The Council held a one-day ecosystem research workshop on Wednesday, February 7th, in conjunction with the February Council meeting. The workshop was intended to engage the broader Council community, including Council members, scientific and industry advisors, and stakeholders, in a discussion about how the growing body of ecosystem knowledge can be incorporated into the Council process. The workshop was well attended and included stakeholder representation from diverse interest groups and Alaska communities. A successful outcome of the workshop was the opportunity for Council members to sit down together with SSC and Advisory Panel members, and stakeholders, to examine a strategic topic for the Council.
Speakers in the first half of the workshop set the stage for understanding the context for ecosystem-based fishery management in Alaska, and the tools in use for bringing in ecosystem information and for understanding and planning for climate change effects. Presentations are posted on the Council website. In the afternoon, participants used the recent example of the change in stock status of Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska in 2017, and how the Council, NMFS, and stakeholders reacted, as a case study. In breakout groups, participants explored what worked well, what were challenges or opportunities for improvement, and how to apply these lessons to other management scenarios.
Fisheries Forum staff, who helped to facilitate the workshop for the Council, presented a preliminary summary of the cross-cutting themes from participants at the end of the February Council meeting. The participants emphasized that the starting point for the discussion should be that Alaskan fishery management is working well, with healthy fisheries and intact ecosystems, and an inclusive and transparent process. With respect to how that management framework will hold up in a changing environment, there were some key issues that were echoed throughout the breakout groups. These included how to identify early warning indicators of change, and what to do about them; how to incorporate “squishy” data in the management process, and what it the role for non-traditional data sources such as local and traditional knowledge; how to strengthen two-way communication between and among scientists, managers, and stakeholders; and how to build management strategies that are flexible enough to respond to a changing environment.
A formal workshop summary will be available for the June Council meeting. The Council requested staff consider how the report might focus the Council on how to continue the conversation, especially with respect to some of the cross-cutting themes such as what are the Council’s objectives for managing in a changing environment; do we share the same tolerance for risk; and how do we prioritize and make tradeoffs to make the best use of limited resources. The Council intends to schedule time during the June Council meeting to review the report and consider how to take further action.
Staff contact is Diana Evans.