About Groundfish Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) oversee the management of 90 plus species of groundfish in U.S. federal waters. These stocks are harvested in both commercial and recreational fisheries off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, along with other federal laws, guides NOAA Fisheries and the Council's development of policy; and they work with federal, state, and tribal governments; and industry, environmental, and academic organizations to advance sustainable management of the 90 plus stocks.

While the trawl fishery harvests most groundfish, they can also be caught with troll, longline, hook and line, pots, gillnets, and other gear. There are four main components of the West Coast groundfish fishery:

Limited Entry: This component is comprised of fishers with limited entry permits. The limited entry program limits the number of vessels allowed to participate in a fishery. This sector is divided into limited entry trawl (for those fishers using trawl gear such as bottom and pelagic trawl nets) and limited entry fixed gear (for those fishers using fixed gear, such as longlines, traps or pots).

Open Access: This component of the groundfish fishery allocates a portion of the harvest to fishers targeting groundfish without limited entry permits, and fishers who target non-groundfish fisheries that incidentally catch groundfish. Trawl gear may not be used in the directed groundfish open access fishery. Trawl gears for target species such as pink shrimp, California halibut, ridgeback prawns, and sea cucumbers are exempted from this rule.

Recreational: This component includes anglers targeting groundfish species and others who target non-groundfish species but who incidentally take groundfish.

Tribal: This component 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 decided by annual Council action.

Learn more about the West Coast groundfish fishery at the Pacific Fishery Management Council