Craig Cross Retires | Appointments and Call for Nominations | Observer Report on 2020 Deployment During Covid | Trawl Electronic Monitoring | BSAI Crab | BSAI Pcod Trawl CV LAPP | BSAI Pacific Cod Small Boat Access | Sablefish Overages | Research Priorities | Central Arctic Agreement | Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan | Risk Tables | Staff Tasking | Ecosystem Committee | Upcoming Meetings
Craig Cross Retires from Council Member Seat
Craig Cross, long-time fixture in the Council process, participated in his last meeting as a Councilmember after having served the limited 3 terms. Mr. Cross brought decades of personal experience in many of the fisheries and programs the Council manages. Craig became active on the Council’s Advisory Panel in 1996 and served for 16 years and an industry representative before being appointed to the Council. Mr. Cross drafted some “lessons learned” from his years in the Council process:
- Nothing in this process is by accident.
- It seems you always have to pick a side, even if you don’t want to.
- Not everyone thinks a large catcher processor is cool.
- It does matter where you live and where your company is based.
- Fishermen and captains are wise and know a lot, but not everything.
- Captains and fishermen are right about young fishery biologists.
- What is a valueless fish today, may be a treasure tomorrow, so treat them as such.
- It takes 6 votes at the Council.
- Don’t try to show up staff or catch them in a mistake, you will need their help next time.
- Being earnest, sincere and respectful, will take you a long way in this process.
Thank you Craig, for your dedication to Alaska’s fisheries, and the people involved in them.
Appointments and Call for Nominations
GOA Groundfish Plan Team appointment
The Council appointed Andrew Olson to the GOA Groundfish Plan Team. Mr. Olson serves as the Southeast Regional Groundfish-Shellfish Coordinator for ADF&G. Mr. Olson is responsible for supervising all groundfish research in the Southeast Region and he has served as the principal investigator on Demersal Shelf Rockfish and Southeast sablefish stock assessment surveys.
Call for Council Committee Nominations
The Council is soliciting nominations for a partial coverage observer representative for the Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC). The PCFMAC convenes industry members, agency representatives, and observer/EM coverage providers to advise the Council on issues related to partial coverage monitoring in the North Pacific halibut and groundfish fisheries. Please submit a letter of interest to Kate Haapala by July 16, 2021, as the next PCFMAC meeting will be September 2021.
The Council is also soliciting nominations to fill a vacancy for an additional EM service provider for the Trawl Electronic Monitoring Committee. The Trawl EM Committee brings together industry members, agency representatives, and EM service providers to collaboratively design, test and develop electronic monitoring systems to suit the needs of the Alaska trawl catcher vessel fisheries. Please send a letter of interest to Anna Henry by July 16, 2021.
NOAA Fisheries seeks nominations for Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee
NOAA Fisheries is accepting nominations through July 29, 2021 to fill vacancies on the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee. MAFAC advises the Secretary of Commerce on all living marine resource matters that are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. The Committee researches, evaluates, and provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary and NOAA on the development and implementation of agency policies that address science and regulatory programs critical to the mission and goals of the NOAA Fisheries Service.
MAFAC members are highly qualified, diverse individuals with experience across the wide spectrum of fisheries, the seafood industry, marine resource management and conservation, and human dimensions associated with living marine resources. Members may be associated with tribes and indigenous peoples, environmental organizations, academia, consumer groups, and other marine life interest groups. A MAFAC member may not be a federal employee, member of a Regional Fishery Management Council, registered federal lobbyist, or state employee. Membership is voluntary, and except for reimbursable travel and related expenses, service is without pay.
Full nomination instructions and guidelines are available on the Federal Register.
For questions or more information, please contact Heidi Lovett, MAFAC Assistant Director, email@example.com.
Observer Report on 2020 Deployment During Covid
The Council received a presentation from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the 2020 Observer Annual Report and provided recommendations for the development of the 2022 Draft Annual Deployment Plan (ADP). The Annual Report provides a scientific evaluation of the deployment of observers in 2020 to evaluate if deployment expectations were met that year. The report also includes information describing the program, enforcement trends, outreach efforts, and agency recommendations for developing the 2022 Draft ADP. The Council also received a report from the Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC) and Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC) on recommendations for the upcoming 2022 Draft ADP and ongoing analytical work for cost efficiencies in the partial coverage observer program.
The Council commends NMFS on the Annual Report, and all the hard work from observers, observer and electronic monitoring providers, fishermen, and staff that made observer coverage possible during a challenging year. The Council supports NMFS’ recommendations for the 2022 Draft ADP listed in section 6.1 of the Annual Report.
- Maintaining the three gear-based deployment strata (pot, hook-and-line, and trawl)
- Evaluating trip and port-based deployment approaches. Port-based deployment should only evaluate the existing 14 key ports from which observers deployed in 2020 and 2021 and reflect updated COVID-19 rules.
- Maintaining the 15% baseline hurdle for each gear type and optimize place all optimized days above the baseline coverage level on trawl gear. Currently, optimization is based on discards, Chinook salmon PSC, and halibut PSC. The Council supports evaluation of the FMAC suggestion to ensure optimization days if funding alone is not sufficient, as practicable.
- The Council supports expanding the fixed gear EM pool as funding allows. A vessel’s ability to share EM systems in select ports should be considered as an additional criterion to prioritize new candidate EM vessels for the EM pool.
The Council further supports the May 2021 FMAC recommendations including completion of the comprehensive partial coverage cost efficiencies analysis in 2022 for implementation in the 2024 ADP and in time to inform and affect the next Federal observer contract which is set to expire in August 2024. The Council priorities for cost efficiency in partial coverage remain: 1) completing a regulated program for use of EM for pelagic trawl in the GOA and BSAI; 2) integration of electronic monitoring into the overall monitoring of fixed gear; and 3) evaluation of different criteria to define the ‘zero selection’ pool for fixed gear. The Council recommends ongoing communication with the Council’s PCFMAC during this process. Staff contact is Anna Henry.
Trawl Electronic Monitoring
The Council took action to initiate analysis to implement electronic monitoring (EM) on pollock catcher vessels (CVs) using pelagic trawl gear and tender vessels transporting pollock catch in the eastern Bering Sea (BS) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA).
The principal investigators on the BS and GOA pelagic pollock EM exempted fishing permit (EFP) presented an interim report on the progress of the EFP through April 2021. The EFP report highlighted that objectives are being met: maximized retention can be accomplished with limited changes in vessel activities, EM is effective in capturing at sea discard events to support catch accounting, biological sampling goals can be met by shoreside observers with effective communication, salmon bycatch accounting is improved, specifically in WGOA pollock fishery that relied on estimates with large variance under status quo methods and initial comparisons indicate that EM is more cost-effective, especially after the initial cost of systems in the first year.
The Council also received a report from the trawl EM Committee and reviewed a draft set of alternatives developed by NMFS and Council staff. The Council adopted the purpose and need statement as included in the draft alternatives document and recommended by the Trawl EM Committee and approved the following three alternatives to analyze to implement a regulated trawl EM program:
- Alternative 1: status quo–EM would not be implemented and catch monitoring would be provided by at-sea observers.
- Alternative 2: Electronic Monitoring is implemented on pelagic pollock trawl catcher vessels and tenders delivering to shoreside processors in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
- Alternative 3: Electronic Monitoring is implemented on pelagic pollock trawl catcher vessels delivering to shoreside processors and not on tenders.
- Option 1 Bering Sea
- Option 2 Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska
The Council was clear that their goal and intent is to implement Alternative 2 and include all CVs and tenders in the BS and GOA in the regulated program, as it is currently structured in the EFP. However, Alternative 3 is included in the alternative set to support a robust analysis of the elements necessary to implement an EM option in three different pollock fisheries (CVs in the BS, GOA and tenders), and provide a framework to promote analysis of the various complexities and unique characteristics of the three groups. The Council also recognized that there are some significant logistical and operational challenges in implementing EM. If the analysis identifies that one group of vessels is having unanticipated difficulties in addressing those logistical challenges and data are not available to be able to proceed with a regulated program, Alternative 3 allows for these challenges to continue to be examined and addressed through an EFP, without slowing implementation for the remainder of the program. The Council supported the current list of elements from the draft alternatives document be included in the analysis, understanding that new elements may be added and current elements may be modified in the future. The Council recognized the success of the collaborative approach of the EFP team and encouraged the continuation of this team to address complex issues as they arise in the analysis.
The implementation timeline is for the regulated trawl EM program to begin in January 2024.
The Council also passed a motion to draft a letter of support for National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) EM funding proposals including:
- A proposal from United Catcher Boats (UCB), Alaska Groundfish Data Bank and Aleutians East Borough (AEB) to improve and expand EM systems onboard pollock mid-water trawl catcher vessels in the BS and GOA; including the sub-project from AEB to test current trawl EM systems on boats using fixed-gear in the WGOA.
- A proposal from the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and North Pacific Fishermen’s Association (NPFA) to develop machine learning algorithms that can evaluate image quality.
- A proposal from the Fishing Vessel Owner’s Association (FVOA) to form and test an industry run co-op model that will contract with existing NMFS-certified observer contractors and EM providers to improve cost efficiencies in the current partial coverage observer program.
Staff contact is Anna Henry.
The Council specified OFLs and ABCs for Aleutian Islands golden king crab (AIGKC) and Pribilof Islands blue king crab (PIBKC) and accepted the updated BSAI Crab SAFE chapters for those stocks. The Council also reviewed model scenarios for Eastern Bering Sea snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, and Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab and several other issues from the May 2021 Crab Plan Team Report.
For AIGKC, the Council adopted an OFL of 4,817 mt and an ABC of 3,372 mt for the 2021/22 fishing year. The Council’s specified ABC reflected a 30% buffer below OFL, consistent with the SSC’s recommendations for several sources of uncertainty in the stock assessment. Uncertainty issues included a retrospective pattern in estimated biomass for the eastern portion of the stock, problems with model convergence, and declining fishery CPUE. Based on the updated stock assessment, AIGKC is not overfished.
For Pribilof Island blue king crab, which is assessed biennially, the Council adopted an OFL of 116 mt and an ABC of 87 mt for both the 2021/22 and 2022/23 fishing years consistent with the recommendations of the SSC and Crab Plan Team. The PIBKC stock is “overfished” and is in rebuilding, and no directed fishing is permitted. The specified ABC accommodates the occurrence of small amounts of PIBKC bycatch that occurs in other fisheries.
For both AIGKC and PIBKC, because 2021 catch data are still preliminary, a determination of stock status with respect to overfishing will not be provided until the final 2021 BSAI Crab SAFE is approved by the SSC at the October 2021 Council meeting.
Although the Crab Plan Team discussed development of risk tables for reducing ABC below the maximum permissible level, the Council addressed that issue separate from the Crab Plan Team report agenda item. Following a report from the SSC, the Council determined that further work on risk tables is needed through the Joint Groundfish Plan Teams before application to the crab specifications process.
Staff contact is Diana Stram
BSAI Pcod Trawl CV LAPP
At this meeting, the Council conducted a second initial review of an analysis for a Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel (CV) limited access program (LAPP). After reviewing the analysis, the SSC and Advisory Panel recommendations, and listening to public testimony, the Council recommended releasing the analysis for final action during the October 2021 meeting after addressing comments from the SSC to the extent practicable. The Council selected a preliminary preferred alternative (PPA) and adjusted several of the elements and options. A summary of those adjustments and the PPA is provided below.
The proposed program considers allocations of quota shares (QS) to groundfish LLP licenses based on the harvest of targeted BSAI Pacific cod during the qualifying years. The action also considers allocating harvest shares to a processor permit based on processing history of BSAI Pacific cod during the qualifying years. Harvesters and processors could then assign the QS to cooperatives on an annual basis as an exclusive harvest privilege allocation.
The purpose of this action is to improve the prosecution of the fishery with the intent of promoting safety and stability in the harvesting and processing sectors, increasing the value of the fishery, minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable, providing for the sustained participation of fishery-dependent communities, and ensuring the sustainability and viability of the resource.
The following is a summary of the PPA as well as major adjustments to the elements and options made at the October meeting:
- Element 1 – Selected as part of the PPA: The Council adjusted the PPA option to require a minimum of three LLP licenses for cooperative formation rather than a minimum of three unique LLP license holders to form a cooperative.
- Element 2 – Selected as part of the PPA: 1) Options 2.2.2 (2009-2019) qualifying years, 2) in the case of stacked LLP licenses (Option 2.3.2) that authorized qualifying catch history when no agreement is provided by the vessel owner/license holders at the time of application, qualifying catch history would be assigned to an LLP license by the owner of the vessel that made the catch, and when only one of the LLP licenses authorized the catch, that qualifying catch history would be assigned to the LLP license that authorized the catch, 3) Element 2.5 which would allocate A and B season BSAI trawl CV Pacific cod only leaving the C season allocation as a limited access trawl fishery.
- Element 3 – Selected as a part of the PPA: Establish a separate halibut BSAI PSC limit for the trawl CV Pacific cod sector based on historic use of halibut and establish a separate crab BSAI PSC limits based on the proportion of BSAI Pacific cod allocated to the trawl CV sector and the AFA CP sector. Also included in the PPA is a 25% reduction of halibut PSC and a 35% reduction of crab PSC applied to the PSC limits established for the trawl CV sector. The Council added Element 3.4 and selected it as a PPA, which would establish a separate C season halibut and crab PSC apportion (5-15%) before applying PSC limit reductions. The Council added Suboption 3.3.3 that would phase in PSC limit reductions over 3 years but that option was not selected as part of the PPA. Finally, Council added language that clearly indicates how PSC limits are transferable between cooperatives, which was selected as a PPA.
- Element 4 – Selected as a PPA which includes Option 4.1 and Option 4.2. Option 4.1 was adjusted to only modify the AFA non-exempt CV GOA groundfish sideboard limits based on Element 2.2.2 (2009-2019) qualifying years. AFA GOA halibut PSC sideboard limits for the AFA non-exempt CVs would remain unchanged. Option 4.2 was adjusted to authorize leasing of BSAI Pacific cod QS for vessels assigned to a qualified GOA exempt LLP license that do not fish in the GOA, expect when fishing under the CGOA Rockfish Program, during the calendar year. Finally, the Council included Suboption 4.2.1 in its PPA, but did not select an average annual qualifying amount of BSAI Pacific cod history at this time.
- Element 5 – Selected as part of the PPA: 1) all of Element 5.1 which states that all processors with an eligible FPP or FFP are eligible to process BSAI Pacific cod under this program (subject to eligibility requirements under BSAI FMP Amendment 120), 2) Element 5.2 which would limit directed BSAI Pacific cod that can be delivered by trawl CVs to eligible CPs acting as a mothership. The Council did not select, at this time, the basis (to calculate the percentage) of the limitation, 3) Element 5.4 which would allocate harvest shares to eligible processors, but the Council did not select a percentage option at this time. The Council also modified Element 5 by adding: 1) revised option 5.2.1 to add 125% of processing history cap, and 2) added option 5.2.2 to allow each eligible CP acting as a mothership to process up to its processing history during the qualifying years, 3) another option for trawl CVs to qualify for delivering to the offshore sector based on either 90% or 75% or more of the quota arising from the history of the eligible LLP license having been delivered offshore during the qualifying years in Element 2.2, and 4) language stating processors that are no longer active (no longer hold an FPP) would not be issued harvest shares. The processing history associated with these processors would be deducted from the total amount of eligible processing history.
- Element 6 – Selected as part of the PPA is Option 6.1, which would require cooperatives reserve a 10% set-aside for delivery to an AI shoreplant if the community of Adak or Atka file a notice of intent to process. The Council clarified through new language that the set-aside is in effect only during the A season and any remaining portion of that set-aside will be reallocated to cooperatives in the same proportion as the initial allocation. Also included as part of the PPA, the Council added new language requiring cooperatives to establish intercooperative agreement that describes how either Option 6.1 (set aside) or Option 6.2 (shore plant allocation) will be administered by the cooperatives to ensure that harvests in the BS do not exceed the minimum set aside or shore plant allocation amounts. Although not part of the PPA, the Council also added language that the intercooperative agreement must also establish how cooperatives would ensure that CVs < 60’ assigned to an LLP license with transferable AI trawl endorsement have the opportunity to harvest a percentage of the AI set-aside for delivery to AI shoreplants.
- Element 7 – Selected as part of the PPA.
- Element 8 – Selected as part of the PPA are the following: 1) Option 8.1 establishes a 5% hold and use cap using an individual and collective rule with a grandfather provision. 2) Option 8.2 establishes a 4% vessel use cap with a grandfather provision. 3) Option 8.3 establishes a 15% ownership and use cap on processor issued harvest shares using an individually and collective rule and a grandfather provision. 4) Option 8.4 establishes a 20% processing facility use cap with a grandfather provision.
- Element 9 – Selected as part of the PPA. The Council clarified that a cooperative is formed by holders of qualified LLP licenses with trawl CV Pacific cod QS, and LLP licenses may be assigned to only one cooperative. The Council also added language that a list of CVs, including pot gear vessels if Element 14 is selected that are eligible to harvest cooperative CQ, must be identified in the annual cooperative application.
- Element 10 – Selected as part of the PPA.
- Element 11 – Selected as part of the PPA.
- Element 12 – Selected as part of the PPA
- Element 13 – Selected as part of the PPA
- Element 14 – Selected as part of the PPA. The Council clarified that CVs using pot gear are associated with a cooperative and are not members of the cooperative, and pot CVs harvesting CQ would be subject to 100% observer coverage.
The Council also requested that staff adjust the strawman alternatives to include Option 2.4 (blend option) and Option 5.4.2 (10%) and 5.4.5 (25%) in the October 2021 final action analysis. The final Council motion is posted. Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
BSAI Pacific Cod Small Boat Access
The Council reviewed a discussion paper and initiated an analysis for new access opportunities for smaller vessels (e.g., <57 ft) in the Bering Sea Aleutian Island (BSAI) Pacific Cod less than 60 ft hook-and-line (HAL) or pot sector by allowing smaller HAL/pot vessels to harvest Pacific cod from the BSAI Pacific cod jig sector allocation. Currently, the less than 60 ft HAL or pot sector has a 2% allocation, and the jig sector a 1.4% allocation, of BSAI Pacific cod under Amendment 85. After reviewing the discussion paper, the Council initiated an analysis and adopted the following alternatives:
Alternative 1: Status quo
Alternative 2: Redefine the current BSAI Pacific cod jig sector to include HAL/pot CVs less than or equal to:
Option 1: 55 feet LOA.
Option 2: 56 feet LOA.
Suboption: B-season fishery would remain jig gear only fishery.
By initiating this analysis, the Council recognized that increased participation from higher-capacity catcher vessels greater than 57 ft LOA in the BSAI Pacific cod less than 60 ft HAL/pot catcher vessel sector, which has negatively impacted smaller vessels in the sector through shortened seasons. These shortened seasons limit smaller vessels’ ability to compete within the sector as they are limited to fish in less productive waters near port due to their size. The jig sector allocation has not historically been fully utilized, particularly in the A and C seasons. Allowing smaller HAL/pot vessels to harvest Pacific cod from the jig sector allocation may provide additional opportunities for current fishery participants and potential new entrants with smaller catcher vessels without negatively impacting catcher vessels using jig gear. Staff contact for this issue is Kate Haapala.
The Council reviewed a discussion paper, requested in December 2020, to examine management tools that the Council may consider to limit or prevent overages of trawl sablefish area- and sector-specific allocations. The Council initiated the discussion paper in response to public comment and a letter submitted to the Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries in October 2020 that identified a number of complaints about the trawl sector exceeding its sablefish allocation. The paper reviewed a number of potential management measures identified by the Council and provided context for sablefish ACLs and how they are managed, and sablefish catch in the trawl fisheries. After review, the Council passed a motion to take no further action, but did note during staff tasking that they are interested in hearing from the trawl sector about plans to avoid sablefish in the future.
A single sablefish stock occupies the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska. As appropriate for a single stock, a single Overfishing Level (OFL) is established for sablefish, statewide. Current model predictions indicate that this stock is not subject to overfishing, not overfished, and not approaching an overfished condition. Acceptable Biological Catches (ABCs) for sablefish are specified by management area, and have been reduced from the maximum permissible ABC for the last several years. Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) are set well below biomass estimates, and Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are set well below ABC.
Recent large year classes have resulted in large numbers of juvenile sablefish that appear to be ubiquitous on the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska grounds. The large year classes have made it difficult for directed longline fisheries and trawl fisheries to avoid small sablefish. As a result, trawl fisheries have exceeded several area-based sablefish allocations in recent years. The potential management measures reviewed in the discussion paper were considered to limit or prevent overages in the trawl fisheries. Preliminary review of the proposed management measures did not indicate that any of the proposed measures would have an appreciable effect on the catch of sablefish in the trawl fisheries. Trawl fisheries operate under a number of Prohibited Species Catch limits that are monitored closely by the cooperatives. Sectors have developed methods to track rates of bycatch for multiple species, including Chinook and chum salmon, herring, halibut, and sablefish. The Council encouraged the cooperatives to develop non-regulatory actions to reduce sablefish encounters in years of high abundance.
Staff contact is Diana Evans
The Council received an update from the SSC on its proposed process for conducting triennial review of research priorities. Although the Council had approved three-year research priorities at its April 2021 meeting, the SSC deferred aspects of the review process and changes to a strategic priorities to the June 2021 meeting. For subsequent triennial reviews, the Council’s Plan Teams and other advisory groups will not review all of the projects listed in the research priorities database. Those projects, however, will inform development of a strategic vision for research. The SSC urged that the review process be limited to candidates for a “Top 10”, with a short abstract for each.
The Council discussed the importance of improving the visibility of public input opportunities (on-ramps) for research priorities review and Council staff will communicate these opportunities through the website. Public comment opportunities were recognized as needing to be transparent, predictable, efficient, and trackable so groups better understand how their ideas were considered by the SSC.
Other recommendations by the SSC included:
In preparation for the next triennial review-
- On-ramps for receiving stakeholder input on priorities.
- Rubric with a clear goal statement of how to evaluate priorities for the Top 10.
- SSC review of items 1-2 and an updated “Research Priorities and Process document”.
- Maintaining database of past priorities, but without review by SSC and Plan Teams.
- SSC subgroup engagement with NPRB for 2024.
As part of the triennial review-
- SSC update of high level categorical narratives for Strategic and COM priorities.
- Top 3 – 5 priorities from Plan Team and other designated on-ramp entities including a ~150 word abstract.
- SSC review of priorities for Top 10.
- Priorities not selected for Top 10 will not continue to be tracked.
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong.
Central Arctic Agreement
The Council noted the receipt of the Instrument of Approval of the Agreement from the People’s Republic of China that allows the implementation of the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean (Agreement). The Agreement, completed in Ilulissat, Canada on 3 October 2018, commits the parties to not authorize any vessel flying its flag to engage in commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the Arctic Ocean. The Council noted the extensive efforts by former Council member and current Ecosystem Committee member, David Benton, to complete the agreement and congratulated Mr. Benton on the implementation of the Agreement. More information on the agreement can be found on the NOAA website.
Staff contact is Steve MacLean.
Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan
Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan
The Council reviewed reports from the FEP Team and the Climate Change Taskforce (CCTF), and continues to support their work in progress.
Bering Sea FEP Team
The FEP Team provided a report on their May 2021 meeting, at which they discussed the development of a new ecosystem report focused on strategic and long-term indicators as well as the ongoing work of the two FEP Taskforces which are focused on assessing climate change resilience and protocols for using local knowledge, traditional knowledge, and subsistence information in the Council process. The Team clarified the purpose of the proposed new Bering Sea Ecosystem Health Report and how it is different from existing ecosystem reports, and outlined a plan for producing a pilot of the report for next year. At the Council’s direction, the Team will incorporate recommendations from the Ecosystem Committee and the SSC in its ongoing design and development. Staff contact for the FEP Plan Team is Diana Evans.
Climate Change Taskforce Workplan
The Council also received an update from the Bering Sea FEP Climate Change Task Force (CCTF) on the milestones and deliverables for their workplan, which was approved by the council in February. The Council endorsed the work plan and supports the goal of the Climate Change Module as developed by the CCTF: ‘to facilitate the Council’s work towards climate-ready fisheries management that helps ensure both short- and long-term resilience for the Bering Sea’ as well as the steps outlined by the CCTF to achieve this goal. The CCTF workplan, milestones and deliverable are posted to the Council website. The CCTF short-term goals for their fall 2021 meeting include providing a Climate readiness briefing for the Council which outlines how current management is poised to respond to climate change and identifies gaps and areas for improvement as well as an outline of the planned Climate report. The process outlines in the CCTF workplan is displayed below with orange indicating the new climate information feeding into the Council’s management system as a result of the proposed process to be developed by the CCTF between now and 2025. Staff contact for the CCTF is Diana Stram.
The Council supported SSC guidance on the application of the risk tables for the fall groundfish assessment cycle. Previously, the Council had asked to review SSC advice on the risk table coming out of the February 2021 SSC Risk Table workshop. The purpose of the workshop was for the SSC to provide feedback to stock assessment authors and Plan Teams, and to determine the SSC’s plan to assess risk table performance. The SSC prepared a summary of the workshop, and at its June meeting the SSC used the workshop report as a basis to provide guidance on the development and use of risk tables in the fall assessment cycle. The updated version of the report reflects the SSC’s most current recommendations regarding Risk Tables.
The Council specifically supported SSC recommendations to provide risk tables during each full assessment, and delay of application of the risk table to the crab specifications process until further progress is made on groundfish. In addition, the Council motion requests the SSC consider the following when developing its final recommendations in October:
- Include description of any new or modified concern categories, including whether positive stock trends should be included as similar ‘concerns’.
- Request the SSC consider the roles of the stock authors and/or Plan Teams in presenting risk, and the role of the SSC in making specific recommendations on potential reductions from maxABC, if appropriate.
- Clear language relative to SSC guidance that the risk tables are intended to inform the SSC determination of adjusting ABC from maximum permissible when needed. Previous reductions to maxABC should not be the basis for reducing maxABC unless relevant risk factors for a stock continue to be present.
It is anticipated that the Plan Teams will review the SSC and Council guidance at the September Plan Team meetings, provide any additional input, and the guidance for using risk tables in 2021 assessments will be finalized in October. Consideration of risk and its incorporation into the assessment process will continue to be regularly reviewed by the Council and SSC.
Staff contact is Sara Cleaver.
The Council discussed the relative priority and scheduling of previously tasked projects, and identified new tasking. The revised 3 meeting outlook reflects this guidance.
Return to In-Person Meetings
The Council was briefed on staff progress with planning the transition back to in-person meetings, beginning in October. All Plan Team and Committee meetings will be held virtually through September 2021, and the Advisory Panel and the SSC will also meet virtually for the October meeting. Based on Council direction, staff will tentatively plan to hold the October 2021 Council meeting itself in person. The Council supported this phased-in approach in order to prioritize staff resources for piloting additional remote participation options as part of the return to in-person meetings, in particular allowing remote testimony at the Council, and in future, broadcasting AP and SSC meetings when they occur in-person.
The Council directed staff to write a letter to NFWF, in support of several electronic monitoring projects that have been submitted for funding (see discussion in observer and trawl EM newsletter articles).
The Council also provided the following additional direction:
- The Council tasked a discussion paper to consider changing the Aleutian Islands golden king crab fishery start date and removing the facility use cap, in order to provide a live crab market opportunity for independent processing quota holders through custom processing arrangement as well as for more crab harvesters.
- The Council endorsed the Ecosystem Committee’s proposed workplan to address a number of topics including northern fur seals, marine debris, areas-based management, GOA ecosystem-based fishery management research initiatives, and forage fish.
- The FMAC co-Chairs referenced an issue raised earlier in the meeting about a labor shortage of qualified observers for the Alaska fisheries, and noted they intend to follow up over the summer with NMFS, and report back to the Council.
- The Council supported the Executive Director working with Tanana Chiefs Conference to organize a potential outreach and engagement trip for Council members and staff over the summer.
- The Council also requested staff post discussion papers, reports, and analyses in support of upcoming agenda items at least 7 days before the closing of the written comment period whenever possible.
Finally, the Council appointed Andrew Olson to the GOA Groundfish Plan Team, and issued a call for nominations for vacancies on the PCFMAC and Trawl EM committees.
The Council reviewed the ecosystem committee report from their May 2021 meeting and made several recommendations for the ecosystem committee workplan and tasking. The Council supported the ecosystem committee recommendation for staff to finalize plans for ongoing briefings with northern fur seal co-managers and researchers and schedule them on an ecosystem committee calendar. The Council requested that the ecosystem committee receive an update in October 2021 from the Alaska Regional Office Protected Species Division on the update to the Conservation Plan for the Eastern Pacific Stock of Northern Fur Seal, including information from the co-managers on the Pribilof Islands. The Council requested that staff reach out to organizations addressing marine debris in Alaska to develop an overview of activities. The Council suggests that the OECM discussion paper requested by the Council for October 2021 could be delayed until other projects to address OECMs are understood. The Council requested that the ecosystem committee continue to track how important ecological areas identified by tribes and NGOs can contribute to the EO 14008 discussion and whether additional management measures can strengthen their resilience to climate change. The Council tasked staff with developing a report on the status of research initiatives taking place in the GOA and timelines associated with those projects. The Council tasked staff with developing a report on the state of scientific understanding of forage fish ecology, coastwide, the status of research initiatives on forage fish ecology, and the timelines associated with those projects. The Council requested that the Ecosystem Workshop steering group meet again soon to continue planning.
Staff contact is Steve MacLean.
Council Committees, Plan Teams, and Taskforces
The Council will be holding all meetings virtually through September 2021. For the October 2021 Council meeting, the AP and the SSC will be held virtually, with the Council meeting itself tentatively scheduled to occur in person in Anchorage.
Committee and Plan Team meetings that are currently anticipated, all occurring virtually, include:
- BSAI Crab Plan Team – September 13-17, 2021
- BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams – September 20-24, 2021
- Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC) – TBD (Sep 2021)
- Ecosystem Committee – TBD (September 2021)
- IFQ Committee (T) – TBD (September 2021)