Pacific Fishery Management Council
The Pacific Fishery Management Council was established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council’s purpose is to manage fisheries in federal waters off Washington, Oregon, and California.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC or Council) helps to manage the harvest of more than a hundred varieties of fish, including several types of Pacific salmon. Council-managed Pacific salmon fisheries involve tribal, commercial, and recreational harvest in the ocean waters of the West Coast. These fisheries have economic, social, and cultural importance to West Coast communities, and require extensive fisheries management between tribal, federal, and state governments. Input from stakeholders and coastal communities that rely on commercial and recreational fisheries is a critical part of the Council decision-making process. The PFMC is made up of representatives from across these parties to ensure involvement from local fishing communities.
Formation of the Pacific Fishery Management Council
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law that governs marine coastal fisheries in the United States, and initiated the formation of the PFMC in 1976. The PFMC is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the MSA. These councils are responsible for the formation of fishery management plans specific to their region, and the development of fisheries based on the principles of the MSA. Each year, the PFMC adopts harvest plans with input from the public, government representatives, and stakeholders for salmon throughout the federal waters of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, managing the area from 3 to 200 miles off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. In these waters, the PFMC manages fisheries for about 119 species of salmon, coastal pelagic fish types such as anchovies, sardines, and mackerel; groundfish; and other migratory ocean animals such as sharks, tuna, and swordfish.
Members of the PFMC
The PFMC consists of 14 voting members from Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho. The PFMC members represent state fishing agencies from the four states within the region, treaty fishing tribes, recreational and commercial fishing industry groups, marine conservation groups, and the Federal government (see image below). The PFMC includes tribal representation, and tribes select and submit their own representatives to the Council. Governors in each of the four states nominate and choose members of the PFMC that represent fishing interests. There are additional non-voting members of the PFMC who serve on advisory groups (see image). The PFMC’s advisory groups include technical teams, advisory subpanels, committees, and working groups. Their responsibilities are to prepare and review fishery information from the previous season, and provide feedback to help the PFMC make decisions about fishery harvest for the upcoming season with the use of the best available science.
PFMC’s role in salmon fisheries
For salmon fisheries, the responsibility of the PFMC is to consider and provide yearly proposals to NOAA Fisheries about salmon fishery harvest limits. The PFMC concentrates mainly on Chinook and coho salmon. Other salmon species such as pink salmon are caught in PFMC fisheries less frequently, or rarely, in the case of sockeye, chum, and steelhead. The PFMC proposals are made to NOAA Fisheries on behalf of commercial, recreational, and tribal parties in federal waters off the West Coast.
The PFMC provides a forum for collaborative salmon fishery management through a bottom-up process. There is involvement from managers, tribal members, fishermen, and participation from the commercial and recreational fishing industry, community members, and public. Participation of all parties is encouraged in the formation of salmon fishery proposals to meet the PFMC’s goals: the conservation of salmon fishery resources, the sharing of salmon harvest among different fishing groups, and the prevention of overfishing.
PFMC Salmon Fishery Management Plan
Based on requirements in the MSA, the PFMC prepares a Fishery Management Plan (FMP) to meet legal obligations and address conservation and management objectives. The PFMC Salmon Fishery Management Plan guides the management of salmon fisheries in Federal waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Plan includes the management of commercial and recreational salmon fisheries, and involves natural and hatchery Chinook, coho and, to a lesser extent, pink salmon.
There are two central sections of the Plan. The first part defines conservation objectives to make sure enough adult salmon from each salmon type return to the stream they were born to produce the next generation. The second section discusses how to allocate the salmon harvest across different commercial and recreational fisheries. The goals are to distribute salmon harvest among the relevant groups and fishing areas in ocean salmon fisheries, and to work with managers to ensure regulations meet the goals of fishery plans for inland areas.
Areas under PFMC Jurisdiction
The area circled in the map (below) contains the colored voting states that participate in the Pacific Fishery Management Council, with the additional seven regional councils represented by the other colored-coordinated areas. Although not a coastal state, Idaho is included in the PFMC because some salmon are born in and return to streams in Idaho.
The map below displays in more detail the Federal waters of the Exclusive Economic Zones, from 3 to 200 miles offshore, managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The PFMC has jurisdiction over commercial, recreational, and tribal ocean fisheries in seven management areas. The areas are North of Falcon, Northern Oregon, Central Oregon, the Klamath Zone, Fort Bragg, San Francisco, and Monterey, as seen on the map below.
How does the PFMC determine fishery harvest levels?
Proposals for salmon fisheries are presented at the five scheduled PFMC meetings each year. Prior to each meeting, the PFMC compiles information on the salmon harvested during the previous year and estimates of salmon abundance for the upcoming year. Public input on fishing management proposals for the upcoming year is very important. All input from the public and Council members is taken into consideration. The PFMC then submits fishery management suggestions for the upcoming salmon season to the Secretary of Commerce for review. If approved, the measures are implemented by NOAA Fisheries. Each tribal and state management party is responsible for making sure ocean fisheries managed by tribal and state parties are consistent with the fishery management proposals. The PFMC receives data and management information from the Pacific Salmon Commission to inform its planning. The information is also used by other management forums (North of Falcon process, United States v. Oregon, Pacific Fishery Management Council) to ensure that fisheries meet management objectives and follow the agreements of the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
PFMC process for planning and monitoring salmon fishery management
As mentioned above, the PFMC meets to discuss and determine proposed salmon fishery management strategies for the upcoming year. An overview of the process is shown below.
Predictions for the abundance of salmon in each stock are made early in the calendar year. Technical workgroups and advisory subpanels review estimates of salmon abundance and informational reports.
The PFMC develops several fishing regulation options for the upcoming season. The options consider the amount of salmon available for harvest while meeting conservation goals. These are provided to the public for review and comment. Public meetings are then held to discuss these proposed fishing regulations.
Fishery management actions are set for the upcoming year based on conservation needs and allocation agreements among the fishing areas and are adopted by NOAA Fisheries.
Monitor and Adjust
During the season, catch and fishing results are constantly monitored. Fish catch rates, annual fish migration timings, and/or angler efforts that differ significantly from preseason expectations may lead to in-season changes in harvest strategies. These changes may include adjustments in the permissible salmon catch by time and area.
When the season is over, the number of salmon caught is totaled and recorded, along with estimates of the number of salmon that returned to their stream of origin.
Through the winter months, salmon movements are evaluated to estimate future abundance, and then the fishery season planning cycle begins again.
What is the role of NOAA Fisheries within the PFMC?
When the PFMC has finalized its proposals and the Secretary of Commerce approves them, NOAA Fisheries works with tribal and state managers to implement the plans made by the PFMC. NOAA Fisheries ensures that fish harvest is managed throughout the fishing season to comply with the approved system regulations and with the conservation objectives for the salmon stocks. NOAA Fisheries also verifies that the proposals are consistent with the objectives of the Endangered Species Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
During the season (“in-season”; May to October), salmon fisheries are actively managed by checking fish catch and fishing results. In-season salmon fishery management involves the collection of important fishery data, which includes:
- The daily harvest of salmon by each fishery type (tribal, recreational, commercial) in each fishery area
- Number of trips each boat makes to harvest salmon during the fishing season
- Population and distribution data from tagged salmon
The information must come from the ocean fisheries, hatcheries, spawning grounds, and inland fisheries. Additional factors such as biological, environmental, social, and economic considerations may impact the salmon population. The collection of fishery data in-season is essential to managers to control the harvests and meet established quotas and goals. If in-season numbers differ substantially from estimated predictions, then necessary changes are made to the fishing season, quotas, or other management measures.
How can I get involved?
The PFMC encourages the public to participate in the salmon fishery management process. Some of the ways in which the public can contribute include:
Learn how the PFMC system operates, learn the terms the PFMC uses, learn about the situations you are interested in, read the Council newsletter, read the PFMC summary documents of decisions, learn about meetings you are interested in attending.
You may comment in person during a PFMC meeting or submit written public comment through the Council e-Portal. All comments submitted, either through the electronic comment systems or letters and faxes (received by deadlines), are read and considered by the PFMC. The PFMC advises you to frame your comments to focus on your connection to the issue, your position, and how a proposal would affect you. Also, public and fishing groups are encouraged to testify at PFMC meetings and hearings. More information on public comment processes can be found on the PFMC website.
Attend a meeting
All regular PFMC meetings and advisory meetings are open to the public to attend. Committee and advisory body meetings are usually more informal and could offer a better chance to explain your opinion. Dates and locations of upcoming meetings can be found on the PFMC website.
Get to know people on the PFMC, such as your Council representative, other PFMC members, and Committee members. Discuss issues with them that concern you and ask for help to understand what is going on with your fishery of concern. Ask whom you should contact to gain more information or advice – you may want to talk with state agency staff and your representatives.
Identify and join a group that represents your interests. There are groups focused on environmental issues, fishing gear types, fisheries, and communities. Interested citizens can also serve on an advisory board.
Marine Resource Education Program
Participate in the Marine Resource Education Program, which is a workshop designed for West Coast fishermen interested in increasing their understanding and involvement in fisheries science and management.