Bob Mace Award | Cook Inlet Salmon FMP | Salmon Bycatch Reports | Scallops | Greenland Turbot | SSC Workshop | BS FEP LKTKS | BS FEP CCTF | Economic & Community Reports | PT Working Group Recommendations | Staff Tasking | Allocation Review | Crab C Shares | Agency Reports | Upcoming Meetings
Mary Furuness Receives Bob Mace Award
Bob Mace was known for his integrity, dedication, professionalism, and conservation ethic while serving as a council member for 23 years and representing the State of Oregon. In Bob’s honor, the Council established the Bob Mace Distinguished Service Award. This award is only occasionally bestowed by the Council, to an individual that exemplifies the highest levels of dedication, professionalism and conservation ethic necessary to make the fisheries off Alaska the best managed in the world.
The Council has selected Ms. Mary Furuness as a recipient of this highly prestigious award.
Ms. Furuness has a deep and wide-ranging working knowledge of Alaska fisheries. In her 33-year tenure with NMFS she has overseen the day-to-day management and implementation of some of the most complex and controversial fishery management programs in Alaska, including CDQ, Rockfish, Amendment 80 programs, and salmon bycatch management. She has been instrumental in moving Inseason Management from being largely paper-based to the robust electronic system used today.
Ms. Furuness has been chief of the Inseason Management Branch since May 2009. Her branch is responsible for annually publishing the harvest specifications in the Federal Register so that the groundfish fisheries in the north Pacific can operate. Once the harvest specifications are effective, Mary’s branch monitors all groundfish fishery harvest and prohibited species catch, for what ends up being 980 separate accounts to manage each year. She closes fisheries to avoid exceeding the total allowable catch or prohibited species catch limit. A big part of this is analyzing when reallocations are necessary and complying with the complex rules governing groundfish harvest in the North Pacific.
Ms. Furuness is known for her integrity, calm demeanor, and high level of customer service to the Council, fishing industry, public, and her co-workers. Whatever the situation, even if a fishery participant disagrees with her or someone is upset with an agency decision, Mary is polite and respectful. That said – no one should mistake her calm for lack of grit! She knows when to be firm and hold her ground and she is not easily swayed by drama and heated emotional arguments.
Mary’s professionalism, integrity and fairness have earned her the respect, confidence, and trust from all sectors of the fishing industry, other agency and Council staff, and her coworkers. Mary’s incredible work ethic and her dedication has greatly contributed to the success of fisheries management off Alaska. Congratulations!
Cook Inlet Salmon FMP Amendment
The Council reviewed and took no action on the final review draft of the Cook Inlet Salmon FMP Amendment analysis, which evaluates alternatives to manage salmon fishing in the Federal waters of upper Cook Inlet. The purpose of this action is to amend the Salmon FMP to bring the FMP into compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, consistent with the 2016 Ninth Circuit decision and the recent summary judgment opinion of the Alaska District Court in UCIDA et al. v. NMFS. Federal management must be consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including the required provisions for an FMP specified in section 303(a) and NMFS’s National Standard guidelines at 50 CFR subpart D. The analysis describes and evaluates the impacts of the four management alternatives under consideration by the Council, noting that two of these (alternatives 1 and 4; status quo and closure, respectively) are not viable based on court decisions. This analysis provided additional details on both Federal management with specific measures delegated to the State of Alaska and Federal management without delegation as well as other operational details that would result from implementing Alternative 2 (Federal management with specific measures delegated to the State of Alaska) or Alternative 3 (Federal management without delegation).
During discussion of the Amendment, the State representative indicated that the State of Alaska is not willing to accept delegated management authority for the upper Cook Inlet salmon fishery in the EEZ, under the conditions that would be necessary to comply with the MSA as proposed by NMFS in Alternative 2. A motion to select Alternative 3, Federal management, as the preferred alternative failed due to no second to the motion. Due to the Council’s inaction, the NMFS Regional Administrator informed the Council that NMFS must initiate a Secretarial Amendment to the Salmon FMP and rulemaking to ensure compliance with a U.S. District Court order requiring NMFS to issue regulations implementing an amendment to the FMP by May 1, 2024. The failed motion is posted for reference on the eAgenda, as NMFS noted this will likely be the starting point for a second amendment.
Council members acknowledged the difficult and unfortunate situation due to the complexity and legal constraints associated with this action. They explained that the motion brought forth was well drafted and clearly reflected what Federal management would look like, but observed that Federal management, with all of its requirements, is ill suited for the Cook Inlet EEZ.
Guidance on Secretarial FMP amendments at MSA section 304(c) requires NMFS to conduct a public hearing and for NMFS to submit the FMP Amendment & proposed regulations to the Council for consideration and comment during the public comment period, which will likely occur later this calendar year.
Staff contact is Nicole Watson.
The Council received a range of scientific and industry reports related to salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery and took action to initiate an analysis to consider measures to reduce bycatch of Western Alaska chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. Among the information presented were regularly occurring reports on salmon bycatch genetics and industry updates which help the Council to understand the relative impact of salmon bycatch and how its salmon bycatch management programs, particularly in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, are working. The Council also received an update from SeaShare on their efforts to distribute donated salmon (and halibut) to food banks. Finally, the Council received a report and set of recommendations for action from its Salmon Bycatch Committee. These reports are posted to the Council eAgenda.
Council action to initiate an analysis of chum salmon bycatch management measures
In June 2022 the Council initiated a Salmon Bycatch Committee comprised of Tribal representatives and in-river users from across Western Alaska as well as representatives from the Bering Sea pollock industry. The Council tasked the Salmon Bycatch Committee with providing recommendations on: 1) the discussion paper on chum salmon bycatch; 2) the findings and recommendations from the State of Alaska’s Bycatch Task Force and the work of the Western Alaska salmon subcommittee; and 3) current information, including Local, Traditional, and Subsistence knowledge, and needed research to determine what is driving western Alaska salmon declines. This committee met three times in November 2022, January 2023 and March 2023 to address these tasks, and the committee’s dialogue and subsequent recommendations were also informed by the input of additional experts.
At its December 2022 meeting, the Council further directed the committee to develop recommendations for potential regulatory and non-regulatory chum salmon bycatch management measures, including an overall bycatch cap. The committee met twice since then and provided the reports from those meetings to the Council. Notably the committee reached consensus on a purpose and need statement to initiate an analysis, and agreed to move forward for Council consideration all conceptual alternatives for measures reviewed by the committee (consensus of all but one). There was not consensus on the details of Alternative 2, which was the primary point of dialogue for committee members.
The Council received extensive public comments on the importance of chum salmon to in-river users, the efforts the industry has made to avoid western Alaskan chum salmon, and the need to initiate management action at this meeting to better address chum salmon management in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The Council acknowledged the critical importance of chum salmon to Western and Interior Alaska communities and ecosystems. and indicated its intent as a top Council priority to consider additional measures to further minimize Western Alaskan chum bycatch in the pollock fishery.
At the April 2023 Council meeting, the Council initiated an analysis by adopting a purpose and need statement and a suite of alternatives for management consideration as stated in its motion. The Council’s intent is to consider establishing additional regulatory non-Chinook salmon bycatch management measures that reduce Western Alaska chum bycatch; provide additional opportunities for the pollock trawl fleet to improve performance in avoiding non-Chinook salmon while maintaining the priority of the objectives of the Amendment 91 and Amendment 110 Chinook salmon bycatch avoidance program; meet and balance the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, particularly to minimize salmon bycatch to the extent practicable under National Standard 9; include the best scientific information available including Local Knowledge and Traditional Knowledge as required by National Standard 2; take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities including those that are dependent on Bering Sea pollock and subsistence salmon fisheries as required under National Standard 8; and to achieve optimum yield in the BSAI groundfish fisheries on a continuing basis, in the groundfish fisheries as required under National Standard 1.
Alternatives to be considered include an overall bycatch limit on chum salmon in the pollock fishery, a bycatch limit that is specific to Western Alaskan chum salmon and additional regulatory provisions within the pollock industry Incentive Plan Agreements (IPAs) to strengthen bycatch avoidance measures including potential time and area caps to minimize bycatch of Western Alaskan chum. Options are also considered to link bycatch or Prohibited Species Catch limits and step-down provision triggers to a three-river chum index (Kwiniuk (or index developed for Norton Sound area), Yukon, Kuskokwim) that would also consider prior years’ chum abundance, amounts necessary for subsistence or escapement and one which is weighted to account for variance in stock sizes across river systems.
Many details of these conceptual alternatives must be developed further to provide sufficient detail for the Council to refine alternatives and options for analysis and future implementation. The Council will review a preliminary review draft of these alternatives to evaluate the feasibility of a three -river chum index, a range of potential bycatch limits and apportionments to the pollock fishery sectors and additional details needed in the conceptual regulatory modifications for the IPAs to better understand how those alternatives would function to provide additional Western Alaskan bycatch minimization measures in the pollock fishery. The Council further indicated that additional consideration will be given at preliminary review to broaden both the range of potential bycatch limits put forward as well as the method of apportioning bycatch limits among pollock fishery sectors including considering a weighting scheme that combines the historical bycatch by sector with the pro-rata proportional allocation based on established pollock fishery sector allocations. The Council may also consider additional alternatives at that time as well as removing alternatives that preliminary analysis indicates are not feasible or scientifically defensible.
Updated genetics reports on the stock of origin of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch are posted to the Council’s agenda for the 2021 (Chinook) and 2022 (chum) Bering Sea pollock fishery, and the 2021 (Chinook) GOA pollock fishery, GOA rockfish (and arrowtooth) CV trawl fishery and the GOA non-pollock CP trawl fisheries. Notable discussion ensued regarding the most recent Bering Sea pollock fishery chum salmon bycatch genetics for 2022 as compared with 2021. In particular the presentation highlighted that the proportion of western Alaskan chum salmon in the bycatch doubled from the previous year resulting in a similar estimate (~50,000 WAK fish) taken in 2022 and 2021 despite the overall bycatch being half the amount in 2022 as compared to 2021. There was discussion of the interannual variability both in proportion of western Alaskan chum salmon in the bycatch as well as the variability in space and time as these are important considerations when designing management measures intended to specifically avoid WAK chum salmon bycatch. This discussion was revisited later in discussions to recommend a purpose and need statement in relation to the Council’s goal to minimize chum bycatch to the extent practicable (see discussion and recommendations below).
Staff contacts are Kate Haapala and Diana Stram
Scallop Harvest Specifications
In April 2023, the Council reviewed the 2023 Alaska Weathervane Scallop stock assessment fishery evaluation (SAFE) report and specified scallop OFL at 1.284 million pounds (582 t), and therefore ABC for the 2023/2024 fishing year at 1.156 million pounds (546 t), a level equivalent to 90% of OFL.
According to the Scallop 2023 SAFE, total scallop removals in 2022/2023 were (345,690 lb.; 156.8 t) 29.9% of ABC (1.156 million lb; 524 t), and 26.9% of OFL. Therefore, overfishing did not occur. Because no estimate of weathervane scallop spawning biomass is available, the status of the scallop stock relative to overfished is “unknown”.
Scallop FMP Amendment
Additionally, at the April 2023 meeting, the Council passed a motion to amend the Fishery management plan (FMP) for the Scallop fishery off Alaska to allow flexibility in the harvest specification and SAFE process. This action aims to allow the potential for the Council to produce a SAFE report and set scallop harvest specifications on a period that is the best fit to capture the changes in stock status and the opportunity for a flexible specification-setting process. The FMP amendment will identify the circumstances where setting a multi-year OFL and ABC may be appropriate, as described in the analysis.
Staff contact is Sarah Rheinsmith.
Greenland Turbot in Longline Pots
The Council took final action in selecting a preferred alternative (PA) to authorize longline pot gear for use in the directed fishery for Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea (BS) subarea. The Council selected Alternative 3, which limits the vessels that can utilize longline pot gear in this fishery to those that are named on License Limitation Program (LLP) licenses that have BSAI hook-and-line (HAL) Pacific cod catcher/processor endorsements. That set of licenses collectively comprises the “HAL CP Sector” – often referred to as “Freezer Longliners” – which has historically made up the bulk of vessels that target BS Greenland turbot with non-trawl gear. The Council also selected the Option that adds directed fishing for BS Greenland turbot to the list of exemptions from the 9-inch maximum pot tunnel opening restriction. In other words, vessels associated with a HAL CP Sector LLP license may fish for BS Greenland turbot with longline pot gear and no pot tunnel restriction. Any other vessel with a BS non-trawl LLP license endorsement may still fish for BS Greenland turbot with HAL gear or single pots (9-inch tunnel restriction would apply).
The Council’s selected Preferred Alternative addresses the two key objectives in its purpose and need statement: mitigate whale depredation on non-trawl gear to restore a directed fishery that has not operated since 2020; and minimize the likelihood that directed fishing for BS Greenland turbot would be closed and thus disrupt the historical participation patterns of HAL CP Sector and Amendment 80 trawl sector vessels that have utilized the BS Greenland turbot non-CDQ fishery. The Council weighed the likelihood of a directed fishery closure as a primary risk of uncertain participation levels given the current low-TAC environment, noting that a closure eliminates all non-trawl turbot fishing and may result in regulatory discards and reduced operational flexibility to minimize non-target catch in the trawl sector.
Staff contact is Sam Cunningham.
SSC Workshop Report
The Council reviewed a report from the SSC synthesizing the workshop held in February 2023, and supported creation of a Council-SSC subgroup to develop a roadmap for next steps. The workshop focused on “Rapid change in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Seas: Identifying ecosystem responses and effects on the management of Federal fisheries.” The report highlights the significant impacts occurring on marine ecosystems, commercial fish stocks, and local communities that depend on marine resources for food and livelihoods, and the challenges faced by the Council as it balances potential trade-offs among interested parties that have had limited or no interactions in the past.
The Council supports the SSC recommendation to create a subgroup of Council and SSC members, potentially also including Plan Team members, to consider how to build a bridge from assessment and climate science to adaptive management under climate change. In the motion, the Council identified specific questions for the subgroup on dynamic reference points, how to incorporate social or economic objectives, regional allocations, and consideration of risk. The subgroup will also consider capacity constraints as well as opportunities for future workshops, and will reflect on whether there are other opportunities to increase the level and frequency of dialogue between the Council and the SSC on issues that straddle the science-policy interface.
Council staff will work with the SSC to produce a “plain language” summary of the workshop report for public distribution.
Staff contact is Diana Evans.
Bering Sea FEP LKTKS Taskforce
At this meeting, the Council received a presentation from the co-Chairs of the Local Knowledge (LK), Traditional Knowledge (TK), and Subsistence (collectively LKTKS) Taskforce on the finalized draft of LKTKS Protocol as well as the related onramp recommendations, and released the materials for extended public review.
The LKTKS Protocol provides guidance to the Council, analytical staff, and others working in the Council’s decision-making process to identify, analyze, and incorporate LK, TK, and subsistence information whereas the onramp recommendations identify potential changes to the Council’s process for better incorporating these knowledge systems. These materials were developed by the LKTKS Taskforce over a multi-year process and are based on the consensus of the Taskforce. Because the Taskforce was presenting finalized materials to the Council at this meeting, there were several potential actions before the Council, ranging from taking no action, to adopting the protocol and/or initiating work on onramp recommendations.
After receiving the Taskforce presentation, reports from the Scientific Statistical Committee and Advisory Panel, and public comment, the Council chose to release the materials presented at this meeting for a 50-day extended public comment and review period. The extended public comment period is open now and will close on June 2, 2023. The Council also authorized the LKTKS Taskforce to convene for an additional meeting over the summer, to review comments received during the extended review period, input to the co-Chairs from the Council and its advisory bodies, and to discuss what additional capacity and resources may be needed for successful implementation of specific onramp recommendations.
Staff contact is Kate Haapala.
Bering Sea FEP Climate Change Taskforce
The Council supported the Climate Change Taskforce (CCTF)’s proposal to hold a workshop on Climate Scenario Planning, and to solicit public input on the scope of such a workshop over the spring and summer.
The CCTF provided a report to the Council on their meeting March 1-2, 2023 to review SSC comments on the climate readiness synthesis [Climate Readiness Synthesis (CRS)] and discuss plans for a Climate Scenario Planning workshop. The CCTF report provided ideas for the scope and timing of the proposed workshop.
Following a review of the report combined with comments from the SSC and the public, the Council moved to support the proposed concept of seeking public input and feedback on the draft workshop scope (see Appendix A to the CCTF report). The Council also noted that the newly formed Council/SSC subgroup (see Council motion on the SSC workshop report) may assist the CCTF in determining workshop topics as the subgroup develops the roadmap to use assessment and climate science to increase adaptive management capability. The Council further emphasized its intent to provide tribal entities, fishery stakeholders, and the public with a clear understanding of how the CCTF efforts contribute to the Council’s effort to build capacity to address climate change.
Additional information on providing feedback on the CCTF proposed Climate Scenario Planning workshop scope will be posted as a spotlight to the Council’s website later this spring.
Staff contact is Diana Stram.
Economic and Community Reports
Groundfish and Crab Economic SAFE Reports
The SSC reviewed the Groundfish and Crab Economic SAFE reports presented by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Economic and Social Science Research Division. The reports summarize the collection and use of economic data and indicators to address specific analytic needs and National Standard 2 guidelines. The SSC appreciated the high quality of the ongoing work and reiterates the need for a coherent strategy for reporting social and economic information to monitor the fisheries and inform management actions. The SSC recommends convening a workshop or process to develop guidance about the social and economic information that will be contained in each of these products to eliminate duplication, maximize utility of different information to management decisions, and direct users to the information they need.
Regarding the Groundfish Economic SAFE report, the SSC found value in the updated market profile and expressed concerns over dropping the Amendment 91 Economic Data Reporting data from the report. The SSC recommends future reviews focus on the content of the updated data, rather than the format of the document, and suggests retaining the short narrative description of the current fishing year at the beginning of the document.
The crab economic SAFE report provides an overview of the economic performance of the fishery in 2021. This year’s edition is responsive to a number of key structural suggestions provided by the SSC largely with the goal of increasing the consistency with the Groundfish Economic SAFE report. The report card section in the Crab Economic SAFE report was added to parallel the report card in the Groundfish Economic SAFE report, and the separate post-rationalization graphs work well to understand trends. The SSC also appreciated the significant progress made in understanding quota share ownership and how it has changed over time. The report notes that the SSC expects to provide a fuller review of the additions to the document next year.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
Annual Community Engagement and Participation Overview
At the April 2023 Council meeting, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) received a presentation on the Annual Community Engagement and Participation Overview (ACEPO) report. ACEPO is an annual report that provides social and economic information at the community level for those fishing communities which are substantially dependent on, or engaged in, the North Pacific groundfish and crab fisheries.
The SSC expressed its continued support for the ACDPO report as it is a community-level analysis that is guided by the Council’s management objectives and National Standard 8. The SSC noted future iterations of the ACEPO report could include several improvements including a) a characterization of smaller communities’ involvement in the fisheries including those that have not maintained sustained participation overtime; b) using other sources of tax revenue data for State-shared Fisheries Business Tax and Fishery Resource Landing taxes that can be utilized and are more consistent across communities; c) characterizing the benefits of the Community Development Quota Program on communities; d) among other comments.
Finally, under this agenda item, the SSC also received a presentation on recent research, “Adapting to change in the Norton Sound Red King Crab Fisheries: Including Local Knowledge to Inform Decision-making” from Dr. Sarah Wise with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. This research directly responds to the Council’s most recent research priorities from April 2021. The SSC commended this research as it provides a strong foundation for additional, targeted research that could expand on existing results capturing Local Knowledge holder’s observations of changes in the fishery including linkages to environmental changes.
Staff contact is Kate Haapala.
Plan Team Working Group Recommendations
The SSC received a summary of previous discussions on Groundfish and Crab Plan Team working groups and discussed the importance of prioritizing working group/workshop needs across both crab and groundfish, given finite resources and the potentially large number of topics that could be addressed. In addition to the recommendation for a subgroup of Council and SSC members to consider how to build a bridge from assessment and climate science to adaptive management under climate change (see SSC Workshop Report), the SSC also continued to recommend, with high priority, a working group to develop a framework for how to estimate the magnitude of unobserved mortality for use in crab stock assessments.
The SSC also noted that a workshop may be the right format to address Tier-system related topics, including the use of Tier 1 vs Tier 3 calculations and appropriate ABC buffers, and the interaction between recruitment variability and harvest control rules. However, given current resources, the SSC considered this to be a lower priority.
Lastly, in response to the Groundfish Plan Teams’ November 2022 request for a working group that addresses current policies affecting harvest control rules, the SSC discussed the need for a working group/workshop on concepts that may be relevant for harvest control rules and TAC considerations, including maximum economic yield, catch stability, future value, and other considerations. Because the Council has previously recommended that these efforts be taken with respect to sablefish (see the December 2022 Council motion), the SSC recommends that no working group/workshop be formed at this time, pending the results for sablefish. The SSC also recommends that evaluation of the effects of truncated age structure on the performance of harvest control rules also proceed first via a sablefish-specific analysis and that a workshop or broader working group be reconsidered following those results.
The Council discussed the relative priority and scheduling of previously-tasked projects, and identified new tasking. The revised 3 meeting outlook reflects this guidance.
Following review of the Council advisory groups, the Council took the following actions:
- Appointed Dr. Tyler Jackson to the BSAI Crab Plan Team.
- Appointed Ruth Christiansen, Charlotte Levy, and Courtney Paiva to the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee.
- Noticed the public that the Ecosystem Committee will meet in May to review public comments on the Committee’s initial draft purpose and need statement for a Programmatic EIS evaluating Council fishery management in light of climate change, and to develop recommendations for proposed alternatives, in preparation for a Council agenda item in June (see spotlight).
The Council took the following actions, and provided direction and guidance:
- Adopted revisions to the Council’s Statement of Organization, Practices, and Procedures (SOPP) following review by the Executive Committee.
- Requested staff include additional information in the upcoming initial review analysis on BSAI Crab C Shares, which could be used to revise the alternatives and options at initial review (see separate newsletter article).
- Supported the staff approach to program and allocation reviews, whereby allocation reviews will in future use a dashboard approach and be presented in the B reports (see separate newsletter article).
Staff contact is Diana Evans.
Program and Allocation Review Schedule
During staff tasking, the Council reviewed and supported a workplan with a revised approach and time for addressing program and allocation reviews. To address an increasing Council workload, staff prepared a proposed workplan for program and allocation reviews that will result in a more efficient process while still meeting review requirements. Focusing primarily on allocation reviews, the revised approach identifies two different scenarios: 1) for those allocation reviews that are within the scope of the program review, the program review will in future be considered sufficient to satisfy the allocation review requirement; 2) for those allocation reviews that focus on a stock-specific TAC across multiple programs or user groups, a separate allocation review will be developed to satisfy the allocation review requirement. When separate allocation reviews are necessary, staff will follow a dashboard approach, with data to be prepared by AKFIN, and the review will be presented during the Council B reports.
Below is the revised program and allocation review timetable approved by the Council at this meeting. Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
Crab C Shares
At this April meeting, the Council provided clarifying language around its intent for proposed changes to the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Crab Rationalization (CR) Program Crew shares (C shares).
In June 2022, the Council initiated an analysis to consider providing exemptions to the C share active participation requirements during the prior three seasons. The purpose and need of this action cited the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and closed and low total allowable catch (TAC) fisheries, which have resulted in less opportunity for C share holders to achieve their active participation requirements. This action is scheduled to be discussed at the Council in June 2023.
However, during staff tasking, staff highlighted that Council’s proposed action alternative could not be implemented as expressed in the alternatives set. It is not possible to implement an exemption soon enough to avoid some C shares potentially being withheld or revoked at the start of the 2023/2024 crab fishing year (July 1, 2023) due to not meeting participation requirements in 2019-2022. Therefore, C share holders should note that active participation must be demonstrated as usual (link to the requirements), in order to receive IFQ or retain QS for the upcoming 2023/24 season. In addition, NMFS is requesting that all C share holders submit documentation of recent participation for the upcoming 2023/24 crab fishing year due June 15, 2023. Given the timeline for Council review and regulatory process that must occur prior to any changes to existing regulatory requirements, the Council indicated an intent to consider re-issuing C share QS to any individuals that have C share QS revoked prior to implementation of this action.
The Council also provided clarification on its policy focus for the proposed action. The Council stated an interest in maintaining the concept of active participation for C share QS in the CR Program. However, it requests staff explore ways to provide exemptions from these requirements under recent and future conditions in which there is less opportunity for C share holders to work as crew on an active CR Program fishing vessel. Specifically, the Council noted the conditions of the pandemic and recent closed crab fisheries, which have resulted in challenges with traveling to port communities and a substantial decline in the number of vessels need to harvest the remaining TACs. Both of these factors have made it difficult for all C share holders to achieve the required active participation. In anticipation of continued challenging future conditions, the Council clarified an interest in alternatives that may provide exemptions beyond the previous three season (i.e., 2019/20, 2020/21, and 2021/22). The Council included some examples towards this end (including expanding participation requirements for non-initial issues to match the requirements of initial issues, establishing thresholds under which exemptions from active participation may be warranted, and not allowing C share QS that are associated with a closed fisheries to be revoked) and requested the analysis provide supporting information.
The Council motion was intended to provide guidance around its policy focus for crab C shares and additional information that may be useful. When the Council reviews the analysis in June, it will consider whether to refine its purpose and need and set of alternatives at this time.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
In addition to the routine agency management reports, the Council received two additional presentations, as described before.
US Navy Report on Northern Edge Exercises and Research
John Mosher from the U.S. Navy provided a presentation for the upcoming Northern Edge 2023 joint training exercise in the Gulf of Alaska scheduled to occur in May. The exercise is a joint forces training involving Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and the Coast Guard. The exercise is biennial, occurring on odd years, with the last one in May 2021. The at-sea Navy events occur in the Temporary Maritime Activities Area (TMAA) and the Western Maneuver Area (WMA) which is a new expanded training area. During the exercise, there are no restrictions on civilian navigation to fishing vessels. The TMAA is beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast and most at-sea activities occur far offshore and avoid other vessel traffic. The WMA avoids species high density areas, areas of concern, and primary fishing grounds on the continental shelf and slope out to 4,000 meters in depth. The exercise this year is expected to be similar in size to the Northern Edge 2021 exercise. Extensive mitigations have been developed in coordination with NMFS which include:
- Mitigation zones for sonar and weapons activities with trained marine species lookouts
- Minimizing use of in-air explosives during weapons training (no underwater explosives)
- Geographic mitigation areas restricting certain activities
- Positioning training to avoid species of concern, and other maritime users
- Report activities conducted and any marine mammal interactions to NMFS
In addition to the overview of the upcoming Northern Edge exercise, Christopher Hunt, also from the U.S. Navy, provided an overview of Marine Species Monitoring Program. One such project overviewed was a. The ongoing research identifies specific Chinook salmon populations in the training areas using genetic issue samples, understand Chinook salmon migration routes whether over the continental shelf or direct across the GOA, and determine on-shelf vs off-shelf return migration near system of origin.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies (CMSHS) gave a presentation and update on commercial fishing safety research to the Council. CMSHS focuses on the safety and health needs of workers in commercial fishing, seafood processing, aquaculture, and marine transportation. The presentation included information on recent fatalities and disasters in the Alaska commercial fishing industry, with salmon vessels being the primary vessels involved in disasters, and instability, fires, and flooding being the most common initiating events. The presentation also covered the summary of onboard fatalities, onshore fatalities, and falling overboard fatalities in the same industry, as well as recent CMSHS products and activities, including a study of winch-related injuries and an analysis of injuries and fatalities among young workers. Additionally, CMSHS spotlighted predictors of fishing vessel disasters, which provided support for Coast Guard-led initiatives, and discussed USCG-NIOSH commercial fishing safety research and training grants. The presentation concluded by highlighting the critical need to improve the safety of fishermen and reduce the number of accidents that occur at sea, which NIOSH addresses through Commercial Fishing Occupational Safety Research and Training (CFOST) grants. CFOST grants support research and training programs that focus on improving the safety of commercial fishermen and reducing the number of injuries and fatalities in the commercial fishing industry.
For more information, staff contact is Diana Evans.
The following Committee and Plan Team meetings are currently anticipated:
- BSAI Crab Plan Team meeting – May 16-18, 2023, hybrid/Juneau, AK AGENDA
- Ecosystem Committee – May 8, 2023, hybrid/Anchorage, AK AGENDA
- Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC) – May 10-11, 2023, hybrid/Anchorage, AK AGENDA
Other meetings of potential interest:
- Council Coordination Committee (CCC) – May 23-25, 2023, Key West, FL AGENDA