West Coast Anglers to See New and Amended Rules, Regulations in 2024

Chinook salmon migrating. Photo: Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Although the process to set or amend fishing-related regulations in West Coast states doesn’t necessarily line up with the calendar year, there are a number of rules or changes that were proposed, recently adopted or are to be implemented in 2024.

Fishermen’s News reached out to officials in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii to find out some of the new rules and regulations that may impact commercial fishers working in Pacific waters in the upcoming season.

There are also a few notable federal laws and amendments to plans and programs coming with the new year.

Groundfish Fishery Management

On Aug. 30, NOAA Fisheries proposed regulations that would implement amendment 32, anticipated to become effective in early 2024, to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP).

The regulations include a “suite of changes” to non-trawl sector area management measures seaward of California and Oregon for commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries. According to NOAA officials, the amendment also impacts the non-tribal directed commercial Pacific halibut fishery.

Specifically, the proposed implementing regulations in amendment 32 would:

  • Allow increased fishing access with specific gear types to the non-trawl rockfish conservation area (RCA) for the commercial groundfish limited entry fixed gear sector and vessels that gear switch under the trawl individual fishing quota program.
  • Modify gear restrictions in the non-trawl RCA for all non-trawl commercial groundfish sectors.
  • Move the seaward boundary of the non-trawl RCA to 75 fathoms for all non-trawl commercial groundfish sectors and the directed commercial Pacific halibut fishery.
  • Create new groundfish conservation areas, including new yelloweye RCAs seaward of Oregon and groundfish exclusion areas seaward of Southern California.
  • Create new essential fish habitat conservation areas seaward of Oregon.
  • Remove cowcod conservation area restrictions seaward of Southern California for all groundfish commercial and recreational non-trawl sectors.
  • Enable the use of block area closures to control the catch of groundfish for all commercial non-trawl sectors.
  • Amendment 32 aims to provide fishing access to healthy groundfish stocks for non-trawl groundfish fisheries and the directed commercial halibut fishery while still meeting the conservation objectives of the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) also announced the availability of a draft environmental assessment that analyzes the potential effects of the associated proposed rule. 

Electronic Monitoring Program

This rule revises regulations that apply to those in the Pacific Coast Groundfish Trawl Rationalization Program who participate in the electronic monitoring program (EMP).

A contracted research vessel conducting a groundfish survey. Photo: Jeff Bash/NOAA Fisheries.

The proposal is to modify submission deadlines in federal regulations, specific to vessel feedback reports, summary reports and logbook submissions by EM service providers. The recommended rule would also clarify regulations on how EM discard data should be estimated via the video review process.

The change was prompted after the current deadlines were found to be too restrictive. The action is meant to offer more flexibility without increased costs, while still meeting the EM program’s requirements for data collection and quality. The action would also clean up or remove obsolete regulations and administrative requirements and correct terminology and web addresses.

While the primary impact is to service providers participating in the EM program, NMFS estimates it could affect all trawl vessels using EM now or in the future.

“Assuming EM service provider cost savings trickle down to fishery participants, this proposed rule also has the potential to impact commercial harvesting entities engaged in the groundfish limited entry trawl fishery,” the report reads. “Vessels deploying EM are likely to be a subset of the overall trawl fleet, as some vessels would likely choose to continue to use observers. However, as all trawl vessels could potentially use EM in the future, NMFS analyzed impacts to the entire trawl fleet.”

Full implementation of the EMP begins Jan. 1.


Under the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), most commercial regulations follow the license year, which begins on March 1, Steve Gonzalez, CDFW information officer for the south coast and inland deserts regions, explained in an email to Fishermen’s News. Potential changes for the upcoming seasons are still being determined.

There are, however, rules from other agencies that were recently approved and could impact the future of commercial fishing in California waters.

Fisheries Omnibus Bill

Senate Bill 500, authored by state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), enacts or amends multiple provisions relating to commercial fishing. It was signed into law Oct. 13.

SB 500 makes changes in a number of sections of state code related to fish and wildlife, including, but not limited to:

  • Revision of various provisions to refer to “electronic fish tickets” rather than to “landing receipts,” and requires electronic fish tickets to be submitted to the DFW within three business days of the landing, as specified.
  • Prohibition of the receipt, purchase or transfer of fish from occurring at sea or from vessel to vessel, except for certain live marine fish used as bait or as prescribed by regulation.
  • Requiring the Fish and Game Commission to adopt regulations related to commercial sea urchin diving permits, and to the vessels used to commercially fish for sea urchin, to better manage the number of permits issued.
  • Extends the operation of increased aquaculture registration, renewal, surcharge and penalty fees until Jan. 1, 2025.

“California takes great pride in its fishermen and all the hard work they put into boosting local economies and putting healthy, fresh food on our plates. These fishermen risk their lives every day doing their jobs in dangerous and even life-threatening conditions. It is time to promote safety, code consistency, and opportunity,” McGuire stated. “The fisheries omnibus bill, addresses issues related to fisheries across the Golden State.”

Chinook Fisheries Management

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) recently adopted a management framework for California coastal chinook.

NOAA Fisheries and the CDFW developed the framework to ensure that ocean salmon fisheries off the California coast are managed so that conservation objectives for CC chinook are met.

The new management policies would inform the pre-season process for ocean salmon fisheries annually beginning in 2024.

California coastal chinook is listed in the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but higher-than-expected catch rates in the state commercial troll fishery contributed to exceeding the ESA take limit in recent years, despite management efforts to temper the impacts.

Management tools such as trip limits (landing and possession limit) defined fishing periods, quick reporting and in-season action now will be utilized. Specifically, the plan also mandates that:

  • Managers will use the Klamath Ocean Harvest Model and Sacramento Harvest Model to project the all-stock harvest of Chinook salmon adhering to the CC Chinook conservation objective (including NMFS guidance).
  • The pre-season all-stock harvest projection will serve as an overall harvest limit and will be the basis for developing trip limits (i.e., landing and possession limit) for the commercial troll fisheries.
  • Management measures will include provisions for quick reporting/notification (within 24 hours) of commercial landing receipts to CDFW.
  • Catch triggers will be established (e.g., 50% of all-stock harvest limit) to identify when in-season action would be considered to ensure that the harvest limit isn’t exceeded.


For the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), regulations go into place throughout the year and the department doesn’t typically wait for the calendar to turn to implement them, State Fishery Manager Troy Buell explained to Fishermen’s News.

There are a number of regulations that were put in place in 2023, he added, so 2024 will be the first full year of implementation for them in the Beaver state.

Market Squid Light Boats

Earlier this year, the ODFW Commission approved a regulation that prohibits the use of lights to attract market squid, except from the catching vessel or the seine skiff of the catching vessel. Essentially, independent light boats, like those used in the California fishery, are no longer allowed in Oregon, Buell explained.

The action also added the definition of seine skiff in Oregon Administrative Rules (needed to differentiate seine skiffs from light boats).

The new rule went into effect on March 18, 2023.

Tillamook Bay Intertidal Cockle

At the Sept. 15 commission meeting, a rule was passed that no more than 90,000 pounds of cockle clams may be taken for commercial purposes annually from the intertidal areas of Tillamook Bay. This is a fishery-wide quota/harvest limit, not individual. It went into effect Sept. 19.

“This will ensure the equitable allocation between commercial and recreational harvesters and maintain the sustainability of this fishery,” staff wrote in the agenda item summary. 

The 90,000-pound annual landing cap is based on a harvest level of 10% of the current stock estimate.

The department said that it expects to bring a more substantial rules package to the commission in early 2024 after collecting data from a survey currently underway in Tillamook Bay. The survey is aimed at determining appropriate harvest levels for several species of bay clams and provides the most recent and accurate stock assessment estimates.

Commercial Dungeness Crab

The ODFW Commission recently adopted several rules for the ocean commercial Dungeness crab fishery, including indefinitely extending some existing marine life entanglement risk reduction measures that were scheduled to sunset after the 2022-2023 season and adding two new measures.

Commissioners approved the regulatory items at their Aug. 4 meeting and the measures went into effect Aug. 8.

The measures included:

  • A 20% pot reduction beginning May 1 of each season. The rule, initially adopted in 2020, was slated to sunset after three years. The commission’s action in September removed the sunset date and extended the regulation indefinitely. Every permit is reduced to 80% of their pot limit starting May 1 (pot limit tiers are 200, 300 and 500 depending on permit).
  • Prohibition of commercial crabbing seaward of 40 fathoms starting May 1 of each season (also indefinitely extended from its initial sunset date).
  • Restriction on the amount of surface gear allowed. No more than 36 feet of line allowed from the front of the main buoy to the last trailer buoy; no more than three buoys total (main buoy plus two trailer buoys), and allow one end marker “egg buoy” no greater than 5 inches in diameter attached with no more than 3 feet of additional line.
  • Allowance for retention of crab from all derelict crab pots. For those already holding a crab permit, and during an open season, it incentivizes removal of derelict gear by allowing them to keep crab from recovered gear. This was already allowed in most situations, but these changes make the allowance universal, Buell explained.

The action also included some measures to increase operational efficiency—minor modifications and allowances through waivers to address regulatory inefficiency around buoy tag requirements.

Territorial Sea Plan Revisions

Some modifications to the Territorial Seas Plan (TSP) are expected to be in place, but at the time of publication, have not yet been adopted. If approved, they’re likely to go into effect Jan. 1.

The Ocean Policy Advisory Council is responsible for updating the TSP, but doesn’t have authority to manage fisheries, so the ODFW Commission (if members agree) adopts rules to implement OPAC recommendations. The commission was scheduled to consider the latest rule recommendations at its Dec. 15 meeting. 

Assuming the TSP revisions are adopted, the rules would establish six new marine protected areas with various designations and harvest restrictions along rocky shorelines or, in some cases, extending to very shallow nearshore waters, Buell said.

Most areas prohibit commercial shellfish and invertebrate harvest in the intertidal area; one prohibits finfish harvest except from shore. He noted that little impact is expected as there is currently very few to no commercial harvest from these areas.


The season-setting process to plan for fisheries in the Evergreen State is known as the North of Falcon, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) spokesman Mark Yuasa explained in an email to Fishermen’s News.

At the time of publication, the conferences for the upcoming season had not yet occurred. These series of meetings, conducted by NOAA, the PFMC and WDFW, don’t begin until late February, and culminate on April 5-11 in Seattle.

At the end of those meetings, all the new state commercial fishing seasons will be set, including tribal fisheries, he said.


At the state level, while some fishing regulation changes come directly from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the majority go through the process with the Board of Fisheries, Regulations Coordinator Shellene Hutter told Fishermen’s News.

At the time of publication, the board had not yet met to discuss fishing-related proposals, which can be submitted by members of the public, organizations, advisory committees and ADF&G staff.

However, there’s still plenty going on regarding rules and regulations impacting commercial fishing in the Last Frontier state.

Authorizing Shellfish Hatcheries

“For 2024, there is a pretty significant department project that is ongoing right now for shellfish enhancement regulations,” Hutter said.

Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) sponsored HB-41, which the state Legislature passed in 2021, but the steps to implement it are still in the works.

Title 16 of the Alaska statutes includes a new chapter authorizing certain nonprofit organizations to engage in shellfish enhancement projects to create hatcheries for shellfish like king crab.

It also outlines the procedure so ADF&G can manage the projects and issue permits. The Alaska Administrative Procedure Act governs the procedures for state agencies to propose and issue regulations, she noted, adding that the process takes some time.

“We’re still catching up with turning that into a reality,” she said, and unless there is a significant hurdle, it should go into effect in 2024, she added.

For the first time in Alaska, the law allows shellfish to be grown in hatcheries and released into the wild. The aim is to boost commercial fisheries.

“That’s going to be a pretty big deal,” Hutter said.

Federal Fishery Management

NOAA Fisheries is proposing amendment 16 to the FMP for salmon fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Alaska and associated implementing regulations. If the amendment is ultimately approved, it would establish federal fishery management for all salmon fishing that occurs in the Cook Inlet EEZ, which includes commercial drift gillnet. 

The action is necessary to comply with rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska. The change comes after the North Pacific Fishery Management Council earlier this year failed to recommend a required FMP amendment in time.

The new amendment would incorporate the Cook Inlet EEZ area into the salmon FMP, bringing all the salmon fishery that occurs within it under federal management. NOAA Fisheries must implement the amendment by the court-ordered deadline of May 1, 2024.

Pacific Cod Trawl Cooperative Program

NOAA Fisheries recently issued a final rule to implement amendment 122 to the FMP for groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) management area. The rule change establishes the Pacific Cod Trawl Cooperative Program, a limited access privilege program to harvest Pacific cod in the BSAI trawl catcher vessel sector. 

The program allocates the harvest quota to qualifying groundfish License Limitation Program license holders and processors and requires participants to form cooperatives to harvest the quota. 

According to officials, the action is “necessary to increase the value of the fishery, minimize bycatch to the extent practicable, provide for the sustained participation of fishery-dependent communities, ensure the sustainability and viability of the resource and promote safety and stability in the harvesting and processing sectors.” 

The rule became effective on Sept. 7.


In the Aloha State, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) establishes administrative rules and regulations through an extensive public hearing and review process.

The DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources is working on a proposed amendment of Hawaii Administrative Rules chapter 13-74, related to license and permit provisions and fees for fishing, fish and fish products.

One of the key reasons for the changes is to establish and add provisions for a new commercial marine vessel license (CMVL) pursuant to existing state code, including an exemption from commercial marine license requirements for CMVL holders. Another is to establish a fee for duplicate aquaculture licenses and licenses to sell reared species.

New subsections under the commercial marine vessel license section clarify that the fee for the issuance or renewal of a CMVL shall be $100 for any vessel less than 22 feet in length that is not used for longline fishing; $200 for any vessel twenty-two feet in length or greater that is not used for longline fishing, and $1,500 for any vessel used for longline fishing.

The new proposed rule also requires that if a CMVL is issued for a longline vessel, the licensee will file an annual report with DLNR that contains specific information (identity, nationality, arrival date in Hawai‘i, and other information the department may require) about all crew members who worked aboard the vessel during the license period.

The report is required to be submitted within 30 days of the end of the license period.

The CMVL is also required to be kept aboard the vessel at all times while participating in commercial fishing activities and shall be made available for inspection upon demand.

Hawaii DLNR is also making some minor housekeeping modifications throughout the chapter.

Seabird Measures for Deep-Set Longline Fishery

On Oct. 17, NOAA Fisheries published a proposal to modify seabird interaction mitigation measures in the Hawai’i pelagic deep-set (tuna) longline fishery. 

If approved, the action would require vessels stern-setting above 23 degrees north latitude to use a tori line (bird scaring streamer) instead of the currently required thawed, blue-dyed bait and strategic offal discharge. This rule would not apply to shallow- or side-setting vessels.

The intent is to reduce albatross interactions while also streamlining fishing operations and fishery management.

NOAA Fisheries anticipates that the final rule will go into effect in mid-January.  

Sara Hall has 15 years of experience at several regional and national magazines, online news outlets, and daily and weekly newspapers, where coverage has  included reporting on local harbor activities, marine-based news, and regional and state coastal agencies. Her work has included photography, writing, design and layout.