At this meeting, the Council took final action to recommend reauthorization of the Rockfish Program (RP). The Council approved the existing management framework with several modifications designed to clarify regulations, eliminate unnecessary regulations, and improve efficiency within the program. The intent is for the new regulations to be implemented prior to the current RP expiring on December 31, 2021.
In reauthorizing the RP, the Council voted to remove the program’s sunset date. By removing the sunset date altogether rather than establishing a new sunset date, the Council intends to provide a greater level of stability and predictability to the fishery. The Council will still be able to ensure that the program continues to function as intended, or make changes if necessary, through the mandated review process set out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
In addition to removing the sunset date, the Council recommended several modifications and clarifications to the existing RP. All of the elements defined under Alternative 2 were included in the preferred alternative or subsumed in another element. Each of the proposed changes are briefly described.
- NMFS would be granted the authority to reallocate unharvested RP Pacific cod from RP cooperatives after the RP fisheries close on November 15 consistent with regulations at § 679.20(a)(12)(ii). Those regulations define the priority of the reallocation such that Pacific cod would first be allocated to catcher vessel sectors, the combined catcher vessel and catcher/processor pot sector, and finally other catcher/processor sectors. NMFS Inseason Management staff are provided flexibility under this change to reallocate Pacific cod where it is needed and can be harvested.
- Vessels were exempted from Crab Rationalization Program sideboard limits when fishing in the RP. This recommendation would allow any vessel that is not allowed to catch Central Gulf of Alaska (CGOA) rockfish under the crab sideboards to catch rockfish if they have access to cooperative quota for that species.
- Implement regulations that requires NMFS to provide an annual RP cost recovery report. NMFS has been voluntarily producing those reports for stakeholders.
- Clarify and remove unnecessary regulations.
- Clarify regulations at § 679.5(r)(10) to specify that only shoreside processors receiving RP Cooperative Quota must submit the Rockfish Ex-vessel Volume and Value Report.
- Remove the regulations in § 679.5(r)(6)(iii)(B) requiring that an annual RP cooperative report be submitted to NMFS. The Council requests that the RP cooperatives continue to voluntarily provide annual reports to the Council.
- Revise § 679.81(i)(D)(3) to remove requirements for a Fishing Plan to be submitted with a cooperative application for CQ.
- Revise § 679.84(f)(1) to exempt shoreside processors under the RP from the requirement to provide an observer work station and observer communication described at § 679.28(g)(7)(vii) and (viii).
- Clarify regulations regarding accounting for inseason use caps to specify that any transfer of unused rockfish ICAs and CP CQ to CV cooperatives does not apply to CV ownership caps, cooperative, harvester CQ, or shoreside processor CQ use caps.
- Modify cooperative check-in times from 48 to 24 hours. The development of the electronic check-in system means that the 24-hour notice requirement is now adequate.
- Catcher/processor rockfish program sideboard limits in the WGOA rockfish fisheries defined at § 679.82(e)(4) were removed. These sideboards applied only during July and did not apply to the entire Amendment 80 fleet. Eliminating those sideboard limits does not change the amount of WGOA rockfish the Amendment 80 sector may harvest in July, but could generate operational efficiencies for the catcher/processor sector by eliminating the need for Amendment 80 firms to fish two vessels in the GOA to take the entire Amendment 80 sideboard limit during July.
- Modify regulations at § 679.23(h)(1) by removing the 3-day stand down for CVs that fish for groundfish in the BSAI while pollock or Pacific cod is open to directed fishing in the BSAI from the GOA stand down if they check into the RP and fish in the CGOA RP. This action does not change the stand down requirement for similarly situated vessels moving from the BSAI into limited access GOA fisheries.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.