The SSC was presented with the Joint Groundfish Plan Teams Report that summarized the issues discussed and actions taken by the Plan Teams at their September meeting in Seattle, WA. Highlights of the Plan Team report included overviews of the various surveys conducted in support of stock assessments and ecosystem analyses, as well as Team discussions with individual assessment authors. Two additional reports were addressed by the Teams in this cycle. The first was a report from a June Assessment modeling workshop addressing ensemble modeling and reductions below the maximum permissible ABC due to increased scientific uncertainty in the point estimate of the OFL specified under the Tier system. The second report was from a subgroup of the Joint Teams that met after the workshop to further explore reductions below maximum permissible ABC and recommend risk classification frameworks for ABC reductions. Reports from both groups were presented to the Joint Teams with recommendations from the Teams contained in the Plan Team Report.
Other issues brought forward to the SSC by the Joint Plan Teams included further development of ecosystem socioeconomic profiles (ESPs), and ecosystem status reports (ESRs), criteria for initiating new stock assessments within the prioritization schedule, and the application of the vector-autoregressive spatio-temporal (VAST) model for estimating survey biomass. The SSC provided guidance and recommendations on these issues as well as on harvest specifications for 2019.
For proposed rulemaking for the 2019 and 2020 fishing years, the SSC and Council recommended OFLs and ABCs based on a rollover of existing 2019 specifications for all stocks. Fully updated stock assessments for BSAI/GOA groundfish will be reviewed by the Plan Teams at their upcoming November meeting. Consistent with SSC-recommended OFLs and ABCs, the Council recommended proposed TACs and PSC limits and adopted updated Halibut DMRs for 2019; full details are in included in the Council motions for the GOA and the BSAI.
The Council received a letter from ADF&G indicating that the combined, post-season sum of the three-river index (Upper Yukon, Unalakleet and Kuskokwim rivers) of Chinook salmon was below the defined threshold (250,000) for a low Chinook year. The Council relies on the three-river index value to set Chinook PSC limits for the EBS pollock fishery, therefore a lower Chinook PSC limit will be in place for 2019.
In response to Council discussion and Team and SSC recommendations regarding when to set ABC below the maximum permissible based upon increased scientific uncertainty, the Council moved the following:
The Council clarifies its policy is that the Plan Team develop, and the SSC recommend, ABCs which are based on biological and environmental scientific information through the stock assessment and Tier process. Socio-economic factors should be considered during the TAC-setting process at the Council, and not incorporated into the ABC recommendations.
Staff contact for BSAI groundfish is Diana Stram, and for GOA groundfish is Jim Armstrong.