The Council reviewed a discussion paper on the development of abundance based PSC limits for BSAI halibut prepared by an inter-agency workgroup of analysts from the Council, NMFS, and the IPHC. The paper compiled results from topic-specific discussion papers prepared for the Council over the last two years, and reviewed a range of potential indices to link halibut PSC to abundance in the Bering Sea, and for reviewing potential control rules to establish PSC limits based on the selected index or indices. Following review of the discussion paper, the Council concurred with the workgroup and SSC recommendations to move forward with two indices: the estimates of halibut biomass from the NMFS Eastern Bering Sea annual shelf trawl survey, and from the annual IPHC setline survey in Areas 4ABCDE.
The Council provided further direction on explicit elements and options to consider while developing control rules, including the shape of the control rule, a range of starting points for PSC limits (2,118 mt to 3,867 mt), and the maximum and minimum PSC limits under consideration. The control rule shapes being considered include linear (various slopes and stair-steps), multi-dimensional, and decision/’Lookup” tables for using multiple indices to set PSC limits. The Council tasked staff to develop a preliminary analysis using these specific elements and options, with a focus on providing additional description of these types of control rules. The working group will identify the control rule features that best meet the Council’s five stated objectives for this action, and provide a qualitative evaluation of the control rules and their performance at varying levels of abundance. The working group will evaluate the difference between establishing a PSC limit that is aggregated across all gear types and then allocated to gears and sectors, as well as limits that are indexed separately by gear type to establish separate PSC limits. In either case, trawl PSC limits will be apportioned to sectors according to existing proportional allocations.
The Council also directed the NMFS to initiate scoping for preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for this action. It is anticipated that the scoping report from the agency will be available when the preliminary analysis comes back to the Council. Staff contact is Diana Stram.