NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES MANAGEMENT COUNCIL

Halibut fishermen in Alaska

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is one of eight regional fishery management councils that advise the Secretary of Commerce on federal fisheries policy in the U.S. The council system was put in place via the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976. The NPFMC, whose jurisdiction is the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ (3-200 nautical miles offshore) of all waters off the coast of Alaska, is advisory to the Secretary of Commerce and NMFS, who is ultimately responsible for regulating the fisheries. The Council’s management primarily focuses on groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and Bering Sea, including cod, pollock, flatfish, sablefish, rockfish, and mackerel species harvested by trawl, longline, jig, and pot gear. The Council works with the International Pacific Halibut Commission to make allocation decisions for halibut. For other large Alaskan fisheries such as salmon, crab, and scallops, the Council and State of Alaska jointly manage these resources.

The NPFMC meets five times a year. Generally, three meetings are in Anchorage, one in Seattle or Portland, and one in a fishing community in Alaska. During these eight to nine-day meetings, three groups from the NPFMC meet: the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) made up of scientists and economists, the Advisory Panel (AP) made up of fishing industry representatives and other stakeholders, and the Council itself. The Council membership is set in law and includes 11 voting members and 4 non-voting members. The voting membership includes the directors of the Alaska, Washington, and Oregon Departments of Fish and Game or designees, the regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Alaska Regional Office or a designee, and seven private citizens who are familiar with the fishing industry and/or marine conservation. The Secretary of Commerce appoints these seven citizens (two from Washington and five from Alaska) from lists submitted by the Governors of each state, respectively. The four non-voting Council members are representatives from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the U.S. Fish, and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

While the process itself can seem daunting, the Council is making efforts to be more accessible and provide overview documents that are more conversational in tone.

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