rebuilding analysis specifies resulting scientific rebuilding parameters (Tmin = 2045, Tmax = 2071, mean generation time = 26 years).  Prior to adoption, the Council considered the additional review of November 2023 public comment by Dr. Ray Hilborn and Dr. Mark Maunder regarding the 2021 quillback rockfish stock assessment and rebuilding analyses conducted in 2023 based on the assessment.  

Initial Stock Assessment Plan and Terms of Reference

The Council adopted the following preliminary list of species, assessment type, and anticipated assessment area(s) for 2025 groundfish stock assessments.  

SpeciesAssessment TypeAnticipated Assessment Area(s)
Quillback rockfish off CaliforniaBenchmarkSouth of 42° N. Lat.
Rougheye/Blackspotted rockfishBenchmarkCoastwide
Yellowtail rockfishBenchmark (both) or Benchmark (South) & Update (North)Coastwide, or North of 40° 10’ N. lat. South of 40° 10’ N. lat.
Chilipepper rockfishBenchmark or Data moderateCoastwide
Widow rockfishUpdateCoastwide
Petrale soleBenchmarkCoastwide
Yelloweye rockfishBenchmark or UpdateCoastwide
English soleData moderateCoastwide
Canary rockfishCatch-only updateCoastwide
Shortspine thornyheadCatch-only updateCoastwide

The Council adopted the following preliminary list of species, assessment type, and anticipated assessment area(s) for potential 2027 groundfish stock assessments.

SpeciesAssessment TypeAnticipated Assessment Area(s)
Pacific spiny dogfish sharkBenchmarkCoastwide
Vermilion/Sunset rockfishTBDMultiple Areas
Petrale sole (if not done in 2025)BenchmarkCoastwide
Yelloweye rockfish (if not done in 2025)TBDCoastwide
Slope rockfish species (TBD)TBDCoastwide

In addition, the Council adopted three draft 2025-2026 Terms of Reference (TOR) for public review: 1.) a TOR for the groundfish stock assessment review process (Supplemental Attachment 5), incorporating recommendations from the Groundfish Management Team (GMT) in Agenda Item F.3.a Supplemental GMT Report 1, 2.) a TOR for developing groundfish rebuilding analysis (Supplemental Attachment 6), and 3.) a TOR for groundfish and coastal pelagic species methodology reviews (Supplemental Attachment 7).  The Council is scheduled to further refine the proposed species for assessment when they finalize groundfish stock assessment planning and Terms of Reference at their June 2024 meeting.

Implementation of the 2024 Pacific Whiting Fishery under the U.S./Canada Agreement

Mr. Phil Anderson briefed the Council on the Pacific Hake/Whiting Agreement process’s outcomes. The United States and Canada came to agreement on the coastwide Pacific hake/whiting total allowable catch (TAC) of 550,000 mt, of which, the United States TAC is 410,034 mt. No action was taken by the Council.

Fixed Gear Marking and Entanglement Risk Reduction– Preliminary Preferred Alternative

The Council adopted the following as Preliminary Preferred Alternative for fixed gear marking and entanglement risk reduction:

Buoy Marking- Alternative 1, Suboption 1b, gear-specific buoy marking with cattle ear tags, as modified by the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel (GAP) (Agenda Item F.6, Supplemental GAP Report 1, March 2024) to have gear-specific tags on every buoy, including vessel identification information.

Line Marking- Alternative 1, gear-specific line marking with the following specifications:

Portion of line marked: A.1, vertical line

Distance of mark: B.2 At least top 20 fm

Method of marking: C.1 Manufactured line

Transition period: D.1, No transition, manufactured line required upon implementation

Surface Gear Limitation

Alternative 1: Fixed gear vessels are only required to use surface gear (buoys and flags) attached on one terminal end of the groundline.

Surface Line Length Restriction:

Alternative 1, suboption b: Limit the amount of surface line permitted for fixed gears to a maximum length of 10 fm

Escape Panel Regulations: Add clarification to escape panel regulations to prohibit panel placement at bottom of pot, with exception for slinky pots (which do not have a bottom).

The Council also continued to request that NMFS develop a Best Practices Guide and coordinate with GAP and Enforcement Consultants.

Additionally, the Council also gave guidance to staff to modify the purpose and need to consider the benefits of entanglements from other fisheries not being attributed  to the groundfish fishery, modify the range of alternatives for temporary line markings as described in Agenda Item F.6.a, Supplemental REVISED NMFS Report 1, March 2024, and direct staff to work with West Coast Dungeness crab fishery managers to identify line and buoy tag color and shapes that are unique to the Federal fixed gear groundfish fishery

2025-26 Fisheries Analysis Update and Adopt California Quillback Rockfish Harvest Specifications and Rebuilding Parameters

The Council gave guidance to the GMT regarding their questions to facilitate completion of their over-winter analyses of proposed management measures for the 2025-26 biennium. The Council’s guidance directed the GMT to conduct no further analysis or develop management measures for petrale sole. They also noted the current range of allocation analyses for canary and widow rockfishes was sufficient. The Council instructed the GMT to prioritize further analysis of the shortspine thornyhead new management measure (Agenda Item F.7.a, Supplemental GMT Report 3, March 2024) as supported by the GAP in their statement (Agenda Item F.7.a, Supplemental GAP Report 1, March 2024). Additionally, the Council directed the GMT to include their analyses of the new management measures for sorting requirements and continuous transit in the Exclusive Economic Zone in the 2025-26 Harvest Specifications and Management Measures analytical document for the April Council meeting. The Council directed the GMT to not move forward with a sablefish discard mortality rate in the recreational fishery analysis in this process, but to add it to the Groundfish Workload and New Management Measures process for future consideration. Additionally, the Council directed staff to make corrections to tables of discard mortality rates for canary, yelloweye, and cowcod in the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation document as detailed in Agenda Item F.7.a, Supplemental GMT Report 4, March 2024.

The Council adopted a range of 2025-2026 harvest specifications for quillback rockfish off of California, as recommended by the GMT in Table 1, as described in Agenda Item E.7.a, Supplemental GMT Report 1 November 2023, with the technical correction to the 2026 specification as noted in Agenda Item F.7.a, Supplemental SSC Report 1. These rebuilding strategies include F=0, which represents no fishing mortality, and the acceptable biological catch (ABC) rule where the ABC is set equal to management risk tolerance (P*) and the scientific uncertainty (sigma) reduction is applied to the overfishing limit.  The range of harvest specifications associated with these rebuilding strategies will be included in analysis for the April Council meeting.

Table 1. Quillback rockfish off California rebuilding strategies adopted in March 2024, with the associated range of 2025-2026 harvest specifications for analysis.   

 F=0ABC Rule
2021 assumed removals (mt)15.58
2022 assumed removals (mt)18.11
2023 assumed removals (mt)11.12
2024 assumed removals (mt)10.62
2025 OFL/ACL1.52/01.52/1.3
2026 OFL/ACL1.81/01.77/1.5
Probability of recovery by Tmax0.9990.736

Inseason Adjustments – Final Action

The Council adopted a suite of inseason changes at this meeting, addressing the California recreational fishery and a management line adjustment. In Federal waters off of California, the Council recommended Option 2, with a 2-fish vermilion rockfish sub-bag limit south of 40° 10’ N. lat. as recommended by the GAP in Agenda Item F.8.a, Supplemental GAP Report 1, March 2024 and detailed in Agenda Item F.8.a, Supplemental CDFW Report 2, March 2024.

The Council acknowledged that there was an error in minor shelf rockfish complex Limited Entry Fixed Gear south of 40° 10′ N. lat and Open Access south trip limits of 40° 10′ N. lat. as shown on pages 1 and 2 of  F.8.a Supplemental GMT Report 1 March 2024.  NMFS will correct these errors.

The Council also recommended adjusting the Non-trawl Rockfish Conservation Area boundary from as detailed in F.8.a, Supplemental GMT Report 1 March 2024 as ‘Option 1.’ In brief, this modification will move the shoreward boundary of the Non-Trawl Rockfish Conservation Area between 37° 07′ N. lat. and 36° N. lat. to 50 fm. As a result, the trip limits for the following stocks and stock complexes will revert to what they were prior to the September and November 2023 inseason actions. The revised trip limits for Limited Entry Fixed Gear and Open Access sectors are detailed in F.8.a, Supplemental GMT Report 1, March 2024 pages 7 and 8, noting the Council adopted the status quo option for cabezon, minor shallow, and minor deeper rockfish.

Pacific Halibut Management

Incidental Catch Recommendations: Options for Salmon Troll and Final Action for Fixed Gear Sablefish Fisheries

The Council adopted three alternatives for incidental halibut retention in the 2024 and early 2025 salmon troll fishery after hearing from the Salmon Advisory Subpanel and the public.  Each alternative included a landing and possession limit of one halibut for every two Chinook, plus one additional halibut in excess of the possession/landing ratio. The possession/landing limit per trip ranged from 25 to 35 halibut among the three options. The Council is scheduled to adopt a final alternative at its April meeting.

The Council’s final recommendation for the 2024 incidental halibut catch restrictions in the fixed gear fishery north of Point Chehalis beginning April 1 is 130 pounds of dressed weight halibut for every 1,000 pounds dressed weight of sablefish, plus 2 additional halibut in excess of the ratio, which was consistent with the GAP recommendations.

Ecosystem Management

California Current Ecosystem Status Report

The Council endorsed the Scientific and Statistical Committee’s (SSC) review of ecosystem science topics requested by the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Team. This entails a meeting of the SSC’s Ecosystem Subcommittee later in 2024. Topics to be reviewed are new prey indicators and development of risk tables and their applications in support of Fishery Ecosystem Plan Initiative 4. The latter review would include the development of risk tables for selected salmon stocks based on salmon stoplight charts currently presented in the Annual Ecosystem Status Report. The Council also noted potential improvements to the Report enumerated in advisory body reports and encouraged the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Team to take these into consideration when producing future Reports.

Fishery Ecosystem Plan Initiative 4 – Progress Review

The Council directed its Ad Hoc Ecosystem Workgroup (EWG) to work with NMFS Science Center staff to further develop the methodological framework for risk tables and apply it to groundfish (see Agenda Item H.2.a, Supplemental EWG Report 2, request #1.) This work should include a retrospective analysis of how risk tables would have impacted decision-making based on past groundfish stock assessments. Depending on the outcome of this work, the Council could consider using risk tables for sablefish and petrale sole as part of 2027-2028 groundfish harvest specifications decision-making, based on the most recent stock assessments for those stocks. If development of risk tables for additional groundfish stocks is considered, they should not be developed for data-limited species or groups at this time. As part of developing the risk table methodology, their application should be broadened to include selected salmon stocks as described in Agenda Item H.2.a, Supplemental HC Report 1. The results of this work will be reviewed by the SSC Ecosystem Subcommittee over the summer so that results can be reported at the September Council meeting.

Climate and Communities Initiative Review and Prioritize Tasks

The Council noted links between ideas generated from the Climate and Communities Initiative scenario planning process (summarized by the Ecosystem Workgroup (EWG) in Agenda Item H.3.a, EWG Report 1) and projects for which the Council has requested Inflation Reduction Act funding to conduct, which were flagged in several advisory body reports. It recommended that these priorities be revisited once Inflation Reduction Act funding has been secured and endorsed the EWG’s proposal to convene a meeting among Council advisory bodies, relevant Science Center staff, relevant Regional Center staff, and Council staff for this purpose.

Highly Migratory Species Management

Highly Migratory Species Roadmap Workshop – Final Planning

The Council adopted final highly migratory species (HMS) Roadmap goals and provided direction on the HMS Roadmap workshop. The workshop will be held June 6-7, 2024, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Mission Valley, San Diego, California. This is the same location as the June 8-13th Council meeting. The Council set the goal of the workshop as developing a streamlined and flexible Council exempted fishing permit strategy to support innovation in fishing practices for HMS fisheries.

Administrative Matters 

Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures

The Council instructed the Executive Director, in consultation with the Council Chair, to establish interim appointments rather than solicit nominations to fill vacant seats for the rest of the 2022-2024 term. This approach will allow interested individuals to gain experience in the process before applying for the upcoming term. 

In June 2024, the Council is scheduled to review the composition of all term-limited Advisory Body positions (Scientific and Statistical Committee at-large positions; Habitat Committee tribal, industry, conservation, and at-large positions; and all Advisory Subpanel positions) and adopt proposed changes for public review (see Council Operating Procedure 9, Schedule 6). In September 2024, the Council is scheduled to adopt the final compositions of term-limited Advisory Body positions and request nominations to fill the next three-year term (2025-2027). Appointments are scheduled to be made in November 2024.