Since 1976, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has managed the groundfish resources under its jurisdiction through scientifically based annual catch limits that are established for each target groundfish stock, species, or species complex. The NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center provides the necessary scientific information, ranging from basic research data on life-history parameters to fishery-independent surveys and rigorous stock assessments. These stock assessments are peer-reviewed by the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams and the Scientific and Statistical Committee.
Using this information, the Council establishes total allowable catch levels that do not exceed biologically sustainable catch limits set by the scientists. All catch accrues towards the total allowable catch levels, and catches are closely monitored by the NMFS Alaska Regional Office during the season based on data from mandatory electronic reporting by vessels and processing plants, and a comprehensive observer program.
The groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) are managed through two separate but complementary fishery management plans (FMPs): the BSAI Groundfish FMP and the GOA Groundfish FMP. These FMPs establish management measures that are consistent with the ten National Standards established through the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act as well as other required and discretionary provisions for FMPs. Both FMPs contain the Council’s Groundfish Management Policy “to apply judicious and responsible fisheries management practices, based on sound scientific research and analysis, proactively rather than re-actively, to ensure the sustainability of fishery resources and associated ecosystems for the benefit of future, as well as current generations.”
Each of these FMPs have been amended over 100 times and overviews of those amendments is now available: BSAI Groundfish Amendment Summaries, GOA Groundfish Amendment Summaries. There are hyperlinks in the document to additional information such as the supporting analyses, Federal Register notices, and regulation summaries.
Annually, the Council develops harvest specifications based on information from the Groundfish Plan Teams, Scientific and Statistical Committee, Advisory Panel, the public, and any other relevant information. Harvest specifications may be effective for up to two fishing years. Final harvest specifications are implemented by mid-February each year to replace those already in effect for that year and based on new information contained in the latest groundfish SAFE reports.
Fleet Involved and Species Affected
The Fishery Management Plans for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Management Areas (BSAI Groundfish FMP, Appendices; GOA Groundfish FMP, Appendices) includes all species of groundfish (pollock, cod, flatfish, sablefish, rockfish, etc.) fished commercially by vessels using trawl, hook and line, pot, and jig gear, with the exception of a few species that are managed by the State of Alaska. The Groundfish Species Profile provide an overview of biology, management, catch history, economics, assessment, and fishery information on the federally managed groundfish species.
The Fishing Fleet Profiles (and addendums 2012, 2013) provide information about the fishing fleets prosecuting federally managed fisheries off Alaska, including how they are grouped and how and where the fishing fleets operate.
Staff contact is Sara Cleaver: 907-271-2804
Groundfish Management Policy, Programmatic Review
In 2004, the Council published a programmatic review of the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries (the Alaska Groundfish Fisheries Programmatic Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement), and revised its BSAI and GOA groundfish management policy. The policy contains a management approach and 45 objectives, which are categorized by goal statements. In order to implement the management policy, the Council developed a groundfish work plan that integrates the management objectives with recent, current, ongoing, and pending Council actions and statements. The status of this work plan is updated at every meeting and is reviewed under the “Staff Tasking” agenda item. The work plan includes cumulative actions taken by the Council under the policy since 2004. The addition of actions over the course of each year contributes to that list and facilitates a mandatory annual review of the policy.
In 2014, the Council reviewed and approved a Supplemental Information Report (SIR) for the 2004 Alaska Groundfish Programmatic EIS. The SIR provides a review of management actions under the FMP since 2004, as well as new information about the impacts of the groundfish fisheries on the environment. Through the SIR, it has been determined that the 2004 Programmatic EIS continues to adequately frame the environmental consequences of fishing activities permitted through the groundfish FMPs.
Staff contact is Sara Cleaver: 907-271-2805
Harvest Specifications (OFL, ABC, TAC)
OFL Control Rule (Tier System)
Specification of OFL begins with the Maximum Fishing Mortality Threshold (MFMT), also known as the OFL control rule. The MFMT is prescribed through a set of six tiers which are listed below in descending order of preference, corresponding to descending order of information availability. The SSC will have final authority for determining whether a given item of information is “reliable” for the purpose of this definition, and may use either objective or subjective criteria in making such determinations.;;
For tier (1), a “pdf” refers to a probability density function. For tiers 1 and 2, if a reliable pdf of BMSY is available, the preferred point estimate of BMSY is the geometric mean of its pdf. For tiers 1 to 5, if a reliable pdf of B is available, the preferred point estimate is the geometric mean of its pdf. For tiers 1 to 3, the coefficient a is set at a default value of 0.05. This default value was established by applying the 10 percent rule suggested by Rosenberg et al. (1994) to the 1/2 BMSY reference point. However, the SSC may establish a different value for a specific stock or stock complex as merited by the best available scientific information. For tiers 2 to 4, a designation of the form “FX%” refers to the fishing mortality rate (F) associated with an equilibrium level of spawning per recruit equal to X% of the equilibrium level of spawning per recruit in the absence of any fishing. If reliable information sufficient to characterize the entire maturity schedule of a species is not available, the SSC may choose to view spawning per recruit calculations based on a knife-edge maturity assumption as reliable. For tier 3, the term B40% refers to the long-term average biomass that would be expected under average recruitment and F=F40%.
Tier 1 Information available: reliable point estimates of B and BMSY and reliable pdf of FMSY .
1a) Stock status: B/BMSY > 1
FOFL = mA , the arithmetic mean of the pdf
1b) Stock status: a < B/BMSY ≤ 1
FOFL = mA × (B/BMSY – a)/(1 – a)
1c) Stock status: B/BMSY ≤ a
FOFL = 0
Tier 2 Information available: reliable point estimates of B, BMSY , FMSY , F35% , and F40% .
2a) Stock status: B/BMSY > 1
FOFL = FMSY
2b) Stock status: a < B/BMSY ≤ 1
FOFL = FMSY × (B/BMSY – a)/(1 – a)
2c) Stock status: B/BMSY ≤ a
FOFL = 0
Tier 3 Information available: reliable point estimates of B, B40% , F35% , and F40% .
3a) Stock status: B/B40% > 1
FOFL = F35%
3b) Stock status: a < B/B40% ≤ 1
FOFL = F35% × (B/B40% – a)/(1 – a)
3c) Stock status: B/B40% ≤ a
FOFL = 0
Tier 4 Information available: reliable point estimates of B, F35% , and F40% .
FOFL = F35%
Tier 5 Information available: reliable point estimates of B and natural mortality rate M.
FOFL = M
Tier 6 Information available: reliable catch history from 1978 through 1995.
OFL = the average catch from 1978 through 1995, unless an alternative value is established by the SSC on the basis of the best available scientific information