NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) manage the US West Coast yellowtail rockfish fishery under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). In addition to yellowtail rockfish, the FMP covers over 90 different species along the US West Coast including other rockfish and flatfish. Implemented in 1982, the FMP has been amended 28 times to account for changes in the fishery, reauthorizations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and for internal PFMC procedures. A combination of fishing pressures and natural factors significantly reduced rockfish abundance in the 1980s and 1990s and the US Pacific groundfish fishery was on the verge of collapse in 2000 – with the federal government formally declaring it an economic disaster in early 2000. Since 2002, management measures have been successful in allowing overfished stocks to rebuild and while still vulnerable to fishing pressure, the US West Coast yellowtail rockfish population is now considered to be healthy.
Yellowtail rockfish are divided along the US West Coast into two stocks – a northern and a southern stock with the boundary between the two stocks being 40°30 ́N. The US commercial groundfish fishery is comprised of three components: Limited Entry (LE), Open Access (OA), and Nearshore (NS). The LE and OA sectors are managed by the PFMC while the NS sector is jointly managed by the PFMC and the states of Oregon and California respectfully. There is no NS fishery for yellowtail rockfish or other groundfish in the state-managed waters off of Washington.
Current management of US West Coast yellowtail rockfish is considered strong in part due to:
- Catch limits
- Gear restrictions
- Spatial closures to avoid overfished species and sensitive habitat
- Bycatch reduction measures
Beginning in 2011, LE trawl permit holders were allowed to participate in a catch share program. Participants in the program receive an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) of the total catch of the 29 commercial species/species complexes along the US West Coast. Fishers participating in the program can fish their quota at anytime during the season and can use non-trawl gear to catch their quota shares. Whereas non-IFQ fisheries have varying levels of at-sea observer coverage, the catch share program requires 100 percent at-sea and dockside monitoring.
As the majority of yellowtail rockfish abundance occurs between Oregon and British Columbia, there is no direct fishery in Alaska for yellowtail rockfish and the species is not considered to be of significant commercial interest in the region.
Yellowtail rockfish are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Canada. The species is managed as two areas along the Canadian coast – a coastal stock defined from central Vancouver Island northwards and a boundary stock that includes waters off southern Vancouver Island. There is no known biological basis for a stock boundary in Canada and this division was created for management purposes. Yellowtail rockfish are considered an important component of the multi-species and multi-gear groundfish fishery in British Columbia and currently have the second largest single species total allowable catch (TAC) among rockfish species along Pacific Canada. Among management measures the DFO establishes are:
- Annual quotas (98.91 percent allocated to the trawl sector, 1.09 percent allocated to hook and line)
- Stock assessments
- Bycatch reduction measures to protect corals and sponges
- 100 percent at-sea and dockside monitoring