In December 2018 the North Pacific Council adopted a Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (BS FEP). Fisheries Ecosystem Plans are a tool that serves to enhance the Council’s management programs with more ecosystem science, broader ecosystem considerations, and management policies that coordinate Council management across its Fishery Management Plans and the Bering Sea ecosystem. The BS FEP formalized the Council’s management for the Bering Sea as an ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) approach.
Moving towards EBFM is a process and as new information or tools become available, the Council responds by improving the fishery management program. Therefore, the Bering Sea FEP is a living document that will be updated over time and used to guide policy options and associated opportunities, risks, and tradeoffs affecting FMP species and the broader Bering Sea ecosystem in a systematic manner.
The adopted “Core” document for the Bering Sea FEP documents current procedures and best practices for EBFM, provides brief, targeted, and evolving descriptions of the interconnected physical, biological, and human/institutional Bering Sea ecosystem and through ecosystem thresholds and targets, and directs how that information can be used to guide fishery management options.
The Council’s interest was to develop an FEP that:
- provides added value to existing Council documents, processes, and decision-making;
- delivers targeted, evolving ecosystem evaluations but does not overwhelm the audience with a compilation of ecosystem information; and
- results in measurable improvements to Bering Sea fishery management, but does not directly authorize management actions (action-informing rather than action-forcing).
BS FEP Action Modules
The BS FEP sets goals and objectives for the Bering Sea ecosystem which directs the process by which the Council should manage fisheries, monitor the ecosystem, and prioritize new research through the identification of projects, called Action Modules.
To date, the Council has initiated two Bering Sea Action Modules, and taskforces have been created to accomplish their tasks over the course of 2-3 years.
BS FEP Climate Change Taskforce
The Climate Action Module Workplan was initiated by the Council in December 2018, and the Taskforce was formed after a solicitation for nominations in October 2019. The goal of this climate project is to evaluate the vulnerability of key species and fisheries to climate change and to strengthen resilience in regional fisheries management. The Action Module will address the following objectives: (1) coordinate to synthesize results of various ongoing and completed climate change research projects; (2) evaluate the scope of impacts on priority species identified in initial studies; and (3) strategically re-evaluate management strategies every 5-7 years; (4) include synthesis to evaluate climate-resilient management tools. Results will inform “climate-ready” tactical and strategic management measures, which will help ensure a productive Bering Sea marine ecosystem and healthy fisheries for decades to come. For more information, please contact Diana Stram by email or at (907) 271-2806.
Local Knowledge/Traditional Knowledge/Subsistence Taskforce
The Local Knowledge, Traditional Knowledge, and Subsistence (LKTKS) Action Module was initiated by the Council in December 2018, and the Taskforce was formed after a solicitation for nominations in October 2019. The goal of this Action Module is to develop protocols for using LK and TK in management and to understand the impacts of Council decisions on subsistence resources, users, and practices. More specifically, this Action Module aims to provide a roadmap for operationalizing LK and TK (potentially through processes like Co-Production of Knowledge) in the short- to long-term, as well as to formulate methods for assessing the likelihood a given Council action may affect subsistence resources, the ability of users to access those resources or impact subsistence practices. Outcomes are expected to inform where and how these types of knowledge and information should or could consistently enter Council processes. For more information, please contact Kate Haapala by email or at (907) 271-2811.
Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan Team
The BS FEP Team was established in January 2017. The team’s primary responsibilities are to develop and update the Core FEP document, to discuss potential and ongoing FEP action modules, make recommendations to the Ecosystem Committee and the Council about future steps, and to help communicate results to the Council.
The BS FEP Team has defined its purpose and structure in its Terms of Reference, which was approved by the Council in June 2019. These are:
- Strategic guidance for monitoring Bering Sea ecosystem status
- Develop and keep current an appropriate suite of ecosystem indicators specific to the BS FEP’s Ecosystem Objectives, to be tracked in the annual Ecosystem Status Report. Note, collaboration may be required for developing appropriate social science indicators.
- Review ecosystem status through recent ESRs and other ecosystem information, report on indicator status for success metrics.
- Provide a strategic review of ecosystem products, red flags, discussion points from the previous fall cycle, particularly with respect to the BS FEP’s Ecosystem Objectives. Coordinate with the ongoing AFSC effort to discuss ecological processes in the spring.
- BS FEP Action Modules
- Provide recommendations on new Action Modules, prepare candidate proposals for ideas for Council consideration (six questions).
- Track progress of ongoing Action Modules, review workplans and recommend staffing, ensure that results are reported to the Council in a way that fosters their use in the management process. Provide appropriate reporting and, if appropriate, recommendations, to the Council and other Council advisory bodies (SSC, Advisory Panel, Ecosystem Committee, others).
- Maintain the Core BS FEP
- Consider how completed Action Modules inform the Core BS FEP, update as appropriate with new information and Action Module results.
- Consider developing a BS FEP summary of how ecosystem information was used in the specifications process or other Council actions each year.
- Track how information developed as a result of the Council’s BS FEP is used in the Council process.
- Outreach and communication
- Recommend outreach and communication products in support of the BS FEP.
- Provide the Council with periodic overviews of AFSC ecosystem products and research, including progress with use and review of local knowledge (LK) and traditional knowledge (TK) within and alongside natural and social science in the fisheries management process.
- Work collaboratively with other Council Plan Teams.