EFH 5-year review
The Council and SSC reviewed the work plan for the 2022 Essential Fish Habitat 5-year review. The document described work to date and plans for completing the 5-year review. The report again laid out the Agency priorities for EFH review including EFH descriptions and maps, fishing effects, non-fishing effects, EFH conservation and enhancement, prey species updates, and research and information needs. The schedule calls for review of these components by the stock assessment authors between March and August 2021, groundfish and crab plan teams in September 2021, and final review by stock authors in January 2022. A summary report on these components will then be presented to the Council in June 2022. If the Council chooses to revise the FMPs based on this summary report, the requisite analyses will be conducted to present initial review to the Council in October 2022 and final review by the Council in December 2022.
The SSC appreciated the analysts’ responsiveness to previous reviews but felt that additional review and oversight by the SSC and stock assessment authors was necessary. The SSC requested a review of the SDM model results and an overview of discussion or recommendations from stock assessment authors at the October 2021 SSC meeting. The SSC also requested an additional review focused on the FE model at the February or April 2022 SSC meetings. Finally, the SSC considers consultation with the assessment authors to be a critical link in evaluation model configuration and output and is pleased that the stock assessment authors will have the opportunity to evaluate those models.
The Council endorsed the SSC suggestions for the EFH review, specifically evaluating the SDM models and the FE model separately and sequentially, responding to the SSC comments, review of the draft EFH research plan, and ensuring the transparent and public review process.
The Council also noticed that they intend to consider the utility of a Habitat Areas of Particular Concern process after receiving the summary report for the 5-year review.
EFH Consultation Report
The Council received the annual overview of consultations on actions that may adversely affect EFH in Alaska. Ms. Gretchen Harrington, Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation Division provided the overview. Every year NMFS AR receives notice of 100-200 non-fishing actions that may affect living marine resources. The Agency provides review for those activities that may adversely affect EFH, including aquaculture sites, harbor improvements, navigation dredging, mining, forestry, oil and gas exploration, Naval training exercises, hydropower development, and transportation infrastructure projects. Specific projects that the agency is currently reviewing that may be of interest to the Council include mining activities near Nome, laying of fiber optic cable in the Eastern Aleutians, and scuttling of vessels offshore. The presentation also included a summary of tools for EFH consultations including the Alaska EFH web application, ShoreZone mapping system, the Nearshore Fish Atlas, and Non-Fishing Activities report.
Staff will continue to work with HCD to keep the Council updated on projects, as warranted. Staff contact is Steve MacLean.