The Council reviewed reports from the BSAI and Joint Groundfish Plan Teams, and recommended 2020 and 2021 groundfish harvest and prohibited species catch (PSC) specifications for proposed rulemaking.
The SSC was presented with the Joint Groundfish and Crab Teams report, the Joint Groundfish Teams report, and the BSAI Groundfish Plan Team report which summarized the issues discussed and actions taken by the Plan Teams at their September meeting in Seattle, WA. Highlights of the Joint Groundfish and Crab Teams report included a summary and discussion of the Vector Autoregressive Spatio-Temporal (VAST) model, including the benefits, drawbacks, and proposed terms of reference for using VAST in the 2019 SAFE reports; and EM and Observer Program issues. Highlights of the Joint Groundfish Plan Teams’ report included: EBS/NBS shelf trawl survey results; a discussion of sablefish discards; updates on the sablefish assessment; and the use of the risk table. The BSAI Plan Team report addressed Team discussions with individual assessment authors. The AP and Council received similar, but abbreviated, reports.
The Joint Groundfish Plan Teams recommended combining the OFL for sablefish in the BS and AI, and potentially Statewide. The sablefish stock is assessed as a single, Alaska-wide stock, but OFL and ABC are apportioned by area between the BS, AI, and GOA. Apportioning OFL by area is a legacy of earlier Council action and has not previously been revisited. The SSC recommended that the 2020/2021 interim specifications retain the area-specific OFL, but noticed the public that they may consider a combined BS and AI OFL after the December meeting, for Final Specifications. Updated stock assessments for all BSAI species, incorporating this year’s survey data and PT and SSC recommendations, will be reviewed by the Plan Team at their upcoming meeting, November 12-15.
For proposed rulemaking for the 2020 and 2021 fishing years, the Council recommended OFLs and ABCs consistent with SSC recommendations based on rollover of the existing 2020 specifications for all stocks, and recommended proposed TACs and PSC limits and adopted Halibut DMRs for 2020 and 2021. Full details are included in the Council motion for the BSAI.
The Council received a letter from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) indicating that the combined, post-season sum of the three-river index (Upper Yukon, Unalakleet, and Kuskokwim Rivers) of Chinook salmon is 315,626 Chinook salmon. This is above the threshold (250,000 Chinook salmon) that would trigger lower PSC limit and performance threshold. Therefore, the higher PSC limit (60,000) and performance threshold (47,491) will be in place for 2020.
Information for the GOA Interim Specifications are available in the GOA Plan Team newsletter article. Staff contact for BSAI Groundfish Plan Team is Steve MacLean.