The Council took final action to recommend a preferred alternative that removes the prohibition on a vessel continuing to fish for Crab Rationalization Program (CR) crab between the time of a partial delivery and the time at which all CR crab are offloaded by the vessel. The purpose of the action is to provide flexibility that can enhance operational efficiency under special circumstances or safety-related circumstances while also ensuring proper catch accounting. The Council did not select an option that would have required all crab in a tank to be offloaded if offloading from that tank has begun. It was understood that the draining and refilling required to partially offload a single tank would result in costly deadloss, and thus such a practice is unlikely to occur. Requiring a tank to be fully offloaded could have also reduced the effectiveness of the action when an offload is interrupted by safety considerations.
Allowing fishing after partial offloads may help vessels respond to an advancing ice pack. For example, a vessel could suspend an offload to retrieve and save gear still on the grounds that would otherwise be lost. The ability to resume fishing after a partial offload could also allow a vessel to maintain efficiency after delivering regionally designated quota shares to the Pribilof Islands before continuing to fish and completing their delivery in the southern region. Also, if an offloading vessel is forced out of a harbor by weather, this action would allow the vessel to fish rather than wait multiple days at anchor for weather to come down. Finally, the ability to fish after a partial offload could reduce disincentives to make smaller deliveries to processing partners who are innovating new product forms at small volumes (e.g., live crab markets).
While the Council recognized the importance of additional flexibility, it was understood that this provision is likely to be used in rare circumstances. As a result, the Council does not expect the provision to create significant challenges for catch accounting or to substantially increase deadloss in the fishery. The Council directed staff to specifically review the biological, economic, and management impacts of this action during the next required Crab Rationalization Program review that is scheduled for completion in 2023.
Staff contact is Sam Cunningham.