- Call for Nominations: FMAC
At their February 2019 meeting, the Council received word of vacancies on the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC; formerly the Observer Advisory Committee). The FMAC convenes industry members, agency representatives, observers, and observer/EM coverage providers to advise the Council on issues related to all types of monitoring in Alaskan fisheries. There are currently two vacant seats on the FMAC, one for an industry representative of the pot CV fishery and one for an active observer. The Council Chair may, however, appoint two active observers to share the FMAC seat.
A nominations period to fill these vacancies is open until noon on March 29th. New membership will be announced at the April 2019 Council meeting, in Anchorage. New members are expected to begin attending FMAC meetings starting in May 2019, in Seattle. Please submit a letter of interest to Council staff member Elizabeth Figus (firstname.lastname@example.org; 907-271-2801).
- BSAI Crab Management
The Council reviewed the BSAI Crab Plan Team’s (CPT) report and the 2019 Norton Sound red king crab (NSRKC) stock assessment. The Council made a preliminary determination to approve the NSRKC SAFE report chapter as well as the SSC recommendation that 2019 OFL be set at 0.24 million lb. (0.11 thousand t) and that ABC be set at 0.19 million lb. (0.09 thousand t), using a buffer of 20%. The 20% buffer was recommended due to uncertainty about important stock dynamics that were identified in the SAFE and CPT reports. Due to the Federal government shutdown, which prevented the February Council meeting from being noticed in the Federal Register, the Council will revisit this action in a teleconference meeting on March 8th, and take final action.
The CPT met in Nome, Alaska, in January 2019, with an abbreviated agenda due to the Federal shutdown. Agenda items not covered in January have been deferred to the May 2019 CPT meeting. The CPT was, however, able to meet with several organizations while in Nome, as well as observe how ice fishing occurs for the fishery. The Team was grateful to the community of Nome for their hospitality.
The Council also received a presentation that summarized plans for developing a rebuilding plan for Saint Matthew blue king crab (SMBKC), which was declared overfished in October 2018. Additional information for the rebuilding plan, as well as the fall 2019 stock assessment, will be discussed at the CPT in May, including bycatch in crab and groundfish fisheries, potential area closures, and a productivity analysis of appropriate BMSY and recruitment in order to recommend alternatives for the rebuilding plan and scenarios for the final assessment. The Council will review and recommend alternatives for the rebuilding plan in June.
Staff contact for the CPT is Jim Armstrong and for SMBKC rebuilding is Diana Stram.
- Fixed Gear CV Rockfish Retention
At the February 2019 meeting, the Council conducted a public review of the draft Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) that would require full retention of all rockfish species for fixed gear catcher vessels (CVs) in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA). Requiring full retention of rockfish by fixed gear CVs would improve identification of species catch composition when CVs are subject to electronic monitoring, improve data collection by providing more accurate estimates of total catch, reduce incentives to discard rockfish, may reduce waste, reduce overall enforcement burden, and provide more consistency in regulations.
The Council selected a preferred alternative and scheduled final action for the April 2019 meeting. The preferred alternative would require full retention of rockfish species by all fixed gear CVs (hook-and-line, pot, and jig) in the BSAI and GOA. Also included as part of the preferred alternative are two options and a suboption. The first option would require full retention of rockfish even if the rockfish species is on prohibited species status, but would prohibit these retained rockfish from entering commerce. The second option would establish a maximum commerce allowance (MCA) of 10%, 15%, or 20%. At this time, the Council has not selected the preferred value of the MCA. The purpose of the MCA is to constrain vessels from increasing rockfish incidental catch under a full retention regulation, while allowing vessel operators to sell most of the rockfish catch that is truly incidental. The Council also added a new suboption which would allow rockfish catch in excess of the MCA to be processed into fish meal.
The Council further requested staff include in the analysis, to the extent practicable, the following:
- The anticipated poundage of rockfish overage to be delivered by area or by port under all three MCA options.
- Differences in processors’ ability to discard or dispose of rockfish by region, over the MCA.
- Clarification of the management considerations for Demersal Shelf Rockfish east of 144 degrees W. longitude.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- BSAI Trawl CV Pacific cod
The Council completed an initial review of a proposed action evaluating management measures that limit certain Amendment 80 and American Fisheries Act (AFA) catcher/processors acting as motherships when receiving Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) non-community development quota (CDQ) Pacific cod deliveries from trawl catcher vessels. Also included in the initial review document was a vessel latency alternative that would prohibit the use of License Limitation Program (LLP) licenses in the BSAI trawl Pacific cod fishery that do not meet specific BSAI Pacific cod landings criteria, and consideration of allocating the BSAI non-CDQ Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel allocation among the AFA and non-AFA catcher vessels to facilitate the management of the fishery through cooperatives.
At this meeting, the Council bifurcated Alternatives 1, 2, 3, and 6 (the actions that constrain when a catcher/processor can act as a mothership) from Alternatives 4 and 5 (trawl CV management structure actions), and released the catcher/processor acting as mothership limitation portion for public review. The Council modified the purpose and need statement to reflect the bifurcation of the alternatives. They noted that bifurcating the catcher/processor action mothership limitations from the trawl CV management actions was necessary to control offshore processing activity to protect critical revenue streams and economic development in coastal Alaska communities, and trawl CV management alternatives do not capture the full scope of the issues currently faced by the BSAI cod participants. The Council also clarified that the control date identified in the initial review document continues to apply to the bifurcated analysis to limit catcher/processors acting as a mothership, and noted that staff should address the SSC comments to the extent practicable.
In a separate motion, the Council initiated an action to address the numerous concerns being encountered by the BSAI trawl catcher vessel Pacific cod fishery, which supersedes the previous trawl CV management actions (Alternatives 4 and 5) that were evaluated in the initial review document. The Council adopted a purpose and need statement, and requested staff prepare a scoping document that could be incorporated into a comprehensive BSAI Pacific cod trawl CV management program. The document should address:
- Allocation of BSAI Pacific cod quota share to BSAI LLP licenses.
- Establishing trawl catcher vessel cooperative(s) for Pacific cod.
- Recognition of historical AFA cooperative-based Pacific cod harvest arrangements since the implementation of pollock cooperatives under the AFA.
- Recognition of historical harvest of AFA Pacific cod sideboard exempt vessels.
- Recognition of historical harvest of non-AFA vessels.
- Protections for harvesters, processors, and communities.
- Use caps, transfer requirements, and other administrative requirements that apply to quota programs.
- Establishing sideboards to protect limited access GOA and BSAI fisheries.
- Consideration of management changes on catcher vessel crew.
- Implications for bycatch management, including halibut savings to benefit the health of the halibut resource.
The Council established a control date of February 7, 2019, that may be used as a reference date for any future management action to address trawl catcher vessel participation in the BSAI Pacific cod fishery.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- IFQ Medical & Beneficiary Transfer Provisions
The Council reaffirmed its preliminary preferred alternatives and options after reviewing the Public Review draft of proposed changes to the medical transfer and designated beneficiary transfer provisions of the halibut and sablefish IFQ programs. While this agenda item had originally been scheduled for final action at this meeting, the Federal government shutdown prevented the February Council meeting from being noticed in the Federal Register. As such, the Council made a preliminary final determination and will make a final recommendation at the April 2019 meeting.
Proposed changes to the medical transfer provision included redefining a certified medical professional that may sign a medical transfer form. The proposed definition is a broader definition than is currently in regulation and includes health care providers that are authorized to practice medicine within their specialty by the state or country in which he or she practices. The new definition also allows a health care provider outside of the U.S. to sign a medical transfer form as long as they are operating within the medical specialty they are licensed to preform by their country. A second change would limit the number of times a QS holder could use the medical transfer provision to 3 of the 7 most recent years for any medical condition that prevents the QS holder from fishing that calendar year. The current regulations limit medical transfers to 2 of the 5 most recent years for the same medical condition.
Two changes to the designated beneficiary transfer provision were also selected as part of the preliminary final determination. The first would add “estate” to the list of persons that could hold QS for up to three years after the death of the QS holder. The second would define an immediate family member at 50 CFR 679 using the U.S. Office of Personnel Management definition.
Finally, the Council requested that staff provide additional information on the implementation and management issues that would be associated with selecting Alternative 2 (medical transfer), Element 2, Option 3. That option would allow QS holders to transfer varying (decreasing) percentages of their quota depending on how many years they had used the provision during the 7 most recent years. The Council also requested information on the additional costs that would be associated with implementing and managing that option.
Staff contact is Sam Cunningham.
- Partial Deliveries in BSAI Crab Rationalization Fisheries
At the February 2019 meeting, the Council initiated an analysis to allow vessels participating in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Crab Rationalization (CR) Program to make partial deliveries of crab and then continue fishing before fully offloading all harvested crab. The action would be to remove Federal regulations that prohibit the continuation of a fishing trip subsequent to a partial offload of crab in the CR program.
The Council reviewed a discussion paper describing the proposal, which highlighted that flexibility afforded under this action would not be expected to be used often, due to the harvesters’ economic incentives of limiting crab deadloss and conducting efficient deliveries. The intent to provide operational flexibility to vessels to conduct their business in the safest and economically efficient manner and when emergencies or special circumstances arise. The discussion paper highlighted some of the ways partial deliveries of crab mid-trip could complicate monitoring and accounting.
The Council chose to move this action forward by identifying the purpose and need and one action alternative (removing this prohibition) for consideration in an Initial Review Analysis. Staff will also consider an option which would require any tank started for offload to be fully offloaded, as well as further investigating the expected ability of the fleet to keep catch from different partial rounds of fishing in separate tanks.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
- BSAI Crab eLogbooks
At the February 2019 meeting, the Council received a short discussion paper on the regulatory process required to allow crab harvesters to switch over to electronic logbooks (elogbooks). NMFS requires daily fishing logbooks (logbooks) for vessels 60 ft length overall or greater that participate in the Crab Rationalization Program fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI). The logbooks that the crab vessel operators fill out are paper, as opposed to the eLogbooks used by the catcher processors participating in the hook-and-line Pacific cod fishery, American Fisheries Act (AFA) pollock, or Amendment 80 fisheries.
The Pacific Northwest Crab Industry Advisory Committee (PNCIAC) had requested the Council and NMFS develop and authorize eLogbooks for the BSAI king, Tanner and snow crab fisheries. While much of this work was incomplete due to the government shutdown, a short discussion paper described the reasons for this request, the authority for logbooks, the use of the logbook data in the BSAI crab fisheries, and a preliminary discussion on the costs and benefits of developing and implementing this eLogbook system.
After a presentation, testimony and discussion, the Council directed staff to conduct a cost analysis examining the costs for Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to develop and implement BSAI crab eLogbooks, to replace the paper logbooks currently used in the Crab Rationalization Program. This additional information is intended to help the crab industry understand if a more efficient logbook system would be worth the costs of the development, implementation, and support.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
- Halibut ABM Stakeholder Committee Report
The Council received a report from the Halibut abundance-based management (ABM) Stakeholder Committee and revised alternatives for the forthcoming halibut ABM PSC limit analysis.
The Committee met on February 4th to review scenarios submitted by stakeholders for consideration in the forthcoming halibut ABM PSC limit analysis. There was considerable discussion at the Committee and with the Council regarding scenarios that proposed Elements and options outside the range of the current alternative set. The Council eventually moved to include all of the concepts from the 5 submitted stakeholder proposals for analytical review, and modified the alternatives by including additional Elements and options as necessary. The Council requested that the analysis include these five scenarios, as well as additional ones developed by staff for contrast. The Council’s motion with the revised set of Alternatives for analysis is posted on the Council’s February agenda.
The Committee also discussed a process for providing analysts feedback on some measurable objectives and associated performance metrics for the analysis. Stakeholders should provide feedback to analysts on the performance metrics by Wednesday, February 20th.
The BSAI halibut ABM PSC analysis is scheduled for initial review in October 2019. An update to the SSC in April will contain the following: progress, assumptions and proposed outputs from the halibut operating model for use in evaluating trade-offs among alternatives; and a full list of the recommended scenarios for the analysis. Staff contact is Diana Stram.
- Groundfish Management Objectives
The Council conducted a comprehensive review of the Programmatic Groundfish Management Policy, highlighting Council activities in 2018 that were relevant to priorities and objectives established in the Policy. The Management Policy was added to the Groundfish FMPs in 2004 through a programmatic SEIS and established the Council’s ongoing vision for management of these fisheries within an ecosystem-based management perspective.
Looking back on its accomplishments in 2018, the Council recognized the reclassification of squid to the ecosystem component category, regular USCG and NIOSH reports, specification of ABC below maxABC, a wide range of bycatch reduction measures, protected species reports, the 5-year EFH review, cooperative reports, community outreach, and improvements to the observer program, among many other issues, to be consistent with priorities and objectives in the policy. It was noted that Council actions that result in regulatory or FMP amendments usually take several Council meetings from the point of initiation to final action, and Council meeting agendas include many non-action items that parallel or directly fulfill the Policy. Additionally, a number of major Council initiatives outside of the Groundfish FMPs, such as the Arctic FMP and the AI and BS FEPs, both fulfill and improve on the EBFM approach described in the Policy.
The Council determined that the policy continues to appropriately characterize management priorities and objectives and chose not to initiate any FMP amendments to modify the policy. For future reviews, the Council will continue to monitor Council actions relative to policy objectives through the programmatic workplan, which is provided at every Council meeting. Comprehensive reviews of the policy will be done on a three-year cycle in order to align the reviews with the multi-year lifespan of major Council actions.
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong.
- Staff Tasking
The Council discussed the relative priority and scheduling of new and previously tasked projects, including changes to the April and June agendas resulting from the Federal government shutdown and postponement of items from the February 2019 meeting. The Council also discussed the following issues:
- The Council tasked staff with developing a discussion paper to consider some form of rationalization or cooperative management structure for the Bering Sea Pacific cod pot catcher vessel fishery greater than or equal to 60 ft LOA. The Council also clarified that while tasked, this paper should not be prioritized over existing tasking.
- The State of Alaska also noticed stakeholders that it will be developing State positions on management structure in the BSAI and GOA fisheries, and encouraged stakeholders to contact ADFG with specific questions, concerns, or requests.
The Council also directed staff to develop and send several letters:
- A Council comment letter on proposed regulations governing Council member recusal.
- A follow-up Council comment letter to Senator Sullivan on MSA reauthorization.
- A letter to NMFS and the State Department indicating the Council’s support for the Central Arctic Ocean Agreement, and Council interest in staying engaged with the development of exploratory fishing efforts whenever that should occur.
- A letter to the IPHC requesting additional information on the January 2019 agreement to account for under 26 inch (U26) halibut beginning in 2020, what that will entail and how it will involve NMFS and the Council.
Council comments on committees:
- The Council’s Finance Committee approved the Executive Director’s proposed budget for the upcoming 5-year grant proposal.
- The Council announced the following upcoming committee agendas:
- Ecosystem Committee: meet in April to review: 1) a briefing on the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network, 2) an update on Bering Sea FEP planning, 3) habitat and EFH updates, 4) northern fur seal research updates from NMFS and co-managers, if available, and 5) a workplan for the Ecosystem Committee.
- Community Engagement Committee: meet on March 20th for an inaugural meeting to discuss how the committee will organize and operate.
- Enforcement Committee: meet in April to review: 1) sablefish discards discussion paper, and 2) review the Trawl Electronic Monitoring Committee’s cooperative research plan for 2019.
- IFQ Committee: meet in April primarily to review: 1) sablefish discards discussion paper, 2) CQE in 3A initial review, and 3) IFQ eligibility criteria discussion paper.
- The Council is planning an evening workshop in April to evaluate whale depredation in sablefish fisheries, and opportunities for cooperative research.
- The Council issued a call for nominations for pot fishery and active observer representation on the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee.
- The Council appointed new members to three Committees.
Appointments to Committees:
- The Council Chair appointed Forrest Braden to the Charter Halibut Management Committee.
- The Council Chair appointed Jeff Berger to the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee.
- The Council Chair appointed Mellisa Heflin to the Community Engagement Committee.
A full list of Council committee membership can be found here.
- Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program
The Council received an overview of the S-K Grant Program, its process, and recent program changes, and during the meeting there was an evening session to get feedback from fishing community constituents. Each year, the S-K Grant Program awards approximately $10 million to fisheries research and development projects (up to $300,000 per project). These projects are selected based on criteria used to determine how well they address the needs of fishing communities, demonstrate direct benefits to U.S. fishing industries (including both commercial and recreational fisheries), and involve fishing community participation. The Program is currently undertaking efforts to improve its communications and how the results found by the awarded S-K projects are being disseminated with and utilized by the fishing industry. If you were unable to attend the presentations or the feedback session and have questions or would like to provide feedback, please email the NOAA Fisheries S-K National Program Manager, Cliff Cosgrove at email@example.com.
- SSC Workshop
The Council’s SSC held a workshop focused on the current status of coupled biophysical models and their utility in informing fishery management in the eastern Bering Sea and the GOA. Due to the government shut-down, the workshop primarily focused on physics, nutrient, and plankton models, although some instances were noted when models were utilized to inform fishery management.
The presentations and background material for the workshop is posted online, and the SSC minutes provide a detailed description of the workshop and recommendations. The SSC noted substantial improvements to the models since the SSC’s last review in 2014, and noted that this research represents a pathway to incorporate ecosystem considerations into stock assessments and other fishery research.
- Upcoming Meetings
Teleconference only: March 8, 9am-1pm Recommend harvest specifications for Norton Sound Red King Crab.
(646) 749-3122, access code: 447-247-853
Committees and Plan Teams
- Scallop Plan Team: February 20, Kodiak, AK
- Trawl EM Committee meeting: March 4-5, teleconference and tentatively at AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Cook Inlet Salmon Committee: March 6 and April 2, Anchorage, AK
- Community Engagement Committee: March 20, Anchorage, AK
- Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee subgroup: March 27, teleconference
- IFQ Committee: April 1, Anchorage, AK
- Ecosystem Committee: April 1, Anchorage, AK
- Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee: April 2, Anchorage, AK
- Enforcement Committee: April 2, Anchorage, AK
- Salmon bycatch genetics workshop: April 15-16, AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Crab Plan Team – April 29 – May 3, Anchorage, AK
- Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee – May 20-21 (tentative), AFSC, Seattle, WA
Other upcoming meetings
- Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium on Cooperative Research, May 7-10, Anchorage, AK
- Whale Depredation Workshop
The Council has scheduled an evening session on Monday, April 1st during the April Council meeting, to convene fishery participants and stock assessment scientists around the issue of whale depredation on sablefish. Depredation of sablefish from hook-and-line gear by sperm and killer whales occurs throughout Alaska and affects both fishermen’s returns and the precision of stock assessments. This workshop will provide an opportunity for fishery participants to interact with stock assessment scientists, understanding how depredation is accounted for in the assessment and scoping cooperative research efforts that could enhance estimates in a scientific and actionable manner. Staff contact is Sam Cunningham.
- Central Arctic Ocean Agreement
The Council received a presentation from Jean-Pierre Plé (NFS Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection) and Candace Nachman (NMFS Office of Policy) on development of an international agreement to prevent the start of commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) for at least 16 years while scientists study the effects of climate change on the CAO and its ability to sustain commercial fisheries. The agreement was signed by 10 participants at a meeting in Greenland in 2018, and is designed to prevent unregulated fishing in the high-seas portion of the CAO as part of a long-term strategy to safeguard the health of the CAO ecosystem and promote the sustainable use of fish stocks.
Dr. Plé provided an overview of the agreement and the expected schedule for the U.S. to ratify the agreement. Ratification can occur by executive action and does not require advice and consent of the Senate. A meeting of the signatories to the agreement is being hosted by Canada in May 2019, additional information about ratification and implementation of the agreement, as well as the text of the agreement, will be available once the agreement is ratified by all participant nations. He extended to the Council the opportunity to comment on exploratory fisheries strategies for the CAO, following on from a Council discussion paper in February 2018 wherein exploratory fishing protocols for various RFMOs and international agreements were summarized.
The Council, during staff tasking, directed the Executive Director to prepare a letter expressing the Council’s appreciation for the presentation and signaling the Council’s interest in remaining informed of the development of the agreement and requirements for exploratory fishing in the agreement area. Staff contact is Steve MacLean.
- Research Priorities
The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee discussed the current process for review and approval of five-year research priorities and the potential for further improvements. In recognition that the MSA mandate on five-year research priorities does not require annual review as the Council has previously done, the SSC recommended that comprehensive review of research priorities be conducted three years. The review would include continuing to develop a “top ten” list of research priorities that are highlighted in order to reflect their relevance to existing Council needs, as well as a thorough vetting of critical ongoing monitoring needs and longer-term strategic research needs. The SSC recognized that the comprehensive review would likely require significant time on the SSC agenda, and so while it could start the review cycle in June 2019, this timing might also need to be adjusted depending on other issues on the SSC’s agenda.