Fact Sheet: Annual catch limits and other management thresholds

The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires annual catch limits and other management thresholds for all actively managed stocks and stock complexes. The terms and reference points used in the Pacific Council’s harvest management frameworks are described below. 

Common acronyms

MSY     Maximum sustainable yield. A long-term average yield usually estimated in a stock assessment.
OY        Optimum yield. Long-term average amount of desired yield from a stock, complex, or fishery. OY considers overall benefits to the nation, including economic factors.
OFLOverfishing limit. Best estimate of the maximum amount of a stock that can be caught in a year without resulting in overfishing.
ABCAcceptable biological catch. An annual catch level that considers scientific uncertainty.
ACLAnnual catch limit. The amount of fish that can be harvested annually.
AMAccountability measure(s). Measures to ensure a harvest stays within its ACL.
ACTAnnual catch target. A target that accounts for management uncertainty.
HGHarvest guideline. A harvest target for a sector or sectors, a region, or any other subset of the fishery for any particular fishing season.

Maximum sustainable yield

A long-term average yield usually estimated in a stock assessment

Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is the maximum catch that can be harvested from a fishery on a continuing basis under prevailing conditions. If a stock or stock complex is harvested on a continuing basis at MSY (corresponds to “fishing mortality at MSY,” denoted by FMSY), its abundance will approach a long-term average biomass (“biomass at MSY,” or BMSY), at which it will fluctuate.

MSY, FMSY and BMSY should be estimated for each actively managed stock based on the best scientific information available. When there is not enough quality data to make good estimates, or when there is great uncertainty in these estimates, these values are assumed using “proxies.” Proxy FMSY and BMSY reference points are currently used for all West Coast groundfish stocks.

Optimum yield

Considers the overall benefit to the nation, including economic factors

Optimum yield (OY) is the long-term average amount of fish that will provide the greatest overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems. OY is prescribed on the basis of the MSY from the fishery, as reduced by any relevant economic, social, or ecological factor. In other words, OY is the amount of desired yield from a stock, complex, or fishery. The OY cannot exceed the MSY, and must be achieved while preventing overfishing. If a fishery is already overfished, the OY must provide for rebuilding to a level consistent with producing the MSY. Councils must specify OYs in their fishery management plans.

Overfishing limit

The most fish that can be caught in a year without overfishing

The overfishing limit (OFL) is the maximum amount of a stock that can be caught in a year without resulting in overfishing. Groundfish OFLs for assessed stocks are typically determined by multiplying the estimated abundance of the exploitable biomass of a stock by the FMSY harvest rate.  There are also methods for determining OFLs for unassessed stocks. Setting OFLs is a scientific (as opposed to policy) determination made by the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). OFLs are set for every actively managed stock or stock complex.

Acceptable biological catch

Measures scientific uncertainty

The acceptable biological catch (ABC) is an annual catch level recommended by the SSC based on the OFL. The ABC considers the uncertainty in estimating the OFL and, under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan, is always less than the OFL. An annual catch limit cannot exceed the ABC. In general, the more scientific uncertainty there is in estimating the OFL, the bigger the difference between the ABC and OFL.

An ABC control rule is a specified approach to calculate the ABC for a stock. It is established by the Council with advice from its SSC. The SSC’s recommendation for ABC should be based on the control rule, although exceptions are allowed if they are well-justified. The P* ABC control rule is the most common ABC rule used by the Pacific Council (see details below).

P* (P-star) and σ (sigma): The risk of overfishing

P* (the probability of overfishing) is a value that equates to the risk of exceeding the OFL. A high P* of 0.5 means there is a 50% risk of overfishing and, when applied to set the ABC, determines an ABC equal to the OFL (which is not allowed for Council-managed groundfish). A low P* of 0.1 means a 10% risk of overfishing.

The ABC buffer is calculated by applying the P* to a biomass variance (σ); high sigmas coupled with low P*s determine larger ABC buffers. The SSC determines the sigma, which varies by the category of stock. Stocks are categorized by the level of uncertainty in determining the OFL; higher sigmas are specified for stocks with greater uncertainty. The P* value is a policy determination made by the Council reflecting their preferred level of risk tolerance in setting an overall harvest level for the stock or stock complex. The highest P* allowed for groundfish is 0.45.

Annual catch limit

The total catch limit for an actively managed stock or stock complex

The annual catch limit (ACL) is the amount of total catch (i.e., landings + discard mortalities) specified for an actively-managed stock or stock complex. The ACL can be set equal to or less than the ABC. The ACL accounts for all sources of fishing-related mortality including catches in research activities. The Council sets the ACL based on conservation concerns (e.g., rebuilding objectives), socioeconomic considerations, ecological considerations, and/or the preferred level of risk in harvesting the stock or stock complex. Inseason management of the fishery is done to prevent exceeding an ACL, including early closure of the fishery, if inseason catch monitoring projects early attainment of an ACL.

Accountability measures

Ensure harvest stays within an ACL

Accountability measures are management controls that prevent ACLs from being exceeded. They can also correct an overage (over-harvest) of an ACL if it occurs.

Accountability measures fall into two categories: inseason catch monitoring and fishery adjustments, and other measures specified before the start of a fishing season to reduce the risk of exceeding an ACL.

Inseason adjustments are restrictions that can be put in place during the fishing season and are designed to keep a catch limit from being exceeded. They are usually short-term and can include seasonal adjustments, trip or bag limits, area closures, or temporary closure of the fishery.

Accountability measures can also be triggered if an ACL is exceeded. These are restrictions put in place to address the cause of the initial overage and prevent it from happening again. They can involve modifications to management measures decided during a fishing season (i.e., inseason adjustments) or precautionary management measures (e.g., annual catch targets) specified for the following fishing season to account for the previous season’s catch overage.

Annual catch target

A management target accounting for management uncertainty

The annual catch target (ACT) is an accountability measure and is the amount of annual catch of a stock or stock complex that is the management target of the fishery. A stock or stock complex’s ACT, when specified, is less than the ACL and is either sector-specific (i.e., a sector’s allocation of the ACL) or a catch level less than the ACL to account for management uncertainty. Designation of an ACT is not required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Harvest guideline

A season’s harvest

Harvest guideline is another accountability measure and is a harvest target for a sector or sectors, a region, or any other subset of the fishery for any particular fishing season. Harvest guidelines are used to allocate the allowable harvest of a stock or stock complex by time, area, or sector as needed to provide equitable and sustainable harvest opportunities to affected fishing sectors and fishing communities.

All U.S. fisheries have a similar harvest management framework in place. The Pacific Council describes its harvest management framework in Amendment 16 of the salmon fishery management plan, Amendment 9 of the coastal pelagic species fishery management plan, Amendment 23 of the groundfish fishery management plan, and Amendment 2 of the highly migratory species fishery management plan.


Table showing relationship between harvest specifications and management measures

Success in preventing overfishing also requires keeping management and scientific uncertainty in the measurements to a minimum. As scientific information improves, scientific uncertainty decreases. As reporting of catches becomes more accurate, and fishery controls become more effective, management uncertainty also decreases with less need for specifying accountability measures.

Compiled from several sources, including “Preventing Overfishing,” a website developed by NOAA (www.preventoverfishing.com).

Fact Sheet: Overfishing and rebuilding

Currently the Council is rebuilding one groundfish stock: yelloweye rockfish.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act, or MSA (the primary legislation that governs fishery management) requires that every Council end overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks. Therefore, if a Council-managed species is overfished or is being overfished, the Council must reduce catches to a level that allows the population to rebuild to a healthy size

The terms “overfishing” and “overfished” are defined in the MSA. While stocks may decline for reasons other than fishing (for example, habitat loss or environmental factors), at this point these terms are still used to indicate the status of the stock.

Stock status determinations

The amount of fishing a stock can sustain depends on its productivity. When no fishing takes place, productivity is actually lower because growth and mortality of the stock are roughly balanced.

As the size of the stock, or biomass, approaches maximum sustainable yield (designated BMSY), the stock becomes more productive because there is less competition for resources. At this point the stock actually generates more fish than are needed to replace fish that die of natural causes. Most fish populations can be fished well below their unfished biomass level (the stock size if fishing never occurred) and still be sustained and capable of returning to their unfished status. For a very productive stock, BMSY can be a small fraction of the unfished biomass.

One of the main goals of fishery management is to keep stocks around BMSY. If the population falls below that level, productivity can decrease because there aren’t as many fish reproducing. Abundance indicators are in place to help managers understand the stock’s status, or the health of the spawning population. If a population starts to fall below a certain level, these indicators can trigger a precautionary reduction in harvest (for example, annual catch limits).

If a stock is undergoing overfishing or is overfished, National Marine Fisheries Service declares a stock status change and the Council must develop measures to help ensure the stock can return to a healthy state. If a stock is declared overfished, then a rebuilding plan is required. Rebuilding plans outline measures to be taken until the stock is rebuilt.


Overfishing occurs when the level of harvest or fishing-related mortality is too high compared to the estimated population size (BMSY). The gauge to determine if a stock is subject to overfishing is called the maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT), and is typically described as a harvest or exploitation rate. If stock has exceeded MFMT in a given year, then it has been subject to overfishing. If overfishing continues and the population is driven too low, the stock may become overfished.


A fish stock is “overfished” when its population size (in terms of spawning biomass) falls below a certain level or threshold. The minimum stock size threshold (MSST) is commonly used to determine if a stock is overfished and is typically set at half of BMSY. In the case of salmon, MSST is the number of adult spawners associated with MSY (SMSY). Stocks can become overfished due to overfishing, but that is not always the case. In salmon management, a stock is considered overfished if the three-year geometric mean of spawning escapement is less than MSST.


After a stock has been declared overfished and the population begins to improve, the status changes from “overfished” to “rebuilding” once the stock reaches MSST, but has not yet regained BMSY or SMSY. This shows the population is making progress towards meeting the rebuilding goals. 


A stock is considered “rebuilt” when the population meets or exceeds BMSY, or, in the case of salmon, when spawning escapement exceeds the three-year geometric mean of SMSY.

Rebuilding Plans

Rebuilding plans direct the process of rebuilding overfished species. There are three important aspects to rebuilding: the abundance of the spawning stock, the time needed to rebuild the stock, and the rate of fishing that allows the stock to increase to the target level (BMSY or SMSY). A rebuilding plan prescribes the management measures and strategy that will be used to rebuild the fish stock. Often, the conditions triggering the stock’s low abundance are environmental, yet the Council must do what it can to help the stock rebuild.

Certain elements of rebuilding plans are pre-determined at the national level. For example, time limits for rebuilding are set out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Council is able to choose a fishing mortality rate, the corresponding annual level of fishing, and the duration of the rebuilding plan within the statutory limits. When developing a rebuilding plan, the Council must also take into consideration the needs of the tribal, commercial, and recreational fishing interests and the economic importance of the fisheries to coastal communities.

Rebuilding Time Frame

Two boundaries, called TMIN and TMAX, are used to determine the amount of time required to rebuild a stock (the T stands for time). The minimum boundary (TMIN) is set by calculating how long the stock would take to rebuild if no fish were caught. This depends on life history traits affecting the productivity of the stock. TMAX is the maximum allowable time for stock rebuilding. It is set by Federal law, and must be no more than 10 years if the stock is capable of rebuilding that quickly. Otherwise, the statutory maximum time to rebuild (TMAX) is determined based on calculating the minimum time to rebuild (TMIN) plus one mean generation time. Mean generation time is the estimated time it takes a spawning female to be replaced by a spawning female in the next generation.

Rebuilding analyses

The Council relies on rebuilding analyses, which provide estimates of the time to rebuild under different harvest strategies.

Rebuilding analyses typically describe rebuilding in terms of probability, or the likelihood the stock will rebuild under varying time intervals. Probability is also a measure of risk. If a particular course of action is less likely to produce the desired outcome, it may be considered riskier.

The rebuilding analyses that the Council uses to determine rebuilding harvest policies estimate the probability that the overfished stock will rebuild by TMAX or any other interval under a given harvest strategy. Rebuilding probabilities inform a crucial policy choice: lower harvest levels result in a higher probability that the stock will rebuild in time, and vice versa.

The median time to rebuild in a rebuilding analysis under any given harvest rate or strategy is the year predicted to have a 50% probability that the stock will reach BMSY by this year. The Council usually uses the median time to rebuild as the target year (TTARGET) in formulating its policy recommendation, as long as it’s no greater than TMAX. By court precedent and national policy, rebuilding probabilities cannot be less than 50%.

Balancing tradeoffs

Rebuilding a stock is a tradeoff between sharply reducing catches in the short term to rebuild a stock quickly, or allowing more catch and waiting longer for a stock to rebuild.

In finding a balance between rebuilding stocks quickly and allowing some fishing opportunities during rebuilding, the Council is limited by the biology of the stock and by national policy. All other things being equal, a stock will rebuild fastest if there is no fishing at all, but this would be hard on fishing communities, and the Council is required to take community impacts into account.

Choosing a timeframe can be difficult and controversial. If managers choose a very early target date (only a few years after the lower time limit, TMIN), then almost all fishing may have to cease in order for the stock to recover. Catch limits may be too low to allow access to co-mingled, healthy target stocks. On the other hand, if managers opt for a target year far in the future (very close to the upper time limit, TMAX), it will take longer to realize the economic and ecological benefits of a rebuilt stock.

Fact Sheet: National Environmental Policy Act

NEPA, or the National Environmental Policy Act, was enacted in 1970. NEPA is a major environmental law which applies whenever Federal funds (your tax dollars) are used on a proposed project, such as removing a dam. Conservation and management of a renewable resource (for example, managing a fishery) must also abide by NEPA rules.

NEPA [42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.] establishes national environmental policy and goals for the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the environment and provides a process for implementing these goals within Federal agencies.

NEPA requirements

NEPA requires Federal agencies to disclose the environmental consequences of a proposed action, and to investigate and document alternatives to the proposed action. Agencies must make all relevant information available to the public, with opportunities for public comment before a decision is made.

The NEPA process

There are three levels of analysis under NEPA: determining whether a categorical exclusion applies; preparing an environmental assessment (EA) or finding of no significant impact (FONSI); and preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS).

Categorical Exclusion: An action may be categorically excluded from a detailed environmental analysis if a Federal agency has determined that it has no significant environmental impact. Many agencies have lists of actions that are categorically excluded from environmental evaluation under their NEPA regulations.

Environmental Assessment/FONSI: At the second level of analysis, a Federal agency prepares a written environmental assessment to determine whether or not an undertaking would significantly affect the environment. If the answer is no, the agency issues a “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, which may include measures to mitigate any impacts.

Environmental Impact Statement: An EIS is a more detailed evaluation of the proposed action and alternatives. If an agency expects a project to significantly impact the environment, and sometimes when a project is controversial, it may prepare an EIS without having to first prepare an EA.

The public, other agencies, and outside parties may provide input into the preparation of an EIS and then comment on the draft. After the final EIS is prepared and a decision is made, the agency must prepare a public record of its decision explaining how the findings of the EIS were incorporated into the decision‐making process.

Components of an environmental impact statement

The basic components of an EIS include:

  • Purpose and need of a proposed action (e.g., reduce overfishing of a rockfish)
  • Alternatives including the agency’s preferred alternative(end fishing altogether, allow a small amount of fishing, do nothing)
  • Affected environment (includes the fishermen, fishing communities, the resource, and the environment)
  • Environmental consequences (how will the action affect the economics of the fishery, the communities, the resource, etc.?)

The “no action” alternative

A “no action” or “status quo” alternative is required by NEPA and acts as a benchmark. For example, if the Council proposed to change how a fishery is managed, an EIS would need to document the consequences of  not taking action along with the proposed action and other reasonable alternatives.

Choosing an alternative

The NEPA process requires the Council to weigh many factors when choosing a preferred alternative. For example, the biological effects of catch limits must be weighed against the economic and social impacts to the participants of the fishery before the Council chooses a preferred alternative. However, National Standard 1 of the Magnuson‐Stevens Act directs the Council to choose alternatives that prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield.

NEPA and fisheries management

In order to simplify documentation for the public and decision‐makers, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the fishery management Councils have often combined fishery management plans, plan amendments, and proposed regulations and EISs into one integrated document. By including the four main requirements of NEPA (above) in an EIS, presenting the information to the public before a decision is made, and then presenting a preferred alternative based upon the research and public comment, NMFS and the Council will have made an informed decision, which is the goal of NEPA.

NEPA is just one of the many laws that apply to the fishery management process as dictated by the Magnuson‐Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (see our MSA fact sheet). Other laws include the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Executive Orders, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and Paperwork Reduction Act.

Why must the Council follow NEPA?

NMFS is the lead agency in implementing fishery management decisions, and takes responsibility for environmental documentation (although Council staff also contribute to NEPA analyses). Since NOAA is a Federal agency where Federal funds are used, NEPA is required.

NEPA and public involvement

Both NEPA and the Magnuson‐Stevens Act encourage public involvement. In creating an EIS, the Council holds public scoping meetings and public hearings that serve as opportunities for public comment. In addition, the process includes comment periods during which the Council is open to receive written comments concerning a specific management plan. Responses to public comments are incorporated and into the final EIS.

Before NEPA, Federal agencies weren’t necessarily required to disclose information to the public before performing an action. Now, because of NEPA, agencies often hold hearings and meetings that provide the public with an opportunity to get involved in the process. The public can comment on proposed management alternatives or propose new solutions that the agency might have overlooked in satisfying a purpose and need. The Council highly values this public input. For more information, see our fact sheet “Getting Involved.”

NEPA Contact: Kit Dahl

Fact Sheet: Marine Reserves

Marine Protected Areas

Diagram showing the difference between marine protected areas and other types of protected area

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are broadly defined as ocean, estuarine, or (in some cases) freshwater areas that have been designated to provide protections for natural or cultural resources. In the fisheries world, this typically means an MPA is designed to protected important habitat features, or to provide a refuge for marine species. The umbrella term of MPA includes related management areas such as marine reserves and fisheries conservation areas. MPAs do not inherently include any restrictions or management measures, although they almost always include some form of restrictions to protect the resources therein.

Marine reserves are a subset of MPAs, and are typically more restrictive, often including complete restrictions on fishing or removing natural resources (“no-take” marine reserves). Marine reserves can be designated to conserve sedentary species (those that stay in place) or to hedge against scientific uncertainty. They are particularly helpful for sedentary species that produce more offspring as they get older, like most rockfish. Fishery conservation areas are typically put in place to protect specific stocks or assemblages from fishing mortality. In both cases, they fall under the general definition of MPA, and are created for specific conservation purposes such as habitat protection or stock recovery.

MPAs have educational and research value as well as a conservation benefit. To successfully manage these resources, managers need better knowledge of the biology, habits, and behaviors of fish stocks and the ecosystems that support them. And public outreach and education efforts also serve to inform the public. The Marine Conservation Institute’s MPA Atlas includes a comprehensive list of MPAs around the world. The NOAA MPA Center also includes many MPA-related resources.

Flow chart showing marine protected area designation process

How does the Council use MPAs?

The Council employs several variations of MPAs, including areas closed for habitat protection, for species conservation, and for bycatch reduction. Most involve the groundfish fishery, since the gear used in that fishery is more likely to affect habitat than the gear used in other Council fisheries. Often, a closure designed for one purpose will have other benefits. For example, the Council’s bottom trawl rockfish conservation area (RCA) was designed to minimize mortality of overfished groundfish species. However, during the 16 years the bottom trawl RCA was in place, the habitats in those areas benefited from being largely untouched by bottom trawl gear. See the “Area Closures” fact sheet for a summary of closed areas developed by the Council and NMFS.

Essential Fish Habitat Conservation Areas (EFHCAs) are designed to protect benthic (ocean floor) habitats from groundfish bottom trawling or other bottom contact fishing gear. The configuration of EFHCAs was revised under Groundfish FMP Amendment 28. It includes the ‘bottom trawl footprint’ closure in waters deeper than 700 fathoms.

The Council’s deepwater closure uses the Council’s Federally-granted authority to close waters deeper than 3500 meters to all bottom contact groundfish gear, primarily to protect deep sea corals and sponges.

The Cowcod Conservation Area (CCA) is a large area in the Southern California Bight closed to bottom trawl fishing gear. It was designed to minimize mortality on cowcod after it was declared an overfished species.

State MPAs and Marine Reserves

Within the three-mile state waters boundary, coastal states have authority to establish MPAs, including marine reserves and no-take marine reserves. Numerous MPAs have been established in state waters all along the West Coast, including in Puget Sound, Washington. The purposes include research, species conservation, and protection of sensitive intertidal areas.

Council authority over MPAs

The Council’s authority over MPAs rests in its fishery management authorities under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary act that oversees fisheries management in the United States. Councils may close areas to certain fishing gears, establish seasonal closures, or take other actions for habitat protection or species conservation. Under the MSA, the Council proposes regulations for review, approval, and implementation by National Marine Fisheries Service.

While the Council can recommend the creation of MPAs under its MSA authority, it has limited ability to protect fish and habitat in the MPA from anything other than fishing impacts. For example, it does not control dredging, dumping, or other potentially damaging activities. However, the Council can comment to state and Federal agencies about actions that may harm marine reserve areas. One example would be if an agency wanted to issue a permit for dumping dredge materials in fish habitat.

Councils also have authority to recommend fisheries management measures in National Marine Sanctuaries when a sanctuary is established under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. National Marine Sanctuaries have broad authority to establish management measures and rules within the sanctuary boundaries, but they do not have authority to regulate fishing activities. The Pacific Council and the West Coast sanctuaries work cooperatively to share relevant information and address common issues when appropriate.

For more information on the Council’s consideration of marine reserves, please contact Kerry Griffin.

Fact Sheet: Groundfish

The fish

The Council’s Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) includes over 100 different species that, with a few exceptions, live on or near the bottom of the ocean. The FMP covers the following species:

  • Rockfish. All West Coast rockfish are included in the plan. This diverse group includes both commercially and recreationally important species such as widow, yellowtail, canary, blue, black, yelloweye, and vermilion rockfish, plus two species of thornyheads.
  • Flatfish. The plan covers 12 species of flatfish, including petrale sole, Dover sole, starry flounder, arrowtooth flounder, and Pacific sanddab.
  • Roundfish. The plan includes six species of roundfish: lingcod, cabezon, kelp greenling, Pacific cod, Pacific whiting (hake), and sablefish.
  • Sharks and skates: big skate, longnose skate, leopard shark, and spiny dogfish. 
  • Ecosystem component species. These species are not actively managed with annual catch limits, but they are monitored to ensure that harvest is not appreciably increasing. There are 12 ecosystem component species in the fishery management plan, including spotted ratfish, finescale codling, and all grenadier species that are endemic (unique to this area).

The fishery and gear

A spotted fish sitting on a rock
A lingcod

Many different types of gear are used to target the wide variety of groundfish managed by the Council. The dominant gears are trawl (net), longline, hook and line, and pots. The West Coast groundfish fishery is divided into five sectors:

  • Limited entry trawl. This sector is composed of fishermen with limited entry permits endorsed for trawl gear, including bottom and pelagic trawls. The limited entry program limits the number of vessels allowed to participate in this fishery. This sector uses a system of individual fishing quotas and harvest cooperatives.
  • Limited entry fixed gear. This sector includes harvesters with limited entry permits endorsed for line or pot/trap gears. This sector mainly targets sablefish, but may also target other groundfish species such as rockfish. Limited entry fixed gear permit holders with a sablefish endorsement may target sablefish during the primary season (April through October) to catch individual vessel limits of sablefish.
  • Open access. This sector of the groundfish fishery includes fishermen targeting groundfish without limited entry permits, and those who participate in non‐groundfish fisheries that incidentally catch groundfish.
  • Recreational. This sector includes anglers targeting groundfish species and others who target non‐groundfish species but who incidentally take groundfish under recreational gears and regulations. Each West Coast state manages its own recreational fisheries, but coordinates with the Council process.
  • Tribal. This sector is made up of tribal commercial fishers who have a federally recognized treaty right to fish for federally managed groundfish in their “usual and accustomed” fishing areas. These tribes, all located in Washington state, include the Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah. Formal allocations to these tribes exist for sablefish and Pacific whiting. Other groundfish species allocations for this sector are recommended in the Council biennial management process.

The management context

Groundfish are managed through a number of measures including harvest guidelines, quotas, trip and landing limits, area restrictions, seasonal closures, and gear restrictions. All sectors of the groundfish fishery are currently constrained by the need to rebuild groundfish species that are overfished and managed under rebuilding plans. Rebuilding plans specify the harvest control rules and target recovery years for these species. As of 2021, the only remaining species to rebuild is yelloweye rockfish. 

The Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan contains the rules for managing the groundfish fishery. It outlines the areas, species, regulations, and methods that the Council and the Federal government must follow to make changes to the fishery. The plan also creates guidelines for the biennial process of setting harvest levels. The three main processes used to regulate groundfish harvests are described below. Since these processes can take up to six months, they may be streamlined for some decisions.

The process for controversial or complex issues takes at least three Council meetings. Proposals for management measures may come from the public, from participating management agencies, from advisory groups, or from Council members. If the Council wants to pursue these proposals, it asks for other possible solutions to the problem being addressed and then directs the Groundfish Management Team (GMT), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and/or Council staff to prepare an analysis. At the next meeting when such a proposal is on the agenda, the Council reviews the analysis and chooses a range of alternatives and possibly a preliminary preferred alternative. The analysis is then made available for public review, and the Council makes a final decision at the next meeting the item is scheduled.

The biennial management process was implemented in 2003 through Amendment 17 to the groundfish FMP and is detailed in Council Operating Procedure 9. Under the biennial cycle, eligible management measures are implemented for a two‐year period and adjusted through routine inseason actions. Those management measures not eligible for implementation within the biennium can be considered for future action by the Council. Separate harvest specifications (overfishing limits [OFLs], acceptable biological catches [ABCs], and annual catch limits [ACLs]) are identified for actively managed stocks and stock complexes each year in the two‐year period. This cycle provides more time for the Council and NMFS to work on other critical groundfish issues, and more time for public comment. A multi-meeting process (typically September, November, April, and June) is used to decide biennial harvest specifications and management measures:

September (in odd years): the Council adopts final OFLs , final ABCs, and a range of ACLs for stocks where a change in the harvest control rules is contemplated. The Council provides initial guidance, including a range of new management measures for preliminary analysis.

November (in odd years): the Council chooses (for public review) preliminary preferred ACLs for stocks where a change in the harvest control rules is contemplated, and adopts a range of management measures for more detailed analysis.

April (in even years): the Council decides on final harvest levels, and chooses preliminary preferred management measures for public review.

June (in even years): the Council decides on final management measures.

The Council reviews management performance (i.e., fishing‐related mortality, including landings plus discard mortalities) and socioeconomic impacts relative to management objectives (e.g., rebuilding plans) during the two‐year management period in order to consider modifying harvest specifications and management measures in the next biennial management period. New assessment results are also considered when deciding biennial harvest specifications and management measures.

Pacific whiting are managed annually, with harvest levels set each year under the terms of the U.S.‐Canada Pacific Whiting Treaty.

After considering Council recommendations and public comments, NMFS publishes the adopted regulations, thereby putting them into effect. For non‐routine and annual management decisions, NMFS publishes a Federal Register notice and provides a public comment period before finalizing the recommendations. The Groundfish Management Team (GMT) is involved throughout the decision‐making process. The team is made up of staff from the three coastal state fishery management agencies (Washington, Oregon, and California), NMFS, and a representative for the tribes with a recognized treaty right to take federally-managed groundfish. Traditionally, the GMT monitors catch rates, recommends harvest regulations and annual limits, and analyzes the impacts of various management measures.

The GMT is composed of two representatives each from Washington, Oregon, and California fish and wildlife agencies, two representatives from the NMFS West Coast Regional office, three representatives from the NMFS Science Centers, and one tribal representative. GMT members perform analyses and make recommendations on proposed management measures, and present information to the Council, Groundfish Advisory Subpanel (GAP), and other Council advisory bodies.

The GAP advises the Council on policies and management decisions that affect the groundfish fishery and the public. The panel includes industry representatives of commercial and recreational groundfish sectors, a tribal representative, charterboat owners and operators, fishing organization representatives, processors, an environmental organization representative, and a public at‐large representative. Each major commercial and recreational gear group is represented. Meetings are held at most Council meetings. The GAP operates by consensus and through majority and minority position statements that are offered as advice to the Council.

GMT and GAP meetings are open to the public, and public comment is generally accepted during the meetings.

For more information, contact John DeVore or Todd Philllips.

Fact Sheet: The Magnuson-Stevens Act

The Magnuson‐Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the principal law governing marine fisheries in the United States. Before the MSA, U.S. fisheries were managed by an array of state regulations that focused mainly on fishing gear restrictions.

The MSA was adopted in 1976 under the Carter administration. It is named after the late Senators Warren Magnuson of Washington and Ted Stevens of Alaska. Its primary goals were to extend control of U.S. waters to 200 nautical miles in the ocean; to phase out foreign fishing activities; to prevent overfishing, especially by foreign fleets; to allow overfished stocks to recover; and to conserve and manage fishery resources.

Black and white photo of two senators talking
Senator Ted Stevens and Senator Warren Magnuson (D-WA) during hearings on the 200-mile fisheries legislation (later the Magnuson-Stevens Act) before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans and Atmosphere in Washington D.C. on December 6, 1973. Stevens Foundation photo.

The MSA explains the role of Regional Fishery Management Councils, which are charged with developing and implementing fishery management plans to restore depleted stocks. Council members are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, who also evaluates and approves the councils’ fishery management plans (FMPs).

The MSA has since been amended several times, most recently in 2006. The 2006 reauthorization, under the second President Bush, was a bipartisan effort that focused on ending overfishing and requiring enforceable catch limits on all federally‐managed fish. This revision (called “Fishery Conservation and Management Amendments of 2006”) made a number of changes related to establishment of annual catch limits, function of the Scientific and Statistical Committee, the environmental review process, rebuilding provisions, limited access privilege (catch share) programs, and other areas. The reauthorization strengthened the role of science in fishery management nationwide, requiring fishery managers to establish science‐based annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures for all U.S. fisheries. The MSA was reauthorized through 2010 and is now due for reauthorization again.

The MSA includes 10 national standards for management, which declare that conservation and management measures shall:

  1. Prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield.
  2. Be based upon the best scientific information available.
  3. Manage individual stocks as a unit throughout their range, to the extent practicable; interrelated stocks shall be managed as a unit or in close coordination.
  4. Not discriminate between residents of different states; any allocation of privileges must be fair and equitable.
  5. Where practicable, promote efficiency, except that no such measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.
  6. Take into account and allow for variations among and contingencies in fisheries, fishery resources, and catches.
  7. Minimize costs and avoid duplications, where practicable.
  8. Take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities to provide for the sustained participation of, and minimize adverse impacts to, such communities (consistent with conservation requirements).
  9. Minimize bycatch or mortality from bycatch.
  10. Promote safety of human life at sea.

Since 2016, both the House and Senate have drafted several bills to reauthorize the MSA, but the Act has not yet been reauthorized. Currenty, the following MSA reauthorization bills have been introduced:

What to do with the MSA?

Many people feel the MSA has worked well, and do not want to make major changes to the Act. However, the following changes have been proposed in recent reauthorization bills:

  • Exemptions to annual catch limits (for example, exemptions for short-lived species, for “ecosystem component” species, and for certain transboundary stocks)
  • Capitol construction funds for processors and others
  • Strengthening habitat protections
  • Adding provisions related to climate change adaptation and ecosystem management
  • Adding provisions to further protect forage fish
  • Limitations on certain catch share programs
  • Encouragement of cooperative research and electronic monitoring systems
  • Efforts to modernize data collection
  • Changes to how money collected from fines is used
  • Changes to certain definitions and findings
  • Changing the term “overfished” to “overfished or otherwise depleted,” or some other variant
  • Adding references to tribes and subsistence fishing
  • Allowing a rebuilding plan to end if it turns out the stock was never overfished in the first place
  • Other tweaks to rebuilding requirements
  • Requiring stock assessments for each stock managed by a Council

The MSA is complemented by other Federal and state laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and National Marine Sanctuaries Act. International agreements and organizations, such as the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, Inter‐American Tropical Tuna Commission, and the United Nation’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, also play a role in shaping management of U.S. fisheries.

The Council’s Legislative Committee tracks reauthorization bills, and the Council discusses them during the Legislative Report agenda item at Council meetings. For more information, contact Jennifer Gilden, who tracks legislative issues for the Council.

Fact Sheet: Council Meetings 101

People meeting in a hotel ballroom
Typical setup for a Council meeting

Council meetings are the heart of the Federal fisheries management process. They are where ideas develop into management decisions, and where recommendations are forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). However, Council meetings can be confusing to people who are new to the process or who only attend Council meetings occasionally.


The Pacific Fishery Management Council (also known as the Council, Pacific Council, or PFMC) recommends fishery management measures to NMFS. The Pacific Council manages fisheries for salmon, groundfish, coastal pelagic species (like sardines, anchovies, and mackerel), and highly migratory species (like tunas and sharks) in the Exclusive Economic Zone, 3-200 nautical miles off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Council also works with the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) to manage halibut fisheries.

Management in a broader context

The Pacific Council is one of eight fishery management councils in the United States. The other councils are the North Pacific, Western Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, New England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. While these councils all operate in similar ways, there are many regional differences among them.

The entire fishery management process is overseen by Congress, which controls funding for the councils, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. 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 among Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and regional fishery management councils.

The Council process was created in 1976 through the Act now known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (or MSA). See our MSA fact sheet for more information.

The Council, staff, and advisory bodies

The Pacific Council has three parts: the Council members, the Council staff, and advisory bodies. The Council is made up of 14 voting representatives from Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho. Some represent state or tribal fish and wildlife agencies, and some are private citizens who are knowledgeable about recreational and commercial fishing or marine conservation. Except for the tribal representative, these citizens are chosen by the governors of the four states within the Council region, in conjunction with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. For information on the makeup of the Council, see the Council Roster.

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 who focus on groundfish, salmon, coastal pelagic species, highly migratory species, habitat, ecosystem-based management, economics and social science, and communication. There are typically 16 members of the Council staff.

Advisory bodies include advisory subpanels, management teams, work groups, technical teams, the Scientific and Statistical Committee, the Enforcement Consultants, and the Habitat Committee. There are also ad hoc committees which focus on particular, timely topics, then disband. These bodies usually meet while the Council meets (and sometimes between Council meetings). Their meetings are open to the public. During the Council meeting, the advisory bodies prepare comments on relevant agenda items and provide them in written and oral form to the Council. For more information, see our “Council Advisory Bodies” fact sheet.

Fishery management plans

The fishery management process is based on fishery management plans (FMPs). An FMP is a set of management objectives and strategies for achieving them. Councils develop FMPs, amend them, and make decisions like setting harvest limits within the framework of existing FMPs. In their decision making, the Councils are required to use the best scientific information available and to meet the national standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. They must also comply with the other Federal laws like the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Council currently has FMPs for salmon, groundfish, coastal pelagic species, and highly migratory species, as well as an overarching Fishery Ecosystem Plan.

Council meetings

The Council meets five times a year, usually in March, April, June, September, and November. Most Council meetings take six days, with individual advisory body meetings occurring during the course of the week. All meetings are open to the public, except for a short closed Council session in which the Council deals with personnel and litigation issues. Meeting records are created for each Council meeting, and are available to the public. Meetings are usually held in large cities where there is adequate meeting space and airport connections. Advisory bodies also meet at various times between Council meetings.

Briefing books

Council staff prepares a Briefing Book before each Council meeting. The Briefing Book contains summaries, reports, and other materials for each agenda item. Public comment is available electronically. Briefing Book materials are available on the Council website (www.pcouncil.org), usually as PDF files, approximately two weeks prior to Council meetings.

Public comments are submitted electronically via the Council’s E-Portal.

Comments submitted before the Briefing Book is posted are held in a queue for review, and then posted on the same day the Briefing Book is posted to the website. Comments received after the Briefing Book has been posted will be visible immediately upon review. 

The dates for each meeting can be found on our website. If you are unable to submit public comment via the E-Portal, please contact the Council office in advance. You may mail or fax comments to the Council; a Staff Officer will manually enter them into the E-Portal to become part of the record.


All materials included in the Briefing Book, the supplemental material provided to Council members, and all reports and statements generated at Council meetings are available on a table usually located in the back of the Council meeting room or in a hall outside the meeting room. A label in the upper right-hand corner of the handouts explains where they fit in the agenda and what subject they pertain to.

Agendas and agenda items

The Council works off an agenda that is drafted at the previous Council meeting and posted on the Council’s website.  Each meeting’s agenda is approved at the start of the Council meeting.

Agenda items are set by the Council, working with Council staff. To have something placed on the agenda, talk to the Executive Director, Chair, or an individual Council member, or suggest the agenda item during an advisory body meeting or during the public comment period when the agenda is finalized. Draft agendas for the next Council meeting are usually discussed on the last day of the Council meeting. During the weeks following the meeting, the agenda is finalized by staff.

Each agenda item has several parts. First, a staff officer usually gives an overview of what to expect during the agenda item, based on the situation summary provided in the Briefing Book. This may be followed by presentations of the particular topic, by state and/or tribal reports, advisory body comments or reports, and by public comment. Finally, the Council discusses the topic and may vote on it. 

Robert’s Rules of Order

The Council meeting process follows “Robert’s Rules of Order,” rules for parliamentary procedure which were developed in 1876.  This ensures that discussions run smoothly, and that the process of making motions is fair and clear. A “parliamentarian” sits next to the Council Chair to ensure Robert’s Rules are followed.


During discussion, voting Council members may make a motion to take action. A Council member must second the motion before the Council votes on it. (Note: not all Council members are voting members. Representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Coast Guard, State Department, and Alaska do not vote.) Sometimes Council members will make a “friendly amendment” to a motion. A friendly amendment is a suggestion for a minor change that does not alter the overall intent of the motion.

All Council meetings and advisory body meetings are open to the public, except for a closed session to deal with personnel matters.


The Secretariat

The “Secretariat” is the office where reports are processed for Council meetings. It is usually located near the Council chamber. The purpose of the Secretariat is to receive reports from advisory bodies and Council staff to be formally entered into the administrative record, formatted, uploaded for distribution to the website, copied, and handed out to the Council during their proceedings. The Secretariat provides computers for advisory body members and staff to use in writing their reports, and copiers to produce copies of the reports for use by the Council and advisory bodies. 

Oral public comment 

Oral public comment is invited for nearly every item on the Council’s agenda (exceptions are for “closed session,” when the Council deals with committee appointments, legal matters, and other administrative issues, approval of the agenda and approval of the meeting record). For in-person meetings, you can sign up to give public comment any time before the public comment period for the agenda item begins. Go to the staffed desk at the entrance of the Council room and sign up for public comment giving your name, affiliation, and the agenda item you wish to comment on. When your name is called, go to the table that sits before the Council, introduce yourself, and give your testimony. Because of time constraints, public comment is limited to five minutes for individuals and ten minutes for representatives of groups. For more tips, see the backgrounders titled “Council Testimony” and “Getting Involved.”

Public comment during webinars

As with in-person meetings, oral public comment is welcome during webinars. 

As with our in-person meetings, we will be accepting oral public comment for each agenda Item. You will still need to sign up for an opportunity to speak, and oral comments will only be accepted before Council action on each agenda item. We have updated our E-Portal to allow signing up for oral testimony. Please visit the E-Portal, select the agenda Item you wish to comment on, enter your name, affiliation, email address and phone number, then be prepared to speak when called upon during public comment.

For more tips, see the backgrounders titled “Council Testimony” and “Getting Involved.”


ABCAcceptable biological catch. See below.
acceptable biological catchThe ABC is a scientific calculation of the sustainable harvest level of a fishery and is used to set the upper limit of the annual total allowable catch. It is calculated by applying the estimated (or proxy) harvest rate that produces maximum sustainable yield to the estimated exploitable stock biomass (the portion of the fish population that can be harvested).
ACEArmy Corps of Engineers
ACLAnnual catch limit
ACOEArmy Corps of Engineers
ACTAnnual catch target
ADFGAlaska Department of Fish and Game
AFAAmerican Fisheries Act
AFSCAlaska Fisheries Science Center (National Marine Fisheries Service)
AISAquatic invasive species
allocationDistribution of fishing opportunity among user groups or individuals. Shares are sometimes based on historic harvest amounts.
alternativesIn the context of an environmental impact statement for annual fisheries management measures, alternatives are different suites of optimum yields and management measures that could be used to manage fisheries.
AMAccountability measures
AMPAdaptive Management Program
anadromousFish that spend their adult life in the sea, but swim upriver to freshwater spawning grounds in order to reproduce.
anglerA person catching fish or shellfish with no intent to sell; includes people releasing the catch.
APAAdministrative Procedures Act
ATMAcoustic trawl method
B25%25% of unfished biomass (size of fish stock without fishing). For groundfish, this is the threshold for being designated as overfished.
B40%40% of unfished biomass (size of fish stock without fishing). This is the Council’s threshold for declaring a stock rebuilt, or the size of the stock estimated to produce maximum sustainable yield. This is also referred to as BMSY.
BABiological assessment. See below.
barotraumaPhysical trauma or injury to a fish due to pressure change. When a fish is rapidly brought from deep water to the surface, the drop in pressure can cause a variety of physical problems, such as severe expansion of the swim bladder and gas bubbles in the blood.
bathymetryThe science of measuring the ocean’s depth.
Bathypelagic ZoneThe zone of the ocean that extends from 1,000 to 4,000 meters below the ocean surface.
BBBriefing Book
BCBudget Committee
BDCPBay Delta Conservation Plan
benthicRefers to organisms that live on or in the ocean floor.
best available scienceThe term “best available science” comes from the second National Standard listed in the Magnuson-Stevens Act and is the informational standard mandated for decision making.
biological assessment (BA)An assessment conducted as part of the Endangered Species Act process.
Biological Opinion (BO)A scientific assessment issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act for listed species. Determines the likelihood of an action to jeopardize the existence of a species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
biomassThe total weight of a stock of fish.
BiOpBiological opinion. See above.
BLMBureau of Land Management. Administers 261 million acres of public lands, mainly in the West.
BOEMBureau of Ocean Energy Management
BMSY (B sub MSY)The biomass that allows maximum sustainable yield to be taken. Also see B40%.
BOBiological opinion. See above.
Bo (B sub zero)Unfished biomass; the estimated size of a fish stock in the absence of fishing.
BORU.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Responsible for managing water distribution in the West.
BPABonneville Power Administration. BPA markets electricity from 31 federally-owned dams in the Columbia River basin.
BRDBycatch reduction device. See below.
bycatchFish that are captured in a fishery, but that are discarded (returned to the sea) rather than being sold, kept for personal use, or donated to a charitable organization. Bycatch plus landed catch equals the total catch or total estimated fishing mortality.
C&SCeremonial and subsistence. See below.
CalCOFICalifornia Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations
California BightThe region of concave coastline off Southern California between the headland at Point Conception and the U.S./Mexican border, and encompassing various islands, shallow banks, basins, and troughs extending from the coast roughly 200 km offshore.
California Rockfish Conservation AreaThe California Rockfish Conservation Area (CRCA) is defined as (1) ocean waters 20 fm to 250 fm between Cape Mendocino and Point Reyes and 20 fm to 150 fm between Point Reyes and the U.S./Mexico Border, and (2) the Cowcod Conservation Areas. The purpose of the CRCA is to regulate all gear types that have a potentially significant affect on rebuilding of overfished rockfish species south of Cape Mendocino.
catch per unit of effortThe quantity of fish caught (in number or weight) with one standard unit of fishing effort. For example, the number of fish taken per 1,000 hooks per day, or the weight of fish, in tons, taken per hour of trawling. CPUE is often considered an index of fish biomass (or abundance). Sometimes referred to as catch rate. CPUE may be used as a measure of economic efficiency of fishing as well as an index of fish abundance.
CBNMSCordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
CCACowcod Conservation Area(s). See below.
CCECalifornia Current Ecosystem
CCCCouncil Coordination Committee
CCIClimate and Commununities Initiative
CCIEACalifornia Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment
CCCTAd Hoc Climate and Communities Core Team
CDFWCalifornia Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly CDFG, Fish and Game)
CEQCouncil on Environmental Quality
CEQACalifornia Environmental Quality Act
ceremonial and subsistenceA harvest category specific to native American tribes.
cetaceansMarine mammals of the order Cetacea. Includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.
CFACommunity fishing association
CFRCode of Federal Regulations. See below.
cfsCubic feet per second. A measure of running water in a stream or river.
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.A 1,252-square-nautical-mile area of the Santa Barbara Channel designated as a marine sanctuary in 1980. It encompasses an area out to six nautical miles around the islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara. CINMS is one of 13 National Marine Sanctuaries around the country.
CINMSChannel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. See above.
CITESConvention of International Trade in Endangered Species
coastal pelagic speciesCoastal pelagic species are schooling fish, not associated with the ocean bottom, that migrate in coastal waters. They usually eat plankton and are the main food source for higher level predators such as tuna, salmon, most groundfish, and humans. Examples are herring, squid, anchovy, sardine, and mackerel.
Coastal Zone Management ActThe main objective of the CZMA is to encourage and assist states in developing coastal zone management programs, to coordinate state activities, and to safeguard the regional and national interests in the coastal zone. It requires that any federal activity (including fishery management regulations) directly affecting the coastal zone of a state be consistent with that state’s approved coastal zone management program, since activities that take place beyond the territorial sea may affect the coastal zone.
Code of Federal RegulationsA codification of the regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government. The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation. Title 50 contains wildlife and fisheries regulations.
coded-wire tagCoded-wire tags are small pieces of stainless steel wire that are injected into the snouts of juvenile salmon and steelhead. Each tag is etched with a binary code that identifies its release group.
cod-endThe end of a trawl net, which retains the catch.
COE(U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers. Among other things, the COE manages hydropower facilities, conducts dredging operations, and builds breakwaters and jetties.
cohortIn a stock, a group of fish born during the same time period.
cohort replacement rateThe rate at which each subsequent cohort, or generation, replaces the previous one.
commercial fishingFishing in which the fish harvested, either whole or in part, are intended to enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade.
co-occurring stocksDifferent stocks of fish that swim or school near one another and may be caught together.
COPCouncil Operating Procedures
CouncilPacific Fishery Management Council
Cowcod Conservation Area(s)Two areas located in the Southern California Bight southwest of Santa Monica to the California/Mexico border that encompass roughly 4,300 square nautical miles of habitat where the highest densities of cowcod occur. These areas are closed to bottom fishing in order to rebuild the cowcod stock.
CPFVCommercial passenger fishing vessel (charter boat)
CPSCoastal pelagic species. See above.
CPSASCoastal Pelagic Species Advisory Subpanel
CPSMTCoastal Pelagic Species Management Team
CPUECatch per unit of effort. See above.
CRColumbia River
CRCACalifornia Rockfish Conservation Area. See above.
CRITFCColumbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
CSPHalibut Catch Sharing Plan
cumulative limitThe total allowable amount of a species or species group, by weight, that a vessel may take and retain, possess, or land during a period of time. Fishers may take as many landings of a species or species complex as they like as long as they do not exceed the cumulative limit that applies to the vessel or permit during the designated period.
CVPIACentral Valley Project Improvement Act
CWTCoded-wire tag. See above.
CZMACoastal Zone Management Act. See above.
DEISDraft Environmental Impact Statement (see EIS, NEPA)
demersalLiving near, and depending on, the sea floor. For example, cods, groupers, and halibut are demersal. (Pronounced “deMERsal”).
derby fisheryA fishery of brief duration during which fishers race to take as much catch as they can before the fishery closes.
DFO(Canada) Department of Fisheries and Oceans
DFWDepartment of Fish and Wildlife
DGNDrift gillnet
DOCDepartment of Commerce. Parent organization of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
DOIDepartment of Interior
DOJDepartment of Justice. DOJ attorneys represent the Secretary of Commerce in litigation on fishery management plans.
DOSDepartment of State
DTLDaily trip limit
DTSDover sole, thornyhead, and trawl-caught sablefish complex
EAEnvironmental assessment (see NEPA, EIS). See below.
EASEcosystem Advisory Subpanel
EBMEcosystem-based management
ECEnforcement Consultants, or ecosystem component.
EDExecutive Director
EDFEnvironmental Defense Fund
EEZExclusive Economic Zone. See below.
EFHEssential fish habitat. See below.
EFHRCEssential Fish Habitat Review Committee
EFINEconomic Fishery Information Network, administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
EFMPEcosystem Fishery Management Plan
EFPExempted fishing permit. See below.
EIREnvironmental impact review
EISEnvironmental impact statement. See below.
El Niño Southern OscillationAbnormally warm ocean climate conditions, which in some years affect the eastern coast of Latin America (centered on Peru) often around Christmas time. The anomaly is accompanied by dramatic changes in species abundance and distribution, higher local rainfall and flooding, and massive deaths of fish and their predators. Many other climactic anomalies around the world are attributed to consequences of El Niño.
EMElectronic monitoring
Endangered Species ActAn act of Federal law that provides for the conservation of endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants. When preparing fishery management plans, councils are required to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the fishing under a fishery management plan is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of an ESA-listed species or to result in harm to its critical habitat.
endorsementA designation on a limited entry permit that authorizes the use of the permit for a particular gear, length of vessel, or in a particular segment of the fishery.
Enforcement ConsultantsA Council committee that provides advice on enforcement of fishery regulations.
ENSOEl Niño Southern Oscillation. See above.
environmental assessmentAs part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, an EA is a concise public document that provides evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) or a Finding of No Significant Impact.
Environmental impact statementAs part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, an EIS is an analysis of the expected impacts resulting from the implementation of a fisheries management or development plan (or some other proposed action) on the environment. EISs are required for all fishery management plans as well as significant amendments to existing plans. The purpose of an EIS is to ensure the fishery management plan gives appropriate consideration to environmental values in order to prevent harm to the environment.
EOExecutive Order
EPAEnvironmental Protection Agency
EPDTEcosystem Plan Development Team
EPOEastern Pacific Ocean
ESAEndangered Species Act. See above.
escapementThe number or proportion of fish surviving (escaping from) a given fishery at the end of the fishing season and reaching the spawning grounds. Term generally used for salmon management.
essential fish habitatThose waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity.
Estimated discard mortalityEstimates of discards can be made in a variety of ways, including samples from observers and logbook records. Fish (or parts of fish) can be discarded for a variety of reasons such as having physical damage, being a non-target species for the trip, and compliance with management regulations like minimum size limits or quotas.
ESUEvolutionarily significant unit
evolutionarily significant unitAn Evolutionarily Significant Unit or “ESU” is a distinctive group of Pacific salmon, steelhead, or sea-run cutthroat trout that is uniquely adapted to a particular area or environment and cannot be replaced.
EWGEcosystem Workgroup
Exclusive Economic ZoneA zone under national jurisdiction (up to 200 nautical miles wide) declared in line with the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, within which the coastal State has the right to explore and exploit, and the responsibility to conserve and manage, the living and non-living resources.
exempted fishing permitA permit issued by National Marine Fisheries Service that allows exemptions from some regulations in order to study the effectiveness, bycatch rate, or other aspects of an experimental fishing gear. Previously known as an “experimental fishing permit.”
FThe instantaneous rate of fishing mortality. The term “fishing mortality rate” is a technical fishery science term that is often misunderstood. It refers to the rate at which animals are removed from the stock by fishing. The fishing mortality rate can be confusing because it is an “instantaneous” rate that is useful in mathematical calculations, but is not easily translated into the more easily understood concept of “percent annual removal.”
F=0Fishing mortality equals zero (no fishing).
FADFish aggregating device. See below.
FAOFood & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
fathomUsed chiefly in measuring marine depth. A fathom equals six feet.
FecundityThe potential to produce offspring.
Federal RegisterThe Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential documents. Fisheries regulations are not considered final until they are published in the Federal Register.
FEISFinal Environmental Impact Statement (see EIS, NEPA).
FEPFishery ecosystem plan
FERCFederal Energy Regulatory Commission. Regulates hydropower operations and offshore wave energy.
Finding of no significant impactAs part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) is a document that explains why an action that is not otherwise excluded from the NEPA process, and for which an environmental impact statement (EIS) will not be prepared, will not have a significant effect on the human environment.
Fish aggregating deviceArtificial or natural floating objects placed on the ocean surface, often anchored to the bottom, to attract several schooling fish species underneath, thus increasing their catchability.
Fish stockA population of a species of fish from which catches are taken in a fishery. Use of the term “fish stock” usually implies that the particular population is more or less isolated from other stocks of the same species, and hence self-sustaining.
Fishery management councilA fisheries management body established by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to manage fishery resources in designated regions of the United States. Membership varies in size depending on the number of states involved. There are eight regional Councils, including the Pacific Council.
Fishery management planA plan, and its amendments, that contains measures for conserving and managing specific fisheries and fish stocks.
Fishery management unitThe species or stocks of fish managed under a fishery management plan.
FishingThe catching, taking, or harvesting of fish; the attempted catching, taking, or harvesting of fish; any other activity that can reasonably be expected to result in the catching, taking, or harvesting of fish; any operations at sea in support of, or in preparation for, any of these activities. This term does not include any activity by a vessel conducting authorized scientific research.
Fishing communityA community which is substantially dependent on or substantially engaged in the harvest or processing of fishery resources to meet social and economic needs. Includes fishing vessel owners, fishing families, operators, crew, recreational fishers, fish processors, gear suppliers, and others in the community who depend on fishing.
Fixed gearFishing gear that is stationary after it is deployed (unlike trawl or troll gear which is moving when it is actively fishing). Within the context of the groundfish limited entry fleet, “fixed gear” means longline and fishpot (trap) gear. Within the context of the entire groundfish fishery, fixed gear includes longline, fishpot, and any other gear that is anchored at least at one end.
FLFork length. See below.
FmFathom (6 feet)
FMCFishery management council. See above.
FMPFishery management plan. See above.
FMSYThe fishing mortality rate that maximizes catch biomass in the long term.
FOIAFreedom of Information Act
FONSIFinding of no significant impact. See above.
FootropeThe rope along the bottom of a trawl net’s opening. Small footropes can get caught or tangled in rocky reef areas, so regulations that require small footropes protect these rocky areas by encouraging skippers to fish elsewhere.
Fork lengthA measurement used frequently for fish length when the tail has a fork shape. Projected straight distance between the tip of the fish and the fork of the tail.
FRFederal Register. See above.
FRAMFishery Regulation Assessment Model. Typically used for salmon.
FTEFull time employee
FWSU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
FX%The rate of fishing mortality that will reduce female spawning biomass per recruit to x percent of its unfished level. F100% is zero, and F35% is a reasonable proxy for FMSY. (All figures after “F” should be subscript.)
GAOGeneral Accounting Office
GAPGroundfish Advisory Subpanel. See below.
GDPGross Domestic Product
GEMPACAd Hoc Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Policy Advisory Committee
GEMTACAd hoc Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Technical Advisory Committee
GESWGroundfish Endangered Species Workgroup
GFNMSGulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
GISGeographic Information System
GMTGroundfish Management Team. See below.
GPSGlobal Positioning System
Groundfish Advisory SubpanelThe Council established the GAP to obtain the input of the people most affected by, or interested in, the management of the groundfish fishery. This advisory body is made up of representatives with recreational, trawl, fixed gear, open access, tribal, environmental, and processor interests. Their advice is solicited when preparing fishery management plans, reviewing plans before sending them to the Secretary, reviewing the effectiveness of plans once they are in operation, and developing annual and inseason management.
Groundfish Management TeamGroundfish management plans and annual and inseason management recommendations are prepared by the Council’s GMT, which consists of scientists and managers with specific technical knowledge of the groundfish fishery.
Habitat areas of particular concern.Subsets of essential fish habitat (see EFH) containing particularly sensitive or vulnerable habitats that serve an important ecological function, are particularly sensitive to human-induced environmental degradation, are particularly stressed by human development activities, or comprise a rare habitat type.
HAPCHabitat areas of particular concern. See above.
Harvest guideline(s)A numerical harvest level that is a general objective, but not a quota. Attainment of a harvest guideline does not require a management response, but it does prompt review of the fishery.
Harvest specificationsThe detailed regulations that make up management measures – for example, trawl footrope size, depth limits, net mesh size, etc.
HCHabitat Committee
HCRHarvest control rule
HGHarvest guideline(s). See above.
High seasAll waters beyond the EEZ (3-200 mile zone) of the United States and beyond any foreign nation’s EEZ.
Highly migratory speciesIn the Council context, highly migratory species in the Pacific Ocean include species managed under the HMS Fishery Management Plan: tunas, sharks, billfish/swordfish, and dorado or dolphinfish.
HMSHighly migratory species. See above.
HMS FMPHighly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. This is the fishery management plan (and its subsequent revisions) for the Washington, Oregon, and California Highly Migratory Species Fisheries developed by the PFMC and approved by the Secretary of Commerce.
HMSASHighly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel
HMSMTHighly Migratory Species Management Team
HMSPDT*Highly Migratory Species Plan Development Team
IATTCInter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
IBQIndividual bycatch quota. IBQs are used to control the catch of prohibited species.
IDFGIdaho Department of Fish and Game
IEAIntegrated Ecosystem Assessment
IFQIndividual fishing quota. See below.
Incidental catch or incidental species.Species caught when fishing for the primary purpose of catching a different species.
Incidental takeThe “take” of protected species (such as listed salmon, marine mammals, sea turtles, or sea birds) during fishing. “Take” is defined as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.
Individual transferable (or tradeable) quota.A type of quota (a part of a total allowable catch) allocated to individual fishermen or vessel owners and which can be transferred (sold, leased) to others.
INPFCInternational North Pacific Fishery Commission. See below.
Inseason adjustmentsRegulatory changes that affect an ongoing fishery.
International Pacific Halibut Commission.A Commission responsible for studying Pacific halibut stocks and the halibut fishery. The IPHC makes proposals to the U.S. and Canada concerning the regulation of the halibut fishery.
InvertebrateAn animal, such as a mollusk, with no spinal column
IPHCInternational Pacific Halibut Commission. See above.
IQIndividual quota
ISCInternational Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean
ITQIndividual Transferable (or Tradable) Quota. See above.
IUUIllegal, unregulated, and unreported
KBRAKlamath Basin Restoration Agreement
KMZKlamath management zone (ocean zone between Humbug Mountain and Horse Mountain where management emphasis is on Klamath River fall Chinook)
KRFCKlamath River fall Chinook
LAPPLimited Access Privilege Program
LCLegislative Committee
LCNLingcod - North
LCNLower Columbia natural
LCRLower Columbia River
LCSLingcod - South
LELimited entry fishery. See below.
Length requirementThe requirement that specifies that permits may not be registered for use with vessels more than five feet longer (in overall length) than the length endorsed on the permit.
Limited entry fisheryA fishery for which a fixed number of permits have been issued in order to limit participation.
LNGLiquified natural gas
Local depletionLocal depletion occurs when localized catches take more fish than can be replaced either locally or through fish migrating into the catch area. Local depletion can occur apart from the status of the overall stock, and can be greater than decreases in the entire stock.
Magnuson-Stevens ActMagnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. See below.
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.The MSFCMA, sometimes known as the “Magnuson-Stevens Act,” established the 200-mile fishery conservation zone, the regional fishery management council system, and other provisions of U.S. marine fishery law.
Marine Mammal Protection ActThe MMPA prohibits the harvest or harassment of marine mammals, although permits for incidental take of marine mammals while commercial fishing may be issued subject to regulation. (See “incidental take” for a definition of “take”).
Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistical Survey.A national survey conducted by National Marine Fisheries Service to estimate the impact of recreational fishing on marine resources.
Maximum fishing mortality threshold.A limit identified in the National Standard Guidelines. A fishing mortality rate above this threshold constitutes overfishing.
Maximum sustainable yieldAn estimate of the largest average annual catch or yield that can be continuously taken over a long period from a stock under prevailing ecological and environmental conditions. Since MSY is a long-term average, it need not be specified annually, but may be reassessed periodically based on the best scientific information available.
MBNMSMonterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
mean generation timeA measure of the time required for a female to produce a reproductively-active female offspring.
MEWModel Evaluation Workgroup (for salmon)
MFCMAMagnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Fishery Conservation and Management Act was renamed the “Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act” in 1980. The MFCMA established the 200-mile fishery conservation zone and the regional fishery management council system.
MFMTMaximum fishing mortality threshold. See above.
MHHWMean higher high water level (high tide line)
Minimum stock size thresholdA threshold biomass used to determine if a stock is overfished. The Council proxy for MSST is B25%.
Mixed stock exceptionIn “mixed-stock complexes,” many species of fish swim together and are caught together. This becomes a problem when some of these stocks are healthy and some are overfished, because even a sustainable harvest of the healthy stocks can harm the depleted stock. In order to avoid having to shut down all fisheries to protect one particular overfished stock, the national standard guidelines allow a “mixed-stock” exception to the “overfished” definition. This would allow higher catches of some overfished species than ordinarily allowed in order to avoid severe hardship to fishing communities.
MMPAMarine Mammal Protection Act. See above.
MOAMemorandum of Agreement
MOUMemorandum of Understanding
MPAMarine protected areas
MRFSSMarine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey. See above.
MSAMagnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. See above.
MSEManagement strategy evaluation
MSFCMAMagnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. See above.
MSRAMagnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006
MSSTMinimum stock size threshold. See above.
MSYMaximum sustainable yield. See above.
mtMetric ton. 1000 kilos or 2,204.62 pounds. (A “short ton” is 2000 lbs.)
NANot available
National Environmental Policy Act.Passed by Congress in 1969, NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider the environment when making decisions regarding their programs. Section 102(2)(C) requires Federal agencies to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before taking major Federal actions that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment. The EIS includes: the environmental impact of the proposed action, any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposed action be implemented, alternatives to the proposed action, the relationship between local short-term uses of the environment and long-term productivity, and any irreversible commitments of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented.
National Marine Fisheries Service.A division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NMFS is responsible for conservation and management of offshore fisheries (and inland salmon). The NMFS Regional Director is a voting member of the Council.
National standard guidelinesGuidelines issued by National Marine Fisheries Service to provide comprehensive guidance for the development of fishery management plans and amendments that comply with the national standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These guidelines are found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, part 600.
Nearshore“Nearshore” is defined (by the California Nearshore Fishery Management Plan) as the area from the high-tide line offshore to a depth of 120 ft (20 fm)
NEPANational Environmental Policy Act. See above.
NGONongovernmental organization
nmNautical mile
NMFSNational Marine Fisheries Service. See above.
NMFS NWFSCNational Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Fisheries Science Center
NMFS NWRNational Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Region
NMFS SWRNational Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Region
NMFS WCRNational Marine Fisheries Service West Coast Region
NMSNational Marine Sanctuary
NMSANational Marine Sanctuaries Act
NMSPNational Marine Sanctuaries Program
NOAANational Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. The parent agency of National Marine Fisheries Service.
NOAA GCNOAA (see above) General Counsel
NOINotice of Intent
NontrawlWithin the context of the groundfish limited fleet, “nontrawl” and “fixed gear” are the same, i.e. longline and fishpot gear. Within the context of the entire groundfish fishery, nontrawl gear includes longline, fishpot, and any other gear that is not trawl gear (troll, gillnet, vertical hook-and-line, etc.).
NORPACNorth Pacific Database Program
NOSNational Ocean Service
NPCCNorthwest Power and Conservation Council (formerly known as the Northwest Power Planning Council)
NPDESNational Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
NPFMCNorth Pacific Fishery Management Council. The NPFMC consists of the state of Alaska, with representation by Washington and Oregon.
NPOANational Plan of Action
NRCNational Research Council
NRDCNatural Resources Defense Council
NS1National Standard 1
NSFNational Science Foundation
NSGNational Standards Guidelines. See above.
NWFSCNorthwest Fisheries Science Center (in Seattle; a division of NMFS)
NWIFCNorthwest Indian Fisheries Commission
NWRNorthwest Region
OAOpen access fishery. See below.
OceanicInhabiting the open sea, ranging beyond the continental and insular shelves, beyond the neritic zone.
OCNOregon coastal natural (coho)
OCNMSOlympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
OCZMAOregon Coast Zone Management Act
ODFWOregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
OFLOverfishing limit
OLEOffice of Law Enforcement (NOAA Fisheries)
OMBOffice of Management and Budget
Open-access fisheryThe segment of the groundfish fishery or any other fishery for which entry is not controlled by a limited entry permitting program.
Optimum yieldThe amount of fish that will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems. The OY is developed on the basis of the Maximum Sustained Yield from the fishery, taking into account relevant economic, social, and ecological factors. In the case of overfished fisheries, the OY provides for rebuilding to a level that is consistent with producing the Maximum Sustained Yield for the fishery.
OSPOptimum sustainable production, Oregon State Police
OSUOregon State University
OvercapacityA level of fishing pressure that threatens to reduce a stock or complex below the abundance necessary to support maximum sustainable yield and allow an economically sustainable fishing industry.
OverfishedAny stock or stock complex whose size is sufficiently small that a change in management practices is required to achieve an appropriate level and rate of rebuilding. The term generally describes any stock or stock complex determined to be below its overfished/rebuilding threshold. The default proxy is generally 25% of its estimated unfished biomass; however, other scientifically valid values are also authorized.
OverfishingFishing at a rate or level that jeopardizes the capacity of a stock or stock complex to produce MSY on a continuing basis. More specifically, overfishing is defined as exceeding a maximum allowable fishing mortality rate. For any groundfish stock or stock complex, the maximum allowable mortality rate will be set at a level not to exceed the corresponding MSY rate (FMSY) or its proxy.
OYOptimum yield. See above.
P*Probability of overfishing.
PacFINPacific Coast Fisheries Information Network. Provides commercial fishery information for Washington, Oregon, and California. Maintained by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Pacific decadal oscillationA long-term, El Nino-like pattern of Pacific Ocean climate variability.
Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST)Created in 1985 through cooperative efforts of tribes, state governments, U.S. and Canadian governments, and sport and commercial fishing interests. The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) was created to implement the treaty. The PSC establishes fishery and allocation regimes, develops management recommendations and is a forum for working on fishery issues.
Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.The PSMFC is a non-regulatory agency that serves Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. PSMFC (headquartered in Portland) provides a communication exchange between the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and a mechanism for Federal funding of regional fishery projects. The PSMFC provides information in the form of data services for various fisheries.
PBRPotential biological removal. See below.
PCFFAPacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
PDFProbability density function.
PDOPacific decadal oscillation. See above.
PEISProgrammatic Environmental Impact Statement. An EIS that applies to an entire program or management regime, rather than a specific action.
PelagicInhabiting the water column, as opposed to being associated with the sea floor; generally occurring anywhere from the surface to 1000 meters (547 fm). See also epipelagic and mesopelagic.
Permit stackingThe registration of more than one limited entry permit for a single vessel, where a vessel is allowed additional catch for each additional permit registered for use with the vessel.
PFMCPacific Fishery Management Council
PIE ruleProgram Improvements and Enhancements rule
PMAXThe estimated probability of reaching TMAX. May not be less than 50%.
PNWPacific Northwest
POPPacific ocean perch
Potential biological removalThe maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population.
PPAPreliminary preferred alternative
PRAPaperwork Reduction Act
Preferred alternativeThe alternative that is identified as preferred by the authors of an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment. It is identified to indicate which alternative is likely to be selected, thereby helping the public focus its comments.
ProcessingThe preparation or packaging of fish to render it suitable for human consumption, retail sale, industrial uses, or long-term storage, including but not limited to cooking, canning, smoking, salting, drying, filleting, freezing, or rendering into meal or oil, but not heading and gutting unless additional preparation is done.
Proposed alternativesAlternatives proposed by the Council for a proposed management action (such as annual management specifications). The alternatives are presented to the public for comment, and are voted upon at a subsequent Council meeting. The options always include a “status quo” alternative (for example the current season’s ABCs and OYs).
PSCPacific Salmon Commission
PSMFCPacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. See above.
PSTPacific Salmon Treaty
QPQuota pounds
QSQuota share (related to individual fishing quotas; see below)
QuotaA specified numerical harvest objective, the attainment (or expected attainment) of which causes closure of the fishery for that species or species group.
Quota sharesA share of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) allocated to an operating unit such as a vessel, a company or an individual fisherman (individual quota) depending on the system of allocation. Quotas may or may not be transferable, inheritable, and tradable. While generally used to allocate total allowable catch, quotas could be used also to allocate fishing effort or biomass.
RCARockfish Conservation Area, riparian conservation area
RebuildingImplementing management measures that increase a fish stock to its target size.
Rebuilding analysisAn analysis that uses biological information to describe the probability that a stock will rebuild within a given timeframe under a particular management regime.
Rebuilding planA document that describes policy measures that will be used to rebuild a fish stock that has been declared overfished.
RecFinRecreational Fishery Information Network. A database managed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission that provides recreational fishery information for Washington, Oregon, and California.
RecruitsRecruits are a group (“cohort”) of young fish that enter a fish stock in one year.
Recruits/recruitmentThe estimated production of new members to a fish population as measured at a specific life stage.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (or Act).Regulatory Flexibility Act (see IRFA and FRFA above). See below. The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612) requires federal agencies to consider the effects of their regulatory actions on small businesses and other small entities and to minimize any undue disproportionate burden.
Regulatory Impact ReviewRIRs are prepared to determine whether a proposed regulatory action is “major.” The RIR examines alternative management measures and their economic impacts.
RERRecovery Exploitation Rates
RFARegulatory Flexibility Analysis, or Regulatory Flexibility Act. See above.
RFMORegional Fishery Management Organizations
Riparian areaA land area adjacent to water. Technical definition: “riparian area” means an area of land that (a) is adjacent to a stream, river, lake or wetland, and (b) contains vegetation that, due to the presence of water, is distinctly different from the vegetation of adjacent upland areas. (Code of British Columbia)
RIRRegulatory Impact Review. See above.
ROARange of alternatives
RODRecord of Decision
ROVRemotely operated vehicle (submarine)
RPAsReasonable and prudent alternatives
RulemakingThe process of developing Federal regulations which occurs in several steps, including publishing proposed rules in the Federal Register, accepting comments on the proposed rule, and publishing the final rule. An “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” is published when dealing with especially important or controversial rules.
SAFEStock assessment and fishery evaluation. See below.
Saltonstall-Kennedy ActThe Saltonstall-Kennedy Act allocates 30% of the duties for imported fishery products to technological, biological, marketing, and other research and services in order to promote the free flow of domestically-produced fishery products and to develop markets for domestic fishery products.
SASSalmon Advisory Subpanel
Scientific and Statistical CommitteeAn advisory committee of the PFMC made up of scientists and economists. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each council maintain an SSC to assist in gathering and analyzing statistical, biological, ecological, economic, social, and other scientific information that is relevant to the management of Council fisheries.
SDCStatus determination criteria
SecretaryU.S. Secretary of Commerce
SEISSupplemental Environmental Impact Statement (see Environmental Impact Statement)
SFASustainable Fisheries Act of 1996. Amended the MSFCMA.
SFOSustainable Fisheries Office (NMFS)
Shelf rockfishRockfish that live on the continental shelf
SIASocial impact analysis
S-KSaltonstall-Kennedy. See above.
Slope rockfishRockfish that live on the continental slope
SONCCSouthern Oregon Northern California coastal coho (an evolutionarily significant unit)
SONCCWGAd Hoc Southern Oregon Northern California Coast Coho Workgroup
SOPPStatement of Organization, Practices, and Procedures
Southern California BightSee California Bight, above.
Spawning biomassThe biomass of mature female fish at the beginning of the year. If the production of eggs is not proportional to body weight, then this definition is construed to be proportional to expected egg production.
SPRSpawning biomass per recruit
SPRSpawning potential ratio. The ratio of spawning potential per recruit under a given fishing regime, relative to the spawning potential per recruit with no fishing.
SRFCSacramento River fall Chinook
SRISacramento River index
SRKWWGAd Hoc Southern Resident Killer Whale Workgroup
SSBSpawning stock biomass
SSCScientific and Statistical Committee. See above.
SSTSea surface temperature
STARStock assessment review
STAR PanelStock Assessment Review Panel. A panel set up to review stock assessments for particular fisheries. In the past there have been STAR panels for sablefish, rockfish, squid, and other species.
Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation.A SAFE document is a document prepared by the Council that provides a summary of the most recent biological condition of species in the fishery management unit, and the social and economic condition of the recreational and commercial fishing industries, including the fish processing sector. It summarizes, on a periodic basis, the best available information concerning the past, present, and possible future condition of the stocks and fisheries managed in the FMP.
STTSalmon Technical Team
SWFSCSouthwest Fisheries Science Center (NMFS)
SWRSouthwest Region
TACTotal allowable catch. See below.
Territorial seaThe territorial sea of the United States extends 12 nautical miles offshore. States exercise authority over marine fisheries in waters from the coastline to 3 miles offshore.
TMAXThe maximum time period to rebuild an overfished stock, according to National Standard Guidelines. Depends on biological, environmental, and legal/policy factors.
TMINThe minimum time period to rebuild an overfished stock, according to National Standard Guidelines. Technically, this is the minimum amount of time in which a fish stock will have a 50% chance of rebuilding if no fishing occurs (depends on biological and environmental factors).
TNCThe Nature Conservancy
Total allowable catchThe total regulated catch from a stock in a given time period, usually a year. (NMFS)
Total catch OYTotal catch optimum yield. The landed catch plus discard mortality.
TTARGETThe target year, set by policy, for a fish stock to be completely rebuilt.
U/AUsual and accustomed (usually used when referring to tribal fishing, hunting or gathering areas)
USCGU.S. Coast Guard. A representative of the USCG is a non-voting member of the Council.
USFSU.S. Forest Service
USFWSU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A representative of USFWS is a non-voting member of the Council.
USGSU.S. Geological Survey
Vessel Monitoring SystemA satellite communications system used to monitor fishing activities­—for example, to ensure that vessels stay out of prohibited areas. The system is based on electronic devices (transceivers), which are installed on board vessels. These devices automatically send data to shore-based “satellite” monitoring system.
VMSVessel monitoring system. See above.
WCPWest Coast Pelagic Conservation Group
WCPFCWestern and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
WCSPAWest Coast Seafood Processors Association
WCVIWest Coast Vancouver Island
WDFWWashington Department of Fish and Wildlife. A representative of WDFW sits on the Council.
WFOAWestern Fishboat Owners Association
WPFMCWestern Pacific Fishery Management Council
Yield per recruitA model that estimates yield in terms of weight, but more often as a percentage of the maximum sustainable yield, for various combinations of natural mortality, fishing mortality and time exposed to the fishery (NOAA).

Fact Sheet: PowerPoint Tips

PowerPoint and similar presentations are a common way to present information to the Council and its advisory bodies. Here are a few tips to make sure your presentation goes smoothly.

Presentations at Council meetings

The Council needs to receive written materials, including presentations, in a timely way to allow well‐informed decision making. Therefore, it’s best to submit presentations by the briefing book deadline so they can be provided to the Council and public with other briefing book materials. Please email them to Kris Kleinschmidt.

How to submit electronic presentation files at Council meetings

At a Council meeting, presentations must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. the day before the relevant agenda item is scheduled on the Council’s agenda. They can be emailed to Kris (above) or provided in person at the Secretariat. This allows time for proper labeling, distribution, and testing. Presentations submitted after the deadline may not be available, and the presenter will need to be prepared to make the presentation without slides.

Please submit presentations in their native format (.ppt, etc.) rather than PDF or other format. Use the following file naming convention:


The filename must begin with the Council agenda item number, without punctuation, followed by the last name of the presenter. A brief description could follow. Please use an underscore character between words.

What testifiers and presenters should expect

The Council meeting room is equipped with all necessary technical equipment. When called, presenters and or speakers will speak from a testimony table with a microphone and two large screens for PowerPoint and computer presentations. Only PowerPoint slides submitted in accordance with the protocol above will be available during the Council meeting.

Presentation files will be loaded on a laptop at the testimony table and at the IT Staff desk in the Council meeting room. There will be a presentation remote for use by the presenter for advancing slides; you may also ask to have your notes printed for easy reference during your talk. If you would prefer other arrangements, you will need to contact Kris Kleinschmidt at least one day in advance of your presentation. As of January 2021, the broadcasting laptop has the Windows 10 operating system with Microsoft Office 365, and Adobe Acrobat Professional loaded on the hard drive for use during your presentation. It will be able to accommodate PowerPoint files created or saved in earlier versions of Office.

Copies of your presentation will be saved and posted on our briefing book website as part of the meeting record.

If you have any questions or special requests (such as embedded video, videos with audio), please contact Kris Kleinschmidt at the Council Office well in advance of the Council meeting (503) 820‐2411; kris.kleinschmidt@noaa.gov.

A Powerpoint slide with way too many words.
This slide has too much information and the fonts are far too small to read.

Presentation design tips

Powerpoint and similar presentations can be an effective tool for presenting your information in a clear, concise way, but they can also be the source of frustration for those trying to follow along. Here are a few tips to make them effective.

  • Keep it simple. Less is more. Nothing in your slide should be superfluous.
  • Designers recommend using no more than two different fonts in any presentation. More are distracting.
  • Use as few slides as possible to focus on the main points of your message. In general, avoid using more than 20 slides.
  • Use slides with as few words as possible (otherwise audience members will either just listen to what you say and not read the slide, or read the slide and not hear what you say). Bullet points should not be longer than a single line.
  • If you have a bullet or slide with more words than can be taken in at a glance, read the slide first and then make additional comments. Use the “notes” feature to keep notes for yourself.
  • The longer your presentation, the more points will be missed if peoples’ minds wander. Shorten your presentation or consider creative ways to refocus people’s attention.
  • At the beginning, use one slide to summarize what you’re going to say. At the end, summarize what you presented.
  • Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, and is often more interesting for the audience—but avoid using cheesy clipart.
  • Use video and audio when appropriate. Videos may illustrate your point better and will increase the audience’s interest.
  • Use the animation feature carefully. It can be effective to have your bullets show up one at a time so the audience won’t read ahead, but too much animation can slow down a presentation, make it more likely that something will go wrong, and become tedious.
  • If you are presenting a table or graph, explain the rows and columns or axes, and what data is represented, before talking about the data and what they mean. Make sure the axes are legible. Sometimes it can be helpful to first display the graph without data, or with some simple example data, and then provide a display with the information for Council consideration.
  • Number your slides so it is easy to go back to them if the audience has questions.
  • Avoid using any font size below 18. Make sure your text (including labels) can be read from the back of a large room.
  • Proofread! Spelling errors detract from your message and your credibility.
  • Practice your presentation in advance and make sure it fits within your allotted time. (During Council public comment, individuals are typically allotted five minutes and organizations ten, at the discretion of the Chair). Try to be at least a bit shorter than your allotted time—actual presentations tend to run longer than rehearsals.
  • If possible, test your color schemes on a Council projector. A color scheme that is effective on your computer display may not be legible when projected on the screen. Make sure there is good contrast between the text and the background.

Council news: Rigorous management practices have led to successful rebuilding of several West Coast groundfish stocks

Portland, OregonA new paper published in Nature Sustainability, “Identifying Management Actions that Promote Sustainable Fisheries,” demonstrates that rigorous management practices have helped rebuild depleted fish stocks worldwide and underscores the fact that greater investment in fisheries management generally leads to better outcomes for fish populations and the fisheries they support.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages commercial and recreational ocean fisheries on the West Coast, was one of two dozen international management and research entities collaborating on this study.

The study was led by Michael Melnychuk, research scientist at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington.  Management practices and outcomes adopted by the Pacific Council to rebuild West Coast groundfish stocks contributed to the study.

“Rebuilding these overfished stocks was a painful process for West Coast fishermen,” said Pacific Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy. “This study shows that their short-term sacrifices paid off in the long run, leading to more sustainable fisheries for future generations.”

“Rebuilding these stocks required collaboration between a lot of different people, from fishermen to scientists to environmentalists,” said Pacific Council Chair Marc Gorelnik. “It was a tough process, but in rebuilding these stocks, we also built long-lasting, valuable relationships. Responsible fisheries management requires sacrifices, but it pays off. This is a really hopeful story.”

Nine of ten West Coast groundfish stocks have successfully rebuilt since the stocks were declared overfished or depleted in 1999. Most recently, the stock of cowcod south of 40°10’ N lat. was declared rebuilt in 2019, decades ahead of the expected date.  Only one stock, yelloweye rockfish, is under a rebuilding plan, and yelloweye are rebuilding faster than expected, according to the 2017 rebuilding analysis.

Beginning in 2000, the Pacific Council adopted stringent management measures to achieve stock rebuilding success, including large area closures; low annual catch limits, quotas, and harvest guidelines; gear modifications; retention prohibitions or limitations; and adaptive management practices responsive to closely monitored fishery impacts and stock fluctuations.  Such management practices are key to promote sustainable fisheries, according to the University of Washington study.

According to Melnychuk, the study confirmed what many researchers already expected.

“In general, we found that more management attention devoted to fisheries is leading to better outcomes for fish and shellfish populations,” he said. “While this wasn’t surprising, the novelty of this work was in assembling the data required and then using statistical tools to demonstrate what everyone has always taken for granted to be true.”

The research team used an international database that is the go-to scientific resource on the status of more than 600 individual fish populations, or stocks. They chose to analyze 288 stocks that generally are of value economically and represent a diversity of species and regions. They then looked over time at each fish population’s health and management practices and were able to draw these conclusions:

  • Where fish and shellfish populations are well studied, overall fisheries management intensity has steadily increased over the past half century.
  • As fisheries management measures are put in place, fishing pressure is usually reduced back toward sustainable levels, and stock abundance is usually allowed to increase.
  • If fish stocks become depleted as a result of overfishing, a rebuilding plan may be put in place. These plans tend to immediately decrease fishing pressure and allow stocks to recover.
  • If fisheries management systems are strong enough, then overfishing can be avoided and large, sustainable catches can be harvested annually, rendering emergency measures like rebuilding plans unnecessary.

The study builds on previous work that found, by using the same database, that nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance. The new paper takes a closer look at specific management actions and how they have impacted fishing pressure and the abundance of each stock examined, Melnychuk explained.

Figure 1.  The effective harvest rate (in terms of spawning per recruit [SPR] at the current population level relative to that at the stock’s unfished condition) of canary rockfish relative to the current target harvest rate estimated to achieve maximum sustainable yield, 1960-2014. One minus SPR is plotted so that higher exploitation rates occur on the upper portion of the y-axis.

The international research team looked at a spectrum of fish stocks, such as hakes in South Africa and Europe, orange roughy in New Zealand, tuna species on the high seas, anchovies in South America and scallops off the Atlantic coast of North America. Most of the stocks they examined had a history of being depleted at some point, usually due to historical overfishing.

On the West Coast, for example, a Pacific Council rebuilding plan for canary rockfish specifying very low annual catch limits was put in place in 2000. The plan affected every West Coast fishing sector that targeted groundfish stocks, and all West Coast fishing communities that were dependent on groundfish fishing.

In order to reduce fishing pressure on canary rockfish, the Council prohibited or limited fishermen’s ability to retain groundfish, required gear modifications, and created Rockfish Conservation Areas that stretched the length of the entire West Coast. In these areas, fishing at certain depths and using certain gear types was prohibited.

The Council also made constant adjustments to management measures to manage the catch of canary rockfish. These actions significantly reduced the harvest rate of canary rockfish (Figure 1), leading to a full recovery of the stock by 2015, which was decades ahead of the original rebuilding target.

Figure 2.  Spawning output (millions of eggs) of canary rockfish, 1960-2014.

Currently, the canary rockfish stock is estimated to be as large as it was in the 1960s when the stock was lightly exploited (Figure 2).

The University of Washington study omits fisheries that lack scientific estimates of stock status, even though these account for a large amount of the world’s catch, including most fish stocks in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

The paper presenting the University of Washington study can be freely viewed here.

This research was funded by The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Conservation Society, the Walton Family Foundation, and a consortium of Seattle fishing companies.

Council Role

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the United States of America coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

For more information, please contact John DeVore at the Pacific Fishery Management Council.