Management Process

How the Management Process Works

Each fishery managed by the Council has a fishery management plan outlining the characteristics and dynamics of the fishery and how it is managed. When an issue arises in a fishery that needs to be addressed through management, an initial review of the issue begins. Any change to management measures requires an amendment to the fishery management plan - a plan amendment.

Plan amendments under development must go through the Council process before any final action on a proposed management measure is taken. The steps to the Council process include:

  • Identification of Management Measure - The Council identifies a specific issue that needs to be addressed in a fishery and instructs staff to begin development of a draft document outlining the issue and the purpose and need to address the issue.

  • Before going to the next step, the draft document has to be put through an added requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that includes an Environmental Assessment and possibly an Environmental Impact Statement.

  • Environmental Assessment (EA) - a concise summary that determines if a proposed action will have significant environmental impact. The results of the EA determine if an EIS is needed or not.

  • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) - If a proposed action has significant environmental impacts, an EIS is initiated and includes alternative actions that minimize impacts and meet NEPA policies. A draft EIS requires a 45-day comment period and the final EIS requires a 30-day comment period. When an EIS is required the amendment must go to scoping first and then on to public hearings.

  • Scoping Process - A scoping document is prepared by Council staff and the Council then gathers input from stakeholders in the region on solutions for addressing the specific fishery issue. This step in the process allows the Council to further understand the fishery issue and potential impacts in order to develop reasonable management actions and alternatives that address the issue.

  • Public Hearing - Based on feedback from the scoping process, an options paper or public hearing summary document is developed outlining proposed actions and alternatives to address the fishery issue. The Council then holds public hearings to collect more feedback and suggestions on additional alternatives on the issue from stakeholders. Public hearings are held in each state throughout the region in January and August each year. Additionally, a public comment session is always held during the week of the Council meeting to address any amendments under development.

  • Final Action - After all public input has been received, the Council takes final action through a vote at the quarterly Council meeting to choose their final recommendation for the appropriate management strategies. A final approval vote moves the amendment on to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval and implementation.

At this point in the process, the Council has completed their role in the development of the amendment.


Final Action through Implementation

The amendment is then sent to NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service for rulemaking. Rulemaking includes further review, development of a proposed rule, public comment, development of a final rule and approval by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce before being implemented.


Other Types of Management Actions in the Process:

Three other types of actions also occur in the Council management process.

  1. Emergency Rule - used to make changes to regulations when urgent action is necessary and address unanticipated fishery issues or problems. These are actions that are implemented quickly and immediately.

  2. Interim Rule - used to implement regulations for fish that are overfished and/or experiencing overfishing. These are actions that are implemented quickly and immediately.


  1. Framework Actions - a standardized way to put management measures in place that affect the terms of the fishery management plan. These can be open or closed. Open allows the Council to retain control. Closed gives NOAA Fisheries authority to make management adjustments.