- Laukitis and Peterson leave Council
A reception at Halibut Point in Sitka was held to recognize outgoing Council members Buck Laukitis of Homer and Theresa Peterson of Kodiak. Both Laukitis and Peterson acknowledged their involvement with fishing communities and noted they will still be involved in the Council process, albeit in a different capacity. We thank them for their commitment to Alaska communities and to managing and conserving Alaskan fishery resources. Best of luck to them in their future endeavors.
The Council would also like to thank the businesses and organizations that donated seafood for the reception and set up the location. Sunny weather was appreciated by all who attended.
- Call for Nominations
The Council is soliciting for two new IFQ Committee members. The IFQ Committee is a standing advisory body comprised of vessel owner/operators, crew, processors, and trade group representatives (including vessel owners’ associations and CDQ groups). The Committee meets independently – though sometimes in conjunction with a Council meeting – and discusses the merits of proposals to modify or update management of the Halibut & Sablefish IFQ fishery. Committee members are sometimes tasked to review documents that analyze potential program changes or to develop proposals for modifications that meet the Council’s management objectives. The Committee formulates recommendations that are conveyed to the Council and its other advisory bodies in the form of meeting minutes and staff presentations.
The Council is specifically seeking nominees who are IFQ crew participants who do not own quota and vessel-owners who hold no quota share or a small amount of quota share and hope to purchase additional quota share in the future. Please submit a letter of interest describing your background by email to Sam Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by mail to the Council office. The deadline for applications is July 12, 2019.
Trawl Electronic Monitoring Committee
The Trawl Electronic Monitoring Committee convenes industry members, agency representatives, and EM service providers to collaboratively design, test and develop electronic monitoring systems to suit the needs of Alaskan fisheries. The Trawl EM Committee has a vacancy for a representative from the processing sector. A nominations period to fill this vacancy is open through July 12, 2019. The new member will be appointed in time to attend the upcoming Trawl EM Committee meeting on August 20-21, 2019, in Portland, OR. Please submit a letter of interest describing your background to Diana Evans by email (email@example.com) or mail to the Council office.
The Council is announcing a call for nominations to the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee for one or two stakeholders who represent new or recent involvement in the Cook Inlet salmon driftnet fishery. The Cook Inlet Salmon Committee was established to assist the Council in developing measures to extend Federal management to traditional net-fishing areas in the EEZ waters of Cook Inlet. Committee focus, in the near term, is on management of the commercial salmon driftnet fishery in Cook Inlet, and so representation by that sector is currently being emphasized by the Council. Stakeholders at the beginning of their driftnetting careers, who are looking forward to decades of future involvement in the fishery, are in need of greater representation on the Committee as it makes recommendations for developing a long-term management framework. If you are a new or recent S03H permit holder who is active in the fishery and are interested in membership on the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee, please email a letter describing your background and interest to firstname.lastname@example.org , or mail your letter to the Council address. The Council will accept nominations and applications through July 12, 2019 in order to allow new Committee members to participate in a late September Committee meeting. If you have any questions, please contact Jim Armstrong at 907-271-2805.
Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan Action Module Taskforces
The Council will be issuing a call for nominations for the Bering Sea FEP Action Module Taskforces, described in the BS FEP newsletter article, by the end of June, once revisions to the draft Action Module workplans have been made to respond to Council direction.
- BSAI Crab Management
The Council approved 2019/2020 fishing year OFLs and ABCs for the Aleutian Islands golden king crab and Pribilof Islands blue king crab stocks, and reviewed summaries and SSC comments for stock assessment scenarios and other issues addressed at the Crab Plan Team’s May 2019 meeting. The Council also reviewed issues related to rebuilding the St. Matthew blue king crab stock and adopted a purpose and need statement and alternatives for a forthcoming analysis in support of developing the rebuilding plan.
For AI golden king crab specifications, the Council adopted an OFL of 5,249 mt and an ABC of 3,937 mt, and for Pribilof Island blue king crab, the Council adopted an OFL of 1.16 mt and an ABC of 0.87 mt, all of which are consistent with the recommendations of the Crab Plan Team, SSC, and AP. Complete 2019 SAFE chapters for those stocks are posted, along with the Crab Plan Team May meeting report, on the Council’s website. Final 2019/2020 OFLs and ABCs for five BSAI crab stocks (snow crab, Tanner crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, Pribilof Island red king crab, and St. Matthew blue king crab) will be specified in October.
The Council was officially notified on October 22, 2018 that the St. Matthew blue king crab stock was overfished, and according to the MSA, a rebuilding plan will have to be implemented within two years of that date, coincident with the start of the 2020/2021 fishing season. The MSA envisions rebuilding of overfished stocks in no more than ten years, unless this cannot be accomplished even when fishing mortality is constrained to zero. Accordingly, the rebuilding plan that is being developed for St. Matthew blue king crab will identify the minimum time for rebuilding (TMIN), which corresponds to zero fishing mortality, as well as the maximum permissible rebuilding time, TMAX. Estimation of TMIN and TMAX, is contingent on the appropriate BMSY target that defines a rebuilt stock once achieved. A breakpoint analysis of biomass time series was reviewed by the Crab Plan Team and SSC and suggests that the stock may currently be in a period of lower productivity, which reduces TMIN and TMAX relative to existing BMSY. Final target time frames and the OFL during rebuilding will be determined in October following CPT and SSC review. The adopted alternatives include options to either close directed fishing for St. Matthew blue king crab or allow low level harvest under the State’s harvest policy. In adopting the alternatives, the Council noted that recent groundfish fishery bycatch is not constraining to crab stock recovery, and that NMFS in-season management authority may be used at any time during rebuilding to close areas to groundfish effort and prevent crab bycatch from reaching OFL.
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong
- GOA Pollock and Cod Seasonal Allocation Adjustments
At the June 2019 meeting, the Council took final action to recommend adjusting Gulf of Alaska (GOA) pollock and Pacific cod seasonal allocations. The purpose of this action is to reduce operational and management inefficiencies in the Western and Central GOA trawl catcher vessel (CV) pollock and Pacific cod fisheries. The Council intends to promote opportunities to harvest the resource at times when it is most valuable and accessible and to avoid redistribution of fishing opportunities between management areas or harvest sectors (e.g., non-trawl sectors). The Council also aims to provide the fleet with additional flexibility to manage and avoid prohibited species catch (PSC). Finally, the Council’s preferred alternative is intended to be in accordance with measures that mitigate impacts on ESA-listed Steller sea lions.
The Council’s preferred alternative for pollock would modify the existing equal (25%) four-season TAC allocation to two equal (50%) seasonal allocations. The pollock A and B seasons would be combined into a season that runs from January 20 through May 31 and the C and D seasons would be combined into a season that runs from September 1 through November 1. The start date for the latter season would be moved from August 25 to September 1. The change to the start date would address the potential for the pollock C season to overlap the end of the commercial salmon harvest in some years. That overlap can cause congestion that affects individual plant facilities differently depending on throughput capacity and the characteristics of the delivering fleet.
As part of its preferred alternative for pollock, the Council also chose to maintain the 20% cap on in-year seasonal rollovers of unharvested pollock TAC. The choice to maintain the status quo was made in response to public testimony indicating that a higher cap can result in situations where underharvest in one season may be continued into the following season, further stranding pollock TAC in areas with low expected CPUE.
For Pacific cod, the Council aims to reduce the underharvest of B season TAC in the GOA trawl CV sector by moving some of the allocated season TAC to the A season when Pacific cod are typically more aggregated. The preferred alternative is structured such that seasonal allocations to other gear/operational-type sectors would not be altered. The seasonal allocation ratio across all sectors in each area (Western GOA and Central GOA) would be modified from the status quo of 60% in the A season and 40% in the B season. The new ratio would be 64% of total annual TAC in the A season and 36% in the B season.
The preferred alternatives increase flexibility in the timing of the fishery, potentially increasing yield and, in some cases, providing the fleet with an enhanced ability to minimize encounters with prohibited species (Chinook salmon and Pacific halibut). The alternatives do not pose any additional risk to the GOA pollock or Pacific cod stocks since harvest specifications would continue to control overall harvest of these target species. Likewise, the efficacy of PSC limits constraining bycatch of Chinook salmon and halibut is not affected by the alternatives.
Throughout the development of this action, the Council has articulated its intent to provide benefits to fishery participants while not adversely impacting ESA-protected Steller sea lions. The public review draft, reviewed at this meeting, provides the background information that would be necessary to begin a consultation on impacts to Steller sea lions, should that be warranted. If this action raises ESA jeopardy concerns, this action will be brought back to the Council for further consideration.
Staff contacts are Sam Cunningham and Sara Cleaver.
- Observer Program Annual Report
At their June 2019 meeting in Sitka, the Council received a presentation on the Observer Program Annual Report for 2018 and a report from the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC). The Annual Report provides a scientific evaluation of the deployment of observers in 2018, to evaluate if deployment expectations were met that year. The report also includes information describing the program, enforcement trends, outreach efforts, and agency recommendations for developing the 2020 Annual Deployment Plan (ADP).
The Council commends the agency on the Annual Report, and the ability it provides to adjust and improve the program. The Council supports NMFS’ recommendations for the 2020 ADP listed in section 7.1 of the Annual Report (p. 92-94). If external funds are available, the Council recommends further expanding the electronic monitoring (EM) selection pool in 2020 by up to 30 more vessels and including tests of alternative EM systems and data service delivery models. It was also noted that Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission is working to determine what is necessary to accommodate more vessels in the Fixed Gear EM pool and to date has hired two new reviewers to focus exclusively on Alaska EM review.
The Council reviewed FMAC recommendations on observer analytical tasking and supported the FMAC recommendation to initiate a discussion paper about shoreside sampling in the Fixed Gear EM pool. This recommendation leverages ongoing work by the FMAC partial coverage Subgroup to integrate monitoring tools, as well as work at the Trawl EM Committee to draft an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) for testing EM on trawl vessels in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The Council noted the discussion paper should scope a shoreside sampling program, in conjunction with some minimal level of at-sea observer coverage, to complement Fixed Gear EM.
The Council also supported the FMAC recommendation to remove the “Observer Disembark Location” analysis from the tasking list and take no further action on this item, because this issue has largely been resolved through the use of EM. Additionally, the Council supported the FMAC recommendation to prioritize an assessment of how biological information currently collected by observers is used in stock assessment.
The Council provided a few specific recommendations for next year’s Annual Report. The Council recommends the next Annual Report (reviewing 2019) continue to refine cost metrics and funding information in Chapter 2; continue to include an evaluation of observer effects separately in pelagic and non-pelagic trawl fisheries; and, incorporate the analysis of observer statement incident rates in future reports. Members noted the importance of analyzing observer statement and incident rates to get a more holistic view of the need for and enforcement of observer harassment and other issues. The Council also encourages NMFS to continue working closely with FMAC and the industry prior to implementing potential future changes to the Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODDS).
The Council acknowledged the importance of the agency continuing to work to present performance metrics of the partial coverage program in a way that both the Council and the general public can better understand.
Finally, the Council noted appreciation of the high quality work taking place through collaboration between industry members and agency staff via meetings of the FMAC and the subgroup. Members voiced support for the continued involvement of a subgroup of the FMAC in the ongoing work to explore integration of monitoring tools to increase coverage and contain costs, as described in the FMAC report. Staff contact for observer issues is Diana Evans.
- Crab Partial Offloads
The Council identified a preliminary preferred alternative for a proposal to allow vessels participating in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Crab Rationalization (CR) Program to partially offload crab harvested and then continue fishing before fully offloading all remaining harvested crab. The Council’s preliminary preferred alternative would remove Federal regulations that prohibit the continuation of a fishing trip subsequent to a partial offload of crab in the CR program. The flexibility afforded under this amendment is not expected to be used often, due to the harvesters’ economic incentives of limiting crab deadloss and conducting efficient deliveries. The intent is to provide operational flexibility for vessel operators to conduct their business in the safest and economically efficient manner and when emergencies or special circumstances arise. The Council chose to move this action forward for Public Review, with the potential to take final action the next time it is scheduled.
In its preliminary preferred alternative, the Council did not include a proposed option which would have required any tank started for offload to be fully offloaded prior to any subsequent fishing. This was not included due to the enforcement challenges and circumstances in which this additional requirement would make the proposed flexibility less effective. However, the document highlighted that harvesters will likely have an incentive to offload full tanks when possible due to a desire to minimize crab deadloss. Moreover, a voluntary separation of catch from different “partial fishing trips” paired with increased communication with ADF&G could aid in some of the data quality challenges that will likely arise if trips are linked together under this flexibility.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
- Classification of Sculpins in the BSAI and GOA FMPs
The Council reviewed the Initial Review Draft of an Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Impact Review (EA/RIR) to evaluate alternatives for classifying sculpins as target species or ecosystem component species in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Fishery Management Plans (FMPs). The Initial Review concluded that sculpins meet the requirements for classification as an ecosystem component species in both the BSAI and GOA FMPs. The Initial Review draft was requested by the Council after review of a discussion paper in April 2019, and a detailed descriptions of sculpins and the alternatives is found in the April 2019 newsletter.
At this meeting, the Council adopted a revised purpose and need statement and alternatives, including a Preliminary Preferred Alternative, for public review. The Purpose and Need Statement was revised to include the statement that “The best available data indicate that sculpins are not in need of conservation and management and could be reclassified as non-target ecosystem component species.” Alternatives include the no-action alternative, and the preliminary preferred action alternative that would classify sculpins as ecosystem-component species in the BSAI and GOA FMPs. The action alternative includes regulations to prohibit directed fishing for sculpins, require recordkeeping and reporting to monitor and report catch and discards of sculpin species, and establish maximum retainable amounts (MRAs) for sculpins at 2%, 10%, or 20 % (PPA).
The National Marine Fisheries Service will take the lead in developing the appropriate analysis. Council staff contact is Steve MacLean.
- CQE Fish Up in Area 3A
The Council took final action to allow eligible CQE residents in Area 3A to fish halibut IFQ derived from CQE-held D class QS on C or D class vessels in Area 3A beginning on August 15th each year. This action provides flexibility for CQEs to potentially avoid revenue loss and is intended as a fallback mechanism for CQEs that have unfished D-class quota late in the season should unforeseen challenges arise.
As of 2019, one CQE in Area 3A holds D class IFQ. Current Area 3A regulations that require D class IFQ to be fished on D class vessels have, in some circumstances, limited this CQE community’s ability to fully harvest their halibut IFQ. The Council’s preferred alternative to include a date after which this “fish up” measure can be utilized was in response to concerns that future CQE purchases of quota share could target D class QS with the intent of fishing it on C class vessels if this opportunity was allowed for the duration of the IFQ season. This action provides a way for the CQE to keep D class quota in the community, furthering the Council’s intent of encouraging CQE communities to secure long-term opportunities to access halibut.
Staff contact is Sara Cleaver.
- Salmon Bycatch
The Council received a number of reports related to BSAI and GOA salmon bycatch including the EBS pollock fishery incentive plan agreement (IPA) reports, an update from the SeaShare food donation program, genetic stock of origin reports for chum and Chinook in both the GOA and BSAI and a summary of a NPFMC-sponsored workshop on salmon bycatch and genetics from April 2019. The Council identified priorities and tasking for future work.
Per regulation, EBS pollock IPA representatives provide annual reports on their measures to reduce and avoid Chinook and chum bycatch. The written reports from all three sectors (catcher vessels, catcher processors, and motherships) are posted to the Council website and agenda. Representatives from the inshore catcher vessel and catcher processor sectors also provided verbal summaries of their actions in 2018. The Council commended all three sectors for their extensive and continued innovative efforts to avoid salmon bycatch at all levels of encounters.
A voluntary update was provided by SeaShare, a non-profit food donation program which is authorized to accept salmon and halibut PSC for hunger relief. This organization continues extensive efforts to provide fish annually to additional communities each year across Alaska and to expand efforts to reach remote villages by providing donated food storage facilities. The Council continues to appreciate the hunger relief work by SeaShare and acknowledges the industry funding and efforts to support this valuable program.
Geneticists from the AFSC Auke Bay lab provided reports on the stock of origin of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch for the 2017 Bering Sea pollock fishery, the GOA pollock fishery, GOA rockfish (and arrowtooth) CV trawl fishery and the GOA non-pollock CP trawl fisheries. The report this year provides finer scale spatial and temporal resolution. On average in the Bering Sea, the relative proportion of salmon from western Alaskan rivers caught as bycatch continues to decline while proportionally, interceptions from British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest have increased. Chum bycatch continues to be dominated by Asian origin fish. Age-specific stock composition results are also now available for chum bycatch. Similar age data is lacking for Chinook but it was noted that a backlog of scales is available for aging.
The Council reviewed a report from the salmon bycatch genetics workshop held in April 2019. The purpose of the workshop was to facilitate feedback on how stock composition reports can be improved to better inform industry bycatch avoidance efforts, discuss appropriate spatial and temporal resolution of stock identification, and identify other associated analyses that could be used by stakeholders to better understand the causes of, and potential measures to minimize, salmon bycatch. A number of recommendations were brought forward from workshop participants.
The Council moved to identify a number of priorities for future work as well as a suite of tasks for the Council’s salmon bycatch workgroup (which consists of NMFS, ADFG, and Council staff). The Council intends to send a letter to the AFSC to request prioritization of aging the back log of Chinook scales. This work would allow the agency to update the age-length key used in the BSAI Chinook adult equivalence (AEQ) model as well as to develop an age-length key for GOA Chinook. Additional tasking to the workgroup includes the following: examination of the available bycatch datasets to prioritize analyses for informing future management actions, exploring additional collaboration amongst genetic laboratories for continued development of coastwide genetic baselines for chum and Chinook salmon and identifying existing data gaps and defining stock composition in the GOA for development of an AEQ.
Staff contact is Diana Stram.
- BSAI Pacific cod Allocation Review
At this meeting, the Council reviewed the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Pacific cod allocation review, and accepted it as complete and final pending the addition, to the extent practicable, of information recommended by the Scientific and Statistical Committee. The review was responsive to NMFS’ Fisheries Allocation Policy Directive, issued in July of 2016, under which the Council is required to conduct a 10-year review of BSAI Pacific cod allocations to ensure that the optimal yield is being achieved under current conditions. The goal of the allocation review was to assist the Council in determining whether or not the development and evaluation of BSAI Pacific cod allocation alternatives are warranted.
Overall, the Council noted that Amendment 85 has provided intended stability for sectors in the BSAI Pacific cod fishery, improved social and economic structures for sectors, and provided entry level and local opportunities for some small vessels, although participation by entry level and small vessels is not uniform across all sectors. Amendment 85 allocations have continued to allow optimal yield to be achieved on a continuing basis, which is a fundamental objective of Amendment 85 and can be extremely challenging given the variable nature of the fishery and balancing of the Council’s Amendment 85 objectives across the nine sectors.
As a follow up to information identified in the Amendment 85 allocation review, the Council requested staff include a description of the process for reallocating inseason among BSAI Pacific cod sectors in the stranded BSAI and GOA Pacific cod discussion paper scheduled for the October Council meeting. In addition, the Council requested staff include the potential impacts on other sectors of the proposed rationalization of the trawl catcher vessel (CV) and pot CV sectors, in the BSAI Pacific cod trawl and pot CV management scoping paper scheduled for the October Council meeting.
As noted by the Council, the BSAI Pacific cod allocation review highlighted ongoing uncertainty experienced by the BSAI hook-and-line/pot less than 60’ CV sector in the federal BSAI Pacific cod fishery, due to its reliance on inseason reallocations, lack of a B-season apportionment, and challenges created by a multi-gear type sector. The Council is considering development of trawl CV and pot CV rationalization programs that could impact harvest patterns and inseason reallocations in the BSAI Pacific cod fishery, and there is some potential these actions could increase uncertainty for the hook-and-line/pot less than 60’ CV sector and reduce fishing access the sector has been historically dependent upon. It is for this reason that the Council has requested that a discussion of these issues be included in the upcoming October scoping paper.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- AI Pacific Cod Set-Aside
At the June meeting, the Council received a discussion paper that included a status report on Amendment 113 litigation and potential regulatory approaches that could be used to provide opportunities for trawl catcher vessels harvesting Pacific cod in the AI and delivering the Pacific cod to AI shoreplants. After reviewing the discussion paper and receiving public testimony, the Council requested a discussion of trawl CV harvests and deliveries in the AI Pacific cod fishery and the set-aside provisions established with Amendment 113 be included in the BSAI Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel management scoping document scheduled for the October 2019 Council meeting. The Council also noticed the public that depending on the results of the scoping paper, the Council may consider an AI focused limited access program (LAPP) as a long-term solution for AI shoreplant protections in the future.
The Council considered but ultimately did not recommend a proposal for an emergency action to implement a BS limitation for the 2020 A-season BSAI Pacific cod for the trawl catcher vessel sector. In part, the proposal for emergency action stems from the March 21, 2019, U.S. District Court opinion concerning Amendment 113 and removal of the rules implementing Amendment 113. The Council noted that the proposal would not guarantee deliveries of AI Pacific cod to AI shoreplants, and therefore would not resolve the emergency identified in the proposal. Although the Council recognized the risks to AI shoreplants as a result of removing the regulations previously implementing Amendment 113, the Council concluded that the emergency rule proposal does not meet all the criteria for an emergency rule. In addition, the Council requested a discussion of the AI set-aside structure as part of the community protection section of the BSAI Pacific cod trawl CV management scoping paper. The intent of this approach is to provide a comprehensive, long-term solution for the BSAI Pacific cod trawl CV fishery, of which an AI set-aside is one of several important elements in the management of that fishery.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- IFQ Access Opportunities- Global Examples
The Council reviewed a discussion paper outlining domestic and international examples of programs that facilitate access opportunities for rural communities and new entrants within limited access fisheries and tasked staff to come back with an expanded paper. The Council requested this discussion paper at the June 2018 meeting in response to information from the IFQ 20-year program review, academic research, and public testimony regarding access challenges in the IFQ Program. The discussion paper provided a more detailed review of Norway’s Recruitment Quota, and highlighted access program design specifications, distributional impacts, and legal considerations that may be relevant to an application in the North Pacific for the Halibut and Sablefish IFQ Program.
The Council directed staff to develop an expanded discussion paper identifying considerations related to the creation of a quota Access Pool for halibut and sablefish QS that facilitates entry-level opportunities. The Access Pool would be targeted at crewmembers and vessel owner-operators whose QS holdings equate to less than 5,000 lbs. of IFQ in 2019. Participation in the Access Pool would be temporary, meaning that a qualifying individual could only fish this quota for a set number of years. Access Pool QS could not be sold. The quota for this pool would be limited to an amount equal to 1% of the 2019 halibut and QS pool and could be “funded” either by newly created QS units, by withholding 0.5% or 1.0% of QS that is transferred, or a combination of the two. The Access Pool would be structured such that a Regional Fishery Association (RFA) or another entity receives the allocation and determines the criteria for distribution to applicants; criteria would be reviewed by the Council and approved by NMFS. The discussion paper will highlight explicit Council decision points necessary for this approach, the amount of detail needed to develop criteria for allocation, effects on the QS market and existing QS holders, and MSA considerations regarding the ability to allocate QS to RFAs.
The Council noted that the details of the Access Pool may seem overly prescribed for an expanded discussion paper, and that its intent is not to endorse a specific program or threshold at this time but that the Council is interested in reviewing more information about this type of program from members of the public and Council staff. The Council also directed the IFQ Committee to review this expanded discussion paper.
Staff contact is Anna Henry
- Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan
At this meeting, the Council reviewed a report from the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Team, and endorsed draft workplans and established taskforces for the two Action Modules that the Council has initiated:
- Evaluating effects of climate change on fish, fisheries, and the Bering Sea ecosystem, and develop management considerations
- Develop Protocols for Local Knowledge, Traditional Knowledge, and subsistence.
The Council adopted the Bering Sea FEP in December 2018. The Bering Sea FEP establishes a framework for the Council’s continued progress towards ecosystem-based fishery management (EBFM) of the Bering Sea fisheries, and describes how the FEP framework will support research projects (Action Modules) to address Council priorities. The Council views the FEP as a tool to promote ecosystem science, provide a systematic approach to identifying ecosystem considerations and priorities, enhance ecosystem considerations as they are incorporated into Council decisions, and provide a flexible, adaptive platform to address management and conservation needs in the face of climate and ecosystem change.
The FEP Team, which is an interagency group of Council, NMFS, and other Federal, State and IPHC staff, has transitioned from its development role to an ongoing role maintaining the FEP and managing Action Modules, providing strategic guidance on the Bering Sea ecosystem, and supporting outreach and communication on the FEP and the Bering Sea ecosystem as relates to the Council’s fishery management role. The Council approved the BS FEP Team’s proposed Terms of Reference, and encouraged the Team to continue with the work outlined in the FEP Team report, including development of an Ecosystem Health Report and outreach efforts such as Bering Sea FEP storymaps.
The Council also endorsed the Team’s draft Action Module workplans in principle, as revised in response to Council, Ecosystem Committee, and SSC comments in June 2019. Similarly, the Council established a taskforce for each action module, to be appointed by the Council Chair following a call for nominations. In particular, the Council clarified that these Action Modules are intended to have a specific focus on producing workproducts within a 2-3 year timeframe. Any output of the FEP and the Action Modules is intended to be informative and relevant to the Council but not prescriptive, and any recommendations that come from the Action Modules will be reviewed and considered by the Council through the normal process.
The intent of the Climate Change Module is described in the workplan, and is intended to synthesize climate impacts from ongoing research efforts, and ensure that climate resiliency evaluation of Bering Sea fisheries and their management are designed to provide relevant information to the Council. The taskforce for this module should be approximately 10 people, to include diverse knowledge holders and have an interdisciplinary focus. For the LK/TK/Subsistence module, the intent is to create a clear set of directions for the Council regarding best practices for solicitation and consideration of local knowledge and traditional knowledge, and how impacts to subsistence are understood and incorporated into analyses. The intent is not data collection but rather best practice protocols that can be applied to improve ongoing Council decision making. The taskforce for this module is recommended to be slightly larger, up to 15 people, with approximately equal representation of LK, TK, and subsistence expertise, and drawing both from experts and knowledge bearers.
Staff contact is Diana Evans.
- Social Science Planning Team Report
The Council received a report from the Social Science Planning Team (SSPT) on their annual meeting. The SSPT meeting occurred on May 7- 9, 2019 at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage. The group discussed the Data Gap Analysis, new and underrepresented research relevant to the North Pacific, the use of qualitative information in the fisheries management, Economic Data Reports including the Council’s recent actions to consider revisions to these data collections, as well as an update on the Fishery Ecosystem Plan action modules.
The Council encouraged further development of the Data Gap Analysis. The Council endorsed the SSC’s recommendation of considering and prioritizing analytical questions the Council has framed for past analyses, especially those highlighted by the SSC where there is a clear need for addressing uncertainty in potential impacts.
The Council supported the idea of the SSPT conducting a day long technical workshop focused on improvements to the EDRs. The Council encouraged the Team and the work done to improve the EDR process, to engage stakeholders, and incorporate stakeholder feedback. This workshop will likely be scheduled for late summer, with details to be posted on the SSPT webpage.
The SSPT’s next official meeting is an interim teleconference which will occur in November. The exact date and agenda for the meeting will also be forthcoming on the SSPT webpage. Among other topics, the SSPT hopes to further discuss the Data Gaps Analysis as well as receiving a presentation on qualitative methods from some of the SSPT members.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
- Community Engagement Committee
The Council received a progress report from the Community Engagement Committee (CEC). The CEC met on June 4 and reviewed the annotated list of current Council communication and engagement strategies to begin to identify deficiencies and strategies for developing more robust rural and tribal community engagement. The CEC will continue to meet to develop engagement strategies and will provide periodic progress reports to the Council. The CEC expects to complete their report in the spring of 2020.
Council staff contact is Steve MacLean.
- NPRB Research Tracking
The SSC received an overview presentation addressing recent North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) funding themes, an update on progress related to coordination efforts with Council research prioritization, methods for tracking research priorities, and potential for NPRB database functionality to support coordination with Council processes. The SSC is expected to comprehensively address the Council’s extensive list of research priorities in February 2020 and welcomed the potential for working more effectively with NPRB in improving that effort. A specific improvement that the NPRB could provide is the ability to track NPFMC-identified projects through the sequence of proposal, funding, completion, and publication steps. For the next comprehensive review, the SSC is considering an accompanying evening event to provide stakeholders with a focused opportunity for making research recommendations. There was SSC interest in the NPRB’s two-prong approach to categorizing research funding opportunities by their relevance to either management or ecosystem and other science issues. This could potentially provide a basis for creating two “top ten” lists of highlighted research priorities for the Council rather than the single list that was used in 2018.
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong
- Upcoming meetings
- Trawl EM Committee meeting, August 21-22, Portland, OR
- Crab Plan Team, September 16-20, AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Groundfish Plan Teams, September 16-20, AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan Team, sometime in September 2019, teleconference
- Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee, September 23-24, AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Community Engagement Committee, tentative late summer/early fall meeting
- Cook Inlet Salmon Committee, September 30, Homer, AK (tentative; alternately earlier in September)
- Staff Tasking
The Council discussed the relative priority and scheduling of previously tasked projects (see revised 3 meeting outlook), as well as the following issues.
- The Council received an update from staff about snow crab data requested in April, which will be available on the Council’s webpage during the course of the summer.
- Staff also provided an update on ongoing progress with the BSAI Halibut ABM PSC analysis, which is on track for initial review in October. The Council requested staff convene an educational webinar prior to the October Council meeting.
- The State of Alaska also noticed stakeholders that the Deputy Commissioner and Extended Jurisdiction staff are continuing to develop State positions on management structure in the BSAI and GOA fisheries, and will be reaching out to stakeholders throughout the summer.
The Council directed staff to develop and send several letters:
- To NMFS, to request prioritization of the processing backlog of recent Chinook salmon scales that are used for age-length keys.
- To legislative staff, in response to their request to provide comments on the “Forage Fish Conservation Act” bill.
- To NMFS and the Department of Justice, recommending that the U.S. District Court’s decision on Amendment 113 be appealed.
- To Rear Admiral Bell and the U.S. Coast Guard, thanking him for attending the Council meeting and for Coast Guard efforts to add assets to their Alaska capability.
- To the US Army Corps of Engineers, comment letter on the Draft EIS for Pebble Mine
Committees and advisory groups:
- The Council issued solicitations for a processor representative on the Trawl EM Committee, two new entrant permit holders for the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee, and new seats for the IFQ Committee to represent crew and those looking to acquire quota share.
- The Council will also issue solicitations for the Bering Sea FEP Action Module Taskforces for Climate Change and LK/TK/Subsistence.
- The Council appointed Julie Kavanaugh to the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee.
- The Council Chair noted that there will be upcoming changes to Council member Committee chairship appointments, to accommodate changing membership on the Council.
- The Council also tasked staff to bring back a strategic look at the relative roles and responsibilities of the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee, its subgroup, and the Trawl EM Committee, to ensure that each group understands its relative objectives and scope, and is appropriately constituted to address them.
- Halibut ABM Update
Staff updated the Council that the BSAI Halibut abundance-based management (ABM) PSC limit analysis is on track for initial review of a draft EIS in October 2019. Following the release of the draft EIS in early September, the Council will host a web-based informational meeting on the BSAI Halibut ABM analysis in September. The meeting will focus on providing an overview of the analysis and fielding clarification questions to the analysts from stakeholders. Details on the meeting will be posted as a spotlight on the Council’s website later this summer.
- Recreational Fisheries Roundtable
The National Marine Fisheries Service hosted a Recreational Fisheries Roundtable on Thursday, June 6 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. The Roundtable is an outcome from the 2018 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/new-plans-engaging-recreational-fishermen) and is an opportunity for recreational fishers and charter business owners and employees to meet with managers at the National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, and the Council to ask questions, and gain a better understanding of recreational fisheries management in Alaska. Engagement objectives for the meeting included:
- Establishing a visible presence among the recreational fishing community
- Developing a mutual understanding of priorities, concerns, and challenges
- Enhancing collaboration with the recreational fishing community.
The summit was well attended by local fishermen and charter business owners and employees. Several Council members were present along with Chris Oliver (Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries), Council staff, NMFS staff, and ADF&G staff. No formal presentations were provided, but the Council’s Charter Halibut Management Committee process was explained and participation in the committee process was encouraged. Attendees had open opportunity to ask questions of any of the managers in attendance. Council member Andy Mezirow explained his role in the Council process and provided a summary of charter issues that the Council has considered over the last several years.
At the end of the meeting, ADF&G staff provided an introduction to the electronic logbook that they developed for charter operators.
Another Recreational Fisheries Roundtable is scheduled for October 2019 in Homer, AK.