Salmon fishing in federal waters (those greater than three nautical miles offshore) off the West Coast is governed pursuant to a Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Under federal law the Pacific Fishery Management Council is tasked with developing management plans for a variety of species that transit these waters. When the Council develops a plan (or an amendment to an existing plan) it is required to submit the proposal to the Secretary of Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). After the Secretary has approved a Council proposal it has the force of law.
Because FMPs can have a major commercial impact on coastal communities, plans and amendments are required to be made public and open to comment before they are implemented.
On June 2, 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a proposed change to the FMP, Amendment 21. The proposal would limit Chinook fishing if the forecast annual abundance of Chinook in the area from the U.S. border with Canada to Cape Falcon, OR, is less than 966,000 salmon.
These limitations, which would be implemented under the auspices of existing annual management measures, would include reductions in the annual quota for non-tribal commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon and time and area closures, including shifting quotas from spring to summer.
The proposed amendments are stated to be necessary in order to assist the southern resident killer whale, which is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A subgroup of the Council dedicated to protecting the killer whale has suggested that other measures to limit fishing in order to preserve salmon (both Chinook and coho) for the orcas may be in order.
The public comment period for Amendment 21 runs until August 2, 2021. NMFS will evaluate these comments in making its decision to approve, partially approve, or disapprove the proposed amendment to the FMP. Those likely to be affected by the proposal are encouraged to make their voices heard.
More information on the proposal can be found here. Jordan Ramis attorneys are happy to provide more information about this and other proposals that impact our region’s water and environment, and to help those that want to further engage the federal government on these important issues.
Gregory P.J. Zerzan is former legal counsel to the House Committees on Agriculture, Financial Services, Energy & Commerce, and served in senior positions in the U.S. Treasury and Department of the Interior. Now a shareholder at Jordan Ramis, he counsels companies on their interactions with policymakers and government agencies. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.