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Fisheries off West Coast States: Highly Migratory Species Fishery; El Nino Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area Closure


Fishing Type
Affected Species
Action Status
Temporary Rule
Point of Contact
Chris Fanning, West Coast Region, (562) 980-4198, chris.fanning@noaa.gov


NMFS will publish a temporary in-season rule to prohibit fishing with large-mesh drift gillnet (DGN) gear in the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area in the Southern California Bight (SCB) east of the 120° W. meridian (50 CFR 660.713(c)(2)) from June 1, 2024, through August 31, 2024.

This prohibition is based on the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries' (AA’s) determination that El Niño conditions are occurring off the coast of southern California. This action is intended to protect Endangered Species Act-listed loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), specifically, the endangered North Pacific Ocean Distinct Population Segment.

NMFS staff reviewed the SST anomalies in the SCB during March and April of 2024, relying on SST maps available through NOAA's Coast Watch program. These maps indicated that SSTs were above normal in the SCB. NMFS concluded that a determination that El Niño conditions are occurring off southern California is warranted based on SSTs that were warmer than normal during March and April, 2024, consistent with regulations at 50 CFR 660.713(c)(2)(ii). Also in March and April 2024, the National Weather Service’s Climate Protection Center (CPC) issued El Niño Advisories for the Pacific Ocean. Under the CPC’s El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) diagnostic system, an El Niño Advisory is issued when El Niño conditions are observed and/or expected to continue.

If SSTs return to normal or below normal during a closure period, the AA may re-open the fishery after publishing a Federal Register notice announcing that El Niño conditions are no longer present in the SCB. Reports published from February 2024 to May 2024 included a La Niña Watch status in addition to the El Niño Advisory, and the CPC report on May 9, 2024, indicates a transition from El Niño to ENSO-neutral likely in the next month. The CPC also indicates a La Niña may develop in June-August (with a 49% chance) or July-September (with a 69% chance).

Map of the Pacific loggerhead turtle conservation area off the U.S. West Coast, indicating closure areas for leatherback and loggerhead turtles in 2024

Figure 1: Map of the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area (Loggerhead Closure).

For more information

Contact Chris Fanning, West Coast Region (WCR), NMFS, (562) 980-4198, chris.fanning@noaa.gov.

Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on 05/31/2024