The Council at this meeting reviewed a discussion paper examining the potential for using regulations to close directed fishing for species from both American Fisheries Act (AFA) and Crab Rationalization Programs that have sideboard limits that are not large enough to support a directed fishery or for those species that are fully allocated to other programs. The discussion paper originated from the AFA Program review at the February 2017 meeting. As part of that review, NMFS recommended revising regulations to prohibit directed fishing by non-exempt AFA vessels for those species (and any future break-out or combination of these species) where the sideboard limits are not large enough to support a directed fishery. NMFS would then no longer publish AFA sideboard amounts for these species in the annual harvest specifications. At the April 2017 Council meeting, NMFS notified the Council that it would expand the discussion paper to also include an analysis of Crab Rationalization Program sideboards in the Gulf of Alaska that are insufficient to support a directed fishery.
After reviewing the discussion paper, the Council adopted a purpose and need statement and alternatives for analysis. The following is the purpose and need statement:
Many of the sideboards for non-exempt American Fisheries Act (AFA) vessels and Crab Rationalization Program vessels for groundfish species in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska are not opened for directed fishing because the sideboard limits are not large enough to support a directed fishery. Additionally, other sideboards are fully allocated to programs such as the Amendment 80 Program or have no prohibited species catch apportioned to them so therefore NMFS cannot open them to directed fishing. NMFS must annually close these sideboard fisheries to directed fishing through the groundfish harvest specifications. Closing these sideboard fisheries could be simplified administratively by prohibiting directed fishing by regulation. There are also some sideboard limits that may not be required due to other regulatory limits on harvests. The purpose of this action is to simplify the administration of the fisheries by establishing prohibited fishery closures instead of sideboard limits, or by removing sideboard limits that are no longer required.
The proposed action is to prohibit directed fishing by regulation for all species with insufficient sideboard limits for directed fishing from both AFA and Crab Rationalization Programs, except catcher/processors fishing for Central Aleutian Islands Atka mackerel. A list of the species with insufficient sideboard limits effected by this action are contained in Tables 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, and 3-1 from June 2017 discussion paper. The Council also included an option to remove the sideboard limit on AFA catcher/processors for Central Aleutian Islands Atka mackerel since the sideboard limit for this fishery is non-constraining. Staff contact is Jon McCracken.