- Thank you, Homer!
The Council held its October meeting in Homer, Alaska. We thank everyone in Homer who worked to ensure our meetings and our stay was a success. The meetings on the spit provided incredible views and a stunning background to the daily fish discussions. Evening events hosted by local residents, industry participants, and Homer businesses allowed participants to engage in less formal settings.
Special thanks to the City of Homer and its administration who assisted in the many logistics required when hosting a Council meeting. A big shout out to the staff at the Land’s End hotel who also provided a majority of the accommodations and meeting space. And thanks to all the local businesses, service providers, fishermen’s groups, fisheries organizations, and individuals who helped make our meeting a success! We hope to return to Homer for meetings in the future.
- New Council members and Election of Officers
At this meeting, the Council re-elected Simon Kinneen as Chairman, and re-elected Bill Tweit as Vice-Chair for the upcoming year. Additionally, Ms. Nicole Kimball and Ms. Cora Campbell were sworn in as new Council members for a three-year term.
Ms. Kimball is the vice-president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, a non-profit trade association comprised of motherships and shore-based seafood processors across Alaska. Prior to this, she served as Federal Fisheries Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where she represented the state in regional, national, and international fisheries venues, and served as the alternate to the Commissioner on the North Pacific Council (2012-2016). Before that, Nicole worked as a fisheries analyst for the Council for 12 years.
Ms. Campbell is president and chief executive officer of Silver Bay Seafoods LLC, a fishermen-owned Alaska seafood processing company. Her fisheries career started in Petersburg Alaska, where she grew up fishing with her family. She served as policy advisor to two Alaska governors on fisheries, wildlife, climate change, natural resources, seafood marketing, and Arctic development. Ms. Campbell is former Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and previously represented the State of Alaska on the North Pacific Council (2010-2014).
Full bios for both new Council members, as well as the rest of the Council, are available on our website.
Dr. Amanda Bishop, of the Alaska Sea Life Center, will replace Dr. Jennifer Burns, who has resigned from the SSC, for the remainder of her appointment period. Dr. Bishop has been acting as the alternate for Dr. Burns since 2017. At the October SSC meeting, Dr. Milo Atkinson, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, stepped in to replace Dr. Terry Quinn, who passed away over the summer, and in December, Dr. Curry Cunningham (of the same affiliation) will act as the interim member. CVs for all current SSC members are available on our website.
Plan Team Appointment
The Council appointed Dr. Marysia Szymkowiak to serve on the GOA Groundfish Plan Team, as a replacement for Dr. Dan Lew. Dr. Szymkowiak is a social scientist at the AFSC, and on a variety of management issues in the North Pacific. She has expertise working directly with fishers and fishing communities and also conducts research on individual fishing quota (IFQ) fisheries and markets, new entry and diversification strategies for fishers, and the use of qualitative and mixed methods.
The Council appointed Craig Evens, Jerry Dahl Jr, and Jeff Peterson to the IFQ Committee, and appointed Council member Cora Campbell to chair that committee. The former Committee Chair, Buck Laukitis, will also remain on the Committee as a member.
Council members Bill Tweit and Nicole Kimball will co-Chair the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC), with Bill Tweit remaining as Chair of the Trawl EM Committee, and Nicole Kimball chairing the newly create Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC). The following FMAC members will also become members of the PCFMAC: Bob Alverson, Julie Bonney, Tom Evich, Dan Falvey, Kathy Hansen, Abigail Turner-Franke, Julie Kavanaugh, Luke Szymanski, Caitlin Yeager. In addition, the PCFMAC will be expanded to include representatives of the two EM service providers for the fixed gear EM program.
Council member Cora Campbell was appointed to the Joint Protocol Committee. For the Community Engagement Committee, former co-Chair Theresa Peterson will remain on the Committee as a member. Council member Kenny Down will represent the Council on the Alaska Ocean Observing Systems (AOOS) Board, and Council member Rachel Baker will represent the Council on the IPHC’s Management Strategy Advisory Board (MSAB).
Bering Sea FEP Taskforces
The Council appointed membership for two taskforces to work on two Action Modules, or projects, that implement the Council’s Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP). The two initiated Action Modules are the following: the Climate Change Action Module, to evaluate short- and long-term effects of climate change on fish, fisheries, and the Bering Sea ecosystem, and develop management considerations; and the LK/TK/Subsistence Action Module, to develop protocols for using local knowledge (LK) and traditional knowledge (TK) in management, and understanding impacts of Council decisions on subsistence use.
The following members are appointed to the Bering Sea FEP Climate Change Action Module:
- Kirstin Holsman, NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center
- Steve Martell, SeaState
- Jeremy Sterling, AFSC Marine Mammal Commission
- Diana Stram, Council staff
- Mike LeVine, The Ocean Conservancy
- Lauren Divine, Aleut Community of St. Paul
- Brenden Raymond-Yakoubian, Sandhill.Culture.Craft
- Scott Goodman, Natural Resources Consultants / Bering Sea Fisheries Research Fund
- Joe Krieger, NMFS Alaska Regional Office
The following members are appointed to the Bering Sea FEP LK/TK/Subsistence Action Module:
- Sarah Wise, NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center
- Alida Trainor, ADFG Subsistence Division
- Rachel Donkersloot, Coastal Cultures Research and Consulting
- Robert Murphy, Alaska Pacific University
- Toby Anungazuk Jr., Golovin, Alaska
- Julie Raymond-Yakoubian, Kawerak
- Simeon Swetzof, St. Paul, Alaska
- Darcy Peter, Beaver, Alaska
- Richard Slats, Chevak, Alaska
- Bridget Mansfield, NMFS Alaska Regional Office
- Kate Haapala, Council staff
- Call for Nominations
The Council is accepting nominations for its Scientific and Statistical Committee, and its Advisory Panel.
Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) nominees should have areas of expertise in biology/stock assessment, marine mammals, statistics, fisheries/resource economics, sociology/anthropology, or other relevant disciplines and be federal employees, state employees, academicians, or independent experts not employed by advocacy or interest groups. SSC members serve one-year terms but may be reappointed. The SSC advises the Council on all aspects of the decision-making process, including stock assessments and annual specifications, protected species interactions, and adequacy of analyses supporting various management actions. Nominations, letters of interest, and a resume should be submitted to the Executive Director through our comment portal by November 29th at 12pm Alaska time.
The Advisory Panel (AP) is composed of representatives of the fishing industry and others interested in the management of the North Pacific fisheries, and provides advice from those perspectives. AP members generally serve for three-year terms, and may be reappointed for up to two subsequent consecutive terms. Members of the panel are expected to attend up to five meetings, four to five days in length, each year. Note that no seats on the Advisory Panel are designated to a particular stakeholder group or geographical area, and the Council encourages all interested stakeholders to apply. Of paramount importance, the Council will consider the demonstrated ability of the candidate to be objective and to consider all aspects of an issue.
There are seats available for appointment on the AP. Of these, six are held by existing AP members who are eligible to serve another term, and have indicated interest in doing so: Ruth Christiansen, Jeff Kauffman, Victoria O’Connell, Patrick O’Donnell, John Scoblic, and Sinclair Wilt. Two current AP members have terms that are expiring: Alexus Kwachka and Kurt Cochran, and the remaining seat is held by John Gruver, who was appointed to a one-year term only. Nominations, letters of interest, and a resume should be submitted to the Executive Director through our comment portal by November 29th at 12pm Alaska time. Letters of support are not required but will also be considered. Please note that the names of those who submit a nomination will be made public.
- Halibut Abundance Based Management
The Council reviewed a preliminary draft analysis of a management program for BSAI halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) limits tied to the abundance of halibut (also described as halibut abundance-based management (ABM)). The Council is considering modifying current static PSC limits to fulfill multiple objectives: to index PSC limits to halibut abundance which may achieve different goals of providing flexibility to the groundfish fisheries in times of high halibut abundance, protecting spawning biomass of halibut especially at low levels of abundance, and stabilizing the inter-annual variability of PSC limits, all of which may provide additional harvest opportunities in the commercial halibut fishery.
The SSC provided constructive feedback for the analysts and requested that the analysis come back for another initial review once their recommendations have been addressed. Recommendations were grouped around minor modifications to the halibut operating model, additional simulations to run under lower than present recruitment assumptions and clarifications in the presentation of the range of alternatives and related impacts. The Council moved to modify and broaden the performance metrics that are being considered in the analysis, and requested that staff incorporate the SSC’s suggested revisions to the operating model and the preliminary draft EIS to the extent practicable. The Council did not move forward with changes to the current alternative set nor recommended inclusion of the SSC’s recommendation for including a new alternative that allows regulatory flexibility for adjusting PSC limits within season based on observed encounter rates.
The analysts will be providing the public with an interactive spreadsheet that can be used as a tool to estimate what PSC limits would have been historically under the range of alternatives being considered. The analysis will be modified to address Council revisions and SSC recommendations and will be brought back for initial review in 2020. A work plan for this will be presented in December 2019. Staff contact is Diana Stram.
- Observer Fee Analysis
The Council approved an increase to the observer fee that supports the deployment of observers and electronic monitoring (EM) systems in the commercial groundfish and Pacific halibut fisheries under partial coverage monitoring throughout the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea Aleutian Islands. The Council adopted a fee increase from the current 1.25% to 1.65%. Under the fastest implementation scenario, the change would go into effect in 2021, and the revenue would be available to affect coverage rates in mid-2022.
The Council heard extensive public testimony about controlling costs in the partial coverage observer program, and before taking action on the fee increase, passed a motion to set cost efficiency as its highest priority for work on the partial coverage observer program. The Council prioritized several immediate efforts to consider how to potentially lower costs and yet increase coverage rates for monitoring, by developing the pelagic trawl EM program, integrating EM and observer data for fixed gear, and optimizing the size and composition of fixed gear observed and EM fleets (including moving some vessels in remote ports, harvesting small amounts of fish, to zero-coverage).
Ultimately, the Council decided that because observer program data, scientifically collected, is foundational to the Council’s management program, both additional revenue and mechanisms to reduce costs would be required to address projected revenue shortfalls identified in the analysis. The Council selected an amount that would improve the stability of the partial coverage observer program, increase the fee in an equitable way across sectors, and along with cost containment measures that have been initiated, ensure the Council’s monitoring objectives can continue to be met.
Staff contact is Diana Evans.
- Trawl Electronic Monitoring
The Council reviewed an exempted fishing permit (EFP) application on Implementing Electronic Monitoring systems in the Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Pollock Pelagic Trawl Catcher Vessel Fisheries and recommended that the EFP be approved, taking into account recommendations of the SSC and the Trawl EM Committee.
This EFP would exempt participating pollock pelagic trawl catcher vessels in the EBS and GOA from regulations related to vessel discard requirements and onboard observer coverage. These exemptions are necessary for participating vessels to achieve maximized retention for all harvested species and to fully test the use of EM as a compliance monitoring tool for ensuring no salmon are discarded at sea. The EFP facilitates the Council’s long-term vision and ongoing commitment to a trawl EM program.
The Council noted that the EFP application was extremely thorough and developed in a collaborative manner between the applicants and multiple NMFS divisions.
During staff tasking, the Council also endorsed the description of the scope and purpose of Council monitoring committees including the Trawl EM Committee, and discussed scheduling for upcoming meetings.
Staff contact is Anna Henry.
- Observer Program Draft 2020 Annual Deployment Plan
The Council reviewed the Observer Program Draft 2020 Annual Deployment Plan (ADP), received a report from the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC), and supported NMFS’ recommendations for observer deployment in the partial coverage fisheries in 2020. The Council supported NMFS’ recommendation to not deploy observers into tender-specific strata in 2020, and to instead only deploy observers into strata defined by gear type. This change is not likely to substantially affect realized coverage rates on tendered trips, which will continue to be evaluated separately in the Annual Report. The Council also supported NMFS’ recommendations for the coverage allocation scheme of 15% plus optimized allocation based on discarded groundfish and halibut PSC and Chinook PSC, as described in the Draft 2020 ADP.
The Council reaffirmed its recommendation to NMFS that the EM trip selection pool be increased by 30 vessels, if additional funding is available to purchase and install EM systems. The Council appreciated the addition of a new criterion for prioritizing among vessels opting in if funding is insufficient to accommodate all vessels, namely to prioritize vessels that are unlikely to introduce data gaps. The Council also supports the agency’s planning to accommodate vessels participating in the Trawl EM EFP, should it be approved.
Finally, the Council commended NMFS’ ongoing work to improve observer safety, and made a statement supporting the importance of finding a solution to observer recruitment and retention. During staff tasking, the Council also endorsed the description of the scope and purpose of Council monitoring committees reviewed by the committees, and created a separate Partial Coverage FMAC Committee (comprised of existing FMAC members representing partial coverage fishery sectors) to streamline advice to the Council. The Council also addressed scheduling for upcoming monitoring committee meetings.
Staff contact for observer issues is Kate Haapala.
- BSAI Groundfish Preliminary Harvest Specifications
The Council reviewed reports from the BSAI and Joint Groundfish Plan Teams, and recommended 2020 and 2021 groundfish harvest and prohibited species catch (PSC) specifications for proposed rulemaking.
The SSC was presented with the Joint Groundfish and Crab Teams report, the Joint Groundfish Teams report, and the BSAI Groundfish Plan Team report which summarized the issues discussed and actions taken by the Plan Teams at their September meeting in Seattle, WA. Highlights of the Joint Groundfish and Crab Teams report included a summary and discussion of the Vector Autoregressive Spatio-Temporal (VAST) model, including the benefits, drawbacks, and proposed terms of reference for using VAST in the 2019 SAFE reports; and EM and Observer Program issues. Highlights of the Joint Groundfish Plan Teams’ report included: EBS/NBS shelf trawl survey results; a discussion of sablefish discards; updates on the sablefish assessment; and the use of the risk table. The BSAI Plan Team report addressed Team discussions with individual assessment authors. The AP and Council received similar, but abbreviated, reports.
The Joint Groundfish Plan Teams recommended combining the OFL for sablefish in the BS and AI, and potentially Statewide. The sablefish stock is assessed as a single, Alaska-wide stock, but OFL and ABC are apportioned by area between the BS, AI, and GOA. Apportioning OFL by area is a legacy of earlier Council action and has not previously been revisited. The SSC recommended that the 2020/2021 interim specifications retain the area-specific OFL, but noticed the public that they may consider a combined BS and AI OFL after the December meeting, for Final Specifications. Updated stock assessments for all BSAI species, incorporating this year’s survey data and PT and SSC recommendations, will be reviewed by the Plan Team at their upcoming meeting, November 12-15.
For proposed rulemaking for the 2020 and 2021 fishing years, the Council recommended OFLs and ABCs consistent with SSC recommendations based on rollover of the existing 2020 specifications for all stocks, and recommended proposed TACs and PSC limits and adopted Halibut DMRs for 2020 and 2021. Full details are included in the Council motion for the BSAI.
The Council received a letter from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) indicating that the combined, post-season sum of the three-river index (Upper Yukon, Unalakleet, and Kuskokwim Rivers) of Chinook salmon is 315,626 Chinook salmon. This is above the threshold (250,000 Chinook salmon) that would trigger lower PSC limit and performance threshold. Therefore, the higher PSC limit (60,000) and performance threshold (47,491) will be in place for 2020.
Information for the GOA Interim Specifications are available in the GOA Plan Team newsletter article. Staff contact for BSAI Groundfish Plan Team is Steve MacLean.
- GOA Groundfish Preliminary Harvest Specifications
The Council received a report from the GOA Groundfish Plan Team and adopted proposed harvest and prohibited species catch (PSC) specifications for 2020 and 2021. The GOA Groundfish Plan Team report summarized the issues discussed and actions taken by the Plan Team at its September meeting in Seattle, WA. Highlights of the GOA Plan Team report included overviews of the various surveys conducted in support of stock assessments, as well as Team discussions with individual assessment authors. The SSC provided guidance and recommendations on these issues as well as on harvest specifications for 2020. Some of the issues that pertain to GOA Groundfish were covered in the Joint Plan Team Report (discussed further under the BSAI Groundfish newsletter article).
For proposed rulemaking for the 2020 and 2021 fishing years, the SSC recommended OFLs and ABCs based on a rollover of existing 2020 specifications for all stocks. Updated stock assessments incorporating this year’s survey data and PT and SSC recommendations will be reviewed by the Plan Team at the upcoming meeting November 12-15 in Seattle. The Council recommended OFLs and ABCs consistent with SSC recommendations and proposed TACs. The Council also recommended halibut PSC limit apportionments and adopted updated halibut DMRs for 2019; full details are included in the Council motion for the GOA.
Staff contact for the GOA Groundfish Plan Team is Sara Cleaver.
- BSAI Crab Harvest Specifications
The Council reviewed the BSAI Crab Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Report, and specified crab OFLs and ABCs for 2019/2020.
Approval of the SAFE and 2019/2020 OFL/ABC
Dr. Martin Dorn, Co-Chair of the Crab Plan Team, presented the 2019 Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Crab Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) and the September 2019 CPT meeting report to the Council. Included in the presentation were final 2019 CPT recommendations for five crab stocks and CPT reviews of the 2019 Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) trawl survey, State fishery performance reports, State survey plans, and several crab research topics. The SSC endorsed all of the CPT recommendations on overfishing levels (OFLs) and acceptable biological catches (ABCs). Based on the review and recommendations of its SSC, the Council approved the SAFE and specified OFLs and ABCs for EBS snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, EBS Tanner crab, and Pribilof Island red king crab for 2019/20.
Crab Stock Status
The Crab SAFE describes the process for determining stock status based on a five-tier system that takes into account variation in the availability of information on a given crab stock. For most of the crab stocks managed by the Council, data are sufficient to support estimation of stock biomass (B), which allows stock status to be characterized by the ratio of current biomass (i.e., B2019) to target (BMSY) and threshold (½ BMSY) biomass (see Figure 1 and Table 1 below). The updated SAFE indicates that EBS snow crab, Aleutian Islands golden king crab, and Pribilof Islands red king crab are all above BMSY, while EBS Tanner crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, and Norton Sound red king crab are below BMSY but above ½ BMSY. The biomass estimate for EBS Tanner crab was above BMSY last year, and so the updated biomass estimate represents a decline.
Saint Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Islands blue king crab stock are both below ½ BMSY (Figure 1, Table 1) which defines the minimize stock size threshold (MSST) for these stocks and means that they are both overfished. Pribilof Islands blue king crab has been overfished since 2002, while Saint Matthew blue king crab was declared to be overfished in October 2018. A rebuilding plan is in development for Saint Matthew blue king crab and will be presented to the Council for initial review in December 2019. At the October 2019 meeting, the SSC provided guidance to analytical staff on information to consider in developing a timeframe for rebuilding.
Under the five-tier system described in the Crab SAFE methods are provided for estimating catch levels that constitute overfishing (i.e., the OFL). According to the 2019 SAFE, overfishing did not occur for any of the Council’s crab stocks.
The Crab Plan Team will hold its next meeting in Kodiak, Alaska from January 14-18, 2020 and will provide a report of that meeting to the Council at the February 2020 Council meeting in Seattle. At the January CPT meeting, the Team will review the final 2020 Norton Sound red king crab stock assessment, preliminary assessments for three crab stocks, the 2019 Crab Economic SAFE, the Gmacs framework for modeling crab population dynamics, and a range of crab research topics.
Staff contact for BSAI crab stocks is Jim Armstrong.
Table 1: Stock biomass estimates and OFL/ABC specifications, in thousands of metric tons, for 2019/20 for all crab stocks managed by the NPFMC. Note that no biomass estimates are possible for the Tier 5 stocks (PIGKC, WAIRKC).
BMSY or BMSYproxy
EBS snow crab 3a 126.1 167.3 1.33 54.90 43.90 BB red king crab 3b 21.25 15.96 0.75 3.40 2.72 EBS Tanner crab 3b 41.07 39.55 0.96 28.86 23.09 Pribilof Islands red king crab 4a 1.73 5.37 3.10 0.86 0.65 Pribilof Islands blue king crab 4c 4.11 0.175 0.04 0.00116 0.00087 St. Matthew Island blue king crab 4c 3.48 1.08 0.31 0.044 0.035 Norton Sound red king crab 4b 2.06 1.41 0.68 0.11 0.09 AI golden king crab 3a 11.76 15.94 1.36 5.25 3.94 Pribilof Islands golden king crab 5 n/a n/a n/a 0.09 0.07 Western AI red king crab 5 n/a n/a n/a 0.06 0.01
- Sculpins as Ecosystem Component Species
The Council reviewed a Public Review Draft of an Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Impact Review (EA/RIR) and concluded that sculpins meet the requirements for classification as an ecosystem component species in both the BSAI and GOA FMPs.
The analysis included alternatives for classifying sculpins as target species or ecosystem component species in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Groundfish Fishery Management Plans (FMPs). At this meeting, the Council identified a Preferred Alternative to designate sculpins in both BSAI and GOA FMPs as non-target ecosystem component species, and to establish the Maximum Retainable Amount (MRA) for sculpins at 20% for all basis species. The Preferred Alternative will preclude the establishment of OFL, ABC, and TAC, and prohibit directed fishing for sculpins. Recordkeeping and reporting to monitor and report catch and discards of sculpins will still be required.
During review, members of the public expressed concern about the requirement that ecosystem component species can only enter commerce in the form of fish meal, and requested that the Council initiate a discussion paper to revisit that requirement. During Staff Tasking, the Council directed staff to initiate a following analysis to evaluate eliminating the prohibition on any use or processing of sculpins and squid except for fishmeal.
- BSAI Pacific cod Pot Catcher Processor Participation
The Council, after reviewing a discussion paper that evaluated participation and effort in the Bering Sea Pacific cod catcher processor fishery, adopted a purpose and need statement (provided below) and initiated an analysis to eliminate latent capacity in the fishery in order to increase stability for Pacific cod dependent CPs, maintain consistently low rates of halibut and crab bycatch, and ensure that condensed fishing seasons do not result in safety-at-sea concerns.
The Council adopted the following purpose and need statement:
Amendment 85 assigned a portion of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Pacific cod TAC to the pot CP sector with the primary goals of aligning Pacific cod allocations with actual dependency and use and providing stability to all sectors. Three major changes have occurred since the implementation of Amendment 85, which has resulted in less stability for the dependent vessels on which the Amendment 85 allocation was based:
- low crab TACS and consolidation within the crab fisheries has provided increased flexibility for pot CPs,
- the total allowable catch for Pacific cod in the BSAI has decreased over the last several years, and
- the availability of rollovers to the CP pot sector has declined.
The Council is considering action to eliminate latent capacity in the fishery, in order to increase stability for cod dependent pot CPs, maintain consistently low rates of halibut and crab bycatch, and ensure that condensed fishing seasons do not result in safety-at-sea concerns.
Under the proposed action, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod endorsements on catcher processor pot License Limitation Program licenses would be removed unless the license is credited with a minimum directing landing of 1,000 mt in the management area based on two different year combinations. The Council also established a control date of October 8, 2019 for any action considering future participation in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod pot catcher processor sector.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- BSAI Pacific Cod Trawl and Pot CV LAPP Scoping Paper
At this meeting, the Council adopted a revised purpose and need statement and provided alternatives, elements, and options for a proposed BSAI Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel (CV) cooperative style-limited access privilege program (LAPP), which are summarized below. The Council did not move forward with development of a pot CV ≥ 60’ LAPP at this time. Instead, the Council encouraged the pot sector participants to work together to provide a more inclusive LAPP for all sector participants.
For the trawl CV LAPP, the Council is currently considering two different cooperative approaches: 1) two cooperatives, one for AFA vessels and one for non-AFA vessels (Element 1, Option 1), or 2) voluntary harvester cooperatives in association with a licensed processor (Element 1, Option 2).
Based on the Council’s motion, any LLP license assigned to a vessel that authorized that vessel’s legal landings of targeted trawl catcher vessel BSAI Pacific cod during the qualifying years is eligible to receive harvest shares (Element 2.1).
To determine harvest allocations, the Council included three different year combinations based on targeted BSAI Pacific cod harvest (Element 2.2, Options 1-3) and a fourth option that would blend both catch history and sideboard history for AFA BSAI Pacific cod sideboarded vessels only (Element 2.2, Option 4). The Council included an option to allocate only A season and B season harvest quota, leaving C season to remain as a limited access fishery to any vessel with an eligible groundfish LLP license and appropriate endorsements (Element 2.5).
With regards to prohibited species catch (PSC), the Council would continue to utilize the current harvest specifications process to determine the amount of halibut and crab PSC that would be apportioned to the trawl catcher vessel cooperatives (Element 3, Option 1). For example, halibut PSC is currently assigned to the trawl limited access sector and is further divided by fishery with 391 mt designated for use in the BSAI Pacific cod fishery for the 2019 fishing year. This halibut PSC limit is shared by the BSAI Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel sector and AFA catcher processor sector. The Council included a suboption to establish a trawl CV Pacific cod halibut PSC apportionment based on historic use between trawl catcher vessel sector and the AFA catcher processor sector (Element 3, Option 1, Suboption). The Council also included an option to reduce halibut and crab PSC apportionment to BSAI trawl catcher vessel Pacific cod sector by 10% to 25% (Element 3, Option 2).
The Council also included options to limit spillover effects from the BSAI Pacific cod trawl CV LAPP on GOA fisheries. These options include sideboard limits for AFA LLPs and CVs (Element 4, Option 1) and non-AFA LLP licenses (Element 4, Option 3) based on their GOA catch history during the BSAI Pacific cod qualifying period and restricting transfers of BSAI Pacific cod history on their respective LLP license for AFA GOA sideboard exempt trawl catcher vessels as a condition of continuing to benefit from their GOA sideboard exemption (Element 4, Option 2). The Council did include a provision to exempt non-AFA catcher vessels from GOA sideboards if their qualifying BSAI Pacific cod history was less than a yet to be determined threshold amount (Element 4, Option 3, suboption).
Included in the Council’s elements and options were provisions addressing processors. These include allowing all processors with an eligible federal processor permit to process BSAI Pacific cod (subject to eligibility requirements under the April 2019 Council action to limit catcher processors acting as motherships) (Element 5.1); a limit on targeted BSAI Pacific cod that can be delivered by trawl CVs (Element 5.2), and allocating harvest shares to onshore and offshore processors for use in a trawl catcher vessel cooperative (Element 5.3). The percent of shares allocated to eligible processors ranges from 5% to 30%.
The Council included provisions to promote sustained participation of Aleutian Islands (AI) processors and communities (Element 6). Option 1 requires the cooperative(s) to reserve a set-aside ranging from 10% to 25% of the BSAI trawl catcher vessel A season harvest amount for delivery to a shoreplant in the AI management region. Option 2 would issue annual harvest quota, the lesser of 5,000 mt or 5.5% of the total BSAI trawl catcher vessel Pacific cod quota, to the plant operator if the community of Adak or Atka files a notice of intent to process.
The Council also included transferability provisions. Specifically, Element 7 notes that catch histories are attached to the LLP license and are non-severable from the LLP license. Transfer of an LLP license eligible for this program results in the transfer of any program eligibility and catch history/harvest shares associated with the LLP (Element 7.1). Allocations based on processing history will be issued as separate permits and use and transfer restrictions on these processor cooperative shares, if selected, will determined at later date (Element 7.2).
With regards to ownership and use caps, the Council included options for a use cap for harvester-issued (Element 8.1) and processor-issued cooperative shares (Element 8.3), vessel use caps (Element 8.2), and processing cap (Element 8.4). Ownership and use cap percentages will be determined after further analysis. The Council included options to grandfather persons over the harvester-issued and processor-issued use caps and the processing cap.
Finally, the Council included elements to address cooperative provisions (Element 9), share duration (Element 10), monitoring (Element 11), reporting and program review (Element 12), cost recovery (Element 13), and gear conversion to fish BSAI Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel quota with pot gear (Element 14).
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- BSAI Pacific cod Parallel Fishery Limited Acces
At this meeting, the Council adopted a revised purpose and need statement, selected a preliminary preferred alternative for an analysis that considers prohibiting all Federal vessels from fishing for Pacific cod in waters from shore to 3 miles in the BSAI without the proper permits and licenses, and released the document for public review. The directed fisheries for Pacific cod in state waters (0 to 3 nm) that are open concurrently with the directed fisheries in federal waters (3 nm to 200 nm) are referred to as the parallel fishery and are prosecuted under virtually the same rules as the federal fisheries, with catch counted against the federal TAC. The parallel State waters fisheries are managed separately from the State waters Pacific cod fisheries.
The Council’s preliminary preferred alternative would preclude hook-and-line, pot, and trawl gear vessels from participating in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod parallel fisheries unless they have a License Limitation Program license with the correct license endorsements and a designated Federal Fisheries Permit. The preliminary preferred alternative would also require the above Federal permitted or licensed vessels that fish in the parallel fishery to adhere to federal sector and seasonal BSAI Pacific cod closures and would restrict those vessels from surrendering and later reapplying for the FFP within a three-year time period.
Below is the revised purpose and need statement:
Currently, there are no limits on entry by federally permitted catcher vessels into the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) parallel waters groundfish fisheries, and no limits on the proportion of the BSAI Pacific cod TAC that may be harvested in parallel waters. Current management inadvertently allows fishing in BSAI parallel waters off a federal Pacific cod TAC even when a sector’s federal Pacific cod allocation has been achieved. There is concern that harvests of Pacific cod in the parallel waters fishery by vessels that do not hold BSAI groundfish LLP licenses or the appropriate Pacific cod endorsement may continue to increase. This complicates conservation and management measures which hold sectors to their allocations and circumvents the intent of previous Council decisions regarding license limitation, sector allocations, and catch reporting. The Council, in consideration of options and recommendations for federal catcher vessels that participate in the parallel fishery, intends to ensure robust catch accounting while considering participation in and reliance on the Pacific cod fisheries while recognizing that new entrants who do not hold Federal fishery permits may participate in the parallel fishery.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- BSAI and GOA Unused Pacific Cod
After reviewing a discussion paper overviewing reasons for unused Pacific cod (sometimes referred to as stranded cod) and options for reducing unused Pacific cod in the BSAI and GOA, the Council postponed indefinitely any further action on this discussion paper. The Council noted that several of the issues included in the discussion paper will be addressed in many of the upcoming Council Pacific cod actions.
The purpose of the paper was to outline the process for reallocating Pacific cod, and options for NMFS and the State of Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game to facilitate the harvest by state and federal fishery participants of unused allocation of Pacific cod in guideline harvest level (GHL) fisheries, with a focus on the Aleutian Island Subdistrict GHL fishery. Other issues noted in the discussion paper included options for addressing impediments to complete harvest of Pacific cod allocations in the federal fisheries, including incidental catch allowance (ICA) for the hook-and-line and pot gear in the BSAI, ICA in the GOA, GOA Rockfish Program allocations, and Amendment 80 allocation.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
- Cook Inlet Salmon
The Council heard from the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee on progress with recommendations on the Salmon FMP amendment under development.
The Cook Inlet Salmon Committee was created to involve salmon stakeholders in the development of an FMP amendment that will extend federal management authority to salmon fisheries in EEZ waters of Cook Inlet. Under Alternative 2 in the amendment, commercial salmon fisheries in EEZ waters of Cook Inlet would be cooperatively managed with the State of Alaska, and authority would be delegated to the State for several types of management measures. The Committee met on Monday, September 30 to develop recommendations on management measures including reporting and monitoring tools, as well as to review an analysis of economic and community considerations and a timeline for amending the FMP. In order to better develop specific management measure recommendations to the Council, Committee members will work collaboratively in a shared document and transmit written submissions to the Council.
At the meeting, the Committee reviewed a list of several types of management measures (i.e., Category II measures) that could be delegated and expressed their interest in establishing mechanisms in the Salmon FMP, like those in the Crab FMP, that guide the State on implementation. The Committee also recommended creating a role for stakeholders in the review of information supporting harvest-limit setting. The Committee discussed the logistical and technological challenges presented by existing harvest reporting options and recommended mechanisms be developed for Cook Inlet driftnetters that would simplify or minimize costs, especially those needed to differentiate catches from Federal and State waters. The Committee was interested in establishing an option for choosing no-retention or full-retention of bycatch, though stakeholders maintained that very little bycatch occurs in their fishery.
The Committee reviewed a range of salmon fishery economic and community data and made suggestions for additional information to consider, as well as explanations for existing spatial patterns and trends. The Committee did not make recommendations on the timeline for completing the amendment, which, according to staff, could be in place by the start of the 2022 fishing season.
The Council was presented with a report of the Committee meeting and encouraged the Committee to work collaboratively to further develop recommendations prior to the next Committee meeting. Based on the Council response, the Committee is expected to hold additional meetings prior to Council review of the Salmon FMP Amendment.
Staff Contact is Jim Armstrong.
- Community Engagement Committee
The Council received a progress report from the Community Engagement Committee (CEC). The CEC met on October 1 and reviewed the recent Council activities to implement earlier recommendations from the committee, NMFS’ Tribal Consultation procedures, and identify strategies to improve Council engagement with rural and Alaska Native communities. 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 2020. Staff contact is Steve MacLean.
- Staff Tasking
In addition to discussing the relative priority and scheduling of previously tasked projects, the Council requested staff prepare a series of letters:
- to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), describing the importance of continued funding for trawl surveys, especially within the context of the watershed change in ecosystem conditions in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska in 2019.
- to NMFS, providing feedback on the draft electronic monitoring data retention and storage procedural directive, along the lines of comments provided by the Council’s Fishery Monitoring and Advisory Committee.
- to NMFS, for Council review in December, about the designation of humpback whale critical habitat.
The Council also initiated the following new actions:
- an analysis to consider the disposition of squid and sculpins when in the non-target ecosystem component species category.
- a discussion paper on management options available to promote conservation of AI Pacific cod and the sustained participation of AI fishing communities.
- a discussion paper in response to community concerns and small boat access challenges identified in the <60 ft fixed gear BSAI Pacific cod sector.
Additionally, the Council discussed the following issues:
- The Council created a new Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee, composed primarily of the partial coverage representatives on the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee. The scope and purpose for this and other Council monitoring committees is described in a staff discussion paper.
- The Council supports NMFS recommendations to revise reporting requirements for observer providers and the small CP partial coverage request process, as presented in the FMAC minutes.
- Given concerns about sablefish bycatch in the trawl fisheries, the Council asked representatives of the Amendment 80 and AFA pollock fleets to report to the Council in December about how they intend to minimize sablefish bycatch in 2020.
- The Council asked staff to check in with Pacific Council staff about progress underway with the coastwide sablefish assessment and report back to the Council.
- The Council requested that staff report back to the Council with a workplan for the requested changes to the halibut abundance-based management action in December.
- The Council endorsed NMFS additional recommended inclusions for the Central GOA rockfish reauthorization initial review draft, with the exception of items 1 and 4. If it does not delay the completion of the analysis, the Council also requested staff bring back information about allowing retention of rockfish outside of the Rockfish Program and eliminating regulatory discards due to season restrictions which include a 5% MRA.
- Upcoming meetings
- Charter Halibut Management Committee, October 29th, Anchorage, AK
- Social Science Planning Team, November 6th, teleconference
- Groundfish Plan Teams, November 12-15, AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Community Engagement Committee, December 2, Anchorage, AK
- Enforcement Committee, December 3, Anchorage, AK
- Charter Halibut Management Committee, December 3, Anchorage, AK
- BSAI Crab Plan Team, January 13-17, 2020, Kodiak, AK
- Bering Sea FEP LK/TK/Subsistence Action Module Taskforce, tentatively January 2020, Anchorage, AK
- Bering Sea FEP Climate Change Action Module Taskforce, tentatively January 2020, AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Ecosystem Committee, January 27 or 28, Seattle, WA
- Scallop Plan Team, February 19, 2020, Kodiak, AK
- Bering Sea FEP Team, March 3-5, 2020, AFSC, Seattle, WA
- Community Engagement Committee, March or April 2020, Location TBD
- Community Engagement Committee, June 2020, tentatively Juneau AK