Elections | Nominations | BSAI Crab | Small Vessel Access | Trawl EM | Greenland Turbot | Groundfish Specs | Spatial Management Policy | Stock Prioritization | Bristol Bay Red King Crab | Universal Data Collection | AM80 Program Review | PCFMAC | CCTF | Ecosystem | EFH | Staff Tasking
Elections and New Members
The Council swore in Angel Drobnica as its newest member, and swore in Nicole Kimball for a second term at the beginning of its October meeting. The Council also unanimously re-elected Simon Kinneen as Chair and Bill Tweit as Vice-Chair.
Ms. Drobnica, from Juneau, has participated in the council process as an Advisory Panel member and Chair of the AP. She is the Director of Fisheries and Government Affairs for the Aleutian-Pribilof Island Community Development Association.
Nicole Kimball was re-appointed for a second term. Ms. Kimball is the vice president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.
Additionally, Steve Williams joined the Council as a representative of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mr. Williams is recently retired from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The Council’s Advisory Panel convened with an Election of Officers selecting Brian Ritchie as the Chair and Lauren Mitchell and Ruth Christiansen as the Co-Vice Chairs. Matt Upton resigned as the Co-Vice Chair and Angel Drobnica (former AP Chair) was nominated to serve on the Council.
Call for Nominations for AP Tribal Seat
The Council has received consistent and increased engagement from Alaska Native Tribes and communities in its process and wants to ensure Tribal perspectives are included and represented on its Advisory Panel. The Council is accepting nominations from Alaska Native Tribes and/or Tribal Consortia for one designated Alaska Native Tribal seat on its Advisory Panel. The Council’s intent is to consider applicants for this seat with the same term limits and qualifications as 3-year appointments (pro-rated for the 1st term).
Details about how to apply for this seat can be found here. Please note that submissions will be viewable to the public on the webpage for submissions. The nominations period for the designated Alaska Native Tribal seat will be open until 5pm on February 3rd, 2023. This deadline differs from other AP nominations that close at 5pm on November 15th, 2022. The Council chose a later deadline for the designated Alaska Native Tribal seat on its Advisory Panel to have adequate time to notice and reach out to interested members of the public, Tribes, and Tribal Consortia, especially after Typhoon Merbok. Please reach out to Kate Haapala, Council staff, Tribal/rural community liaison, if you have any questions or would like further information, firstname.lastname@example.org; 907-271-2809.
Call for Nominations for SSC and AP
The Council is accepting nominations for its Scientific and Statistical Committee, and its Advisory Panel. Nominations, letters of interest, and a resume should be submitted to the Executive Director through the comment portal by November 15th at 5 pm Alaska time. Please note that submissions will be viewable on the webpage.
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. New SSC candidates should submit nominations, letters of interest, and a resume to the Executive Director through our nomination portal by November 15th at 5pm Alaska time. More information on the terms of reference, appointment process, and duties of SSC members can be found in the SSC Handbook.
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. In 2022, we hope to hold meetings in-person, but it is possible that some meetings may need to be held virtually. 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. More information on the terms of reference, appointment process, and duties of AP members can be found in the AP Handbook.
BSAI Crab Specifications
2022/2023 OFLs and ABCs
The Council specified OFLs and ABCs for five BSAI crab stocks for the 2022/2023 fishing season. The Council took this action based on SSC recommendations, a review of the crab stocks status, and the BSAI Crab Plan Team’s report from their September 2022 meeting. The SSC also received a preview of ecosystem status reports (ESRs) that highlighted areas of concern, noteworthy topics and developing narratives for the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands. The Council’s motion to adopt the 2022/2023 OFLs and ABCs for eastern Bering Sea (EBS) snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, EBS Tanner crab, Saint Matthew blue king crab (SMBKC) and Pribilof Island red king crab is on the eAgenda.
Approval of the SAFE report and BSAI Crab Stock Status
The Council reviewed and approved the final 2022 BSAI Crab SAFE report at this meeting. The SAFE report describes how the status of a crab stock is determined based on a system of five tiers, differentiated by the amount of information that can be generated in the stock assessment. For eight of the ten crab stocks managed by the Council, data are available to support estimation of stock biomass (B), so stock status compares current biomass (i.e., B2022) to target (BMSY) and threshold (½ BMSY) biomass (see Figure below). The final 2022 SAFE report indicates that Aleutian Islands golden king crab, Pribilof Islands red king crab, Norton Sound red king crab, and EBS Tanner crab are all above BMSY, while Bristol Bay red king crab is below BMSY but above ½ BMSY, and EBS snow crab, Pribilof Islands blue king crab, and St Matthew blue king crab are below ½ BMSY.
The biomass of EBS snow crab, Saint Matthew blue king crab, and Pribilof Islands blue king crab stocks are all below the minimum stock size threshold (MSST) for these stocks, which means that they are overfished. St. Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Islands blue king crab are under rebuilding plans. An update on rebuilding progress for SMBKC was provided at this meeting, and the SSC noted that SMBKC is rebuilding as expected under the rebuilding plan. EBS snow crab are overfished and a rebuilding plan is being developed (see below). None of the other six crab stocks are overfished or approaching overfished status. None of the crab stocks were subject to overfishing.
Snow Crab Rebuilding Plan
The SSC reviewed rebuilding parameters to include in the upcoming analysis of a rebuilding plan for eastern Bering Sea snow crab. EBS snow crab biomass was declared overfished by NMFS on October 19, 2021. The Council selected draft alternatives for a rebuilding plan in June 2022, and analysis of the rebuilding plan is scheduled to be reviewed by the Council in December. The SSC reviewed several recommended model scenarios for establishing model parameters and the selection of Tmin and Tmax, which establish in the plan the minimum and maximum time limits for rebuilding the snow crab stock. The SSC recommended the rebuilding parameters of Tmin=6 years, Tmax=10, using the recruitment and mortality time frame scenarios from 1982-2017. These SSC recommendations will be included in the December 2022 analysis.
BBRKC emergency rule request
Due to ongoing concerns with the status of the Bristol Bay red king crab (BBRKC), the Council requested a December 2022 review of NMFS’ analysis of an emergency rule request to prohibit pelagic trawl, pot, and hook-and-line fisheries in the Red King Crab Savings Area and Subarea from January 1 through June 30, 2023. The Council will review the information in the analysis so that it can make an informed recommendation on the emergency rule request.
Support for stock assessment improvements
The Council supported, as practicable, the detailed recommendations of the SSC on research and model development for crab stocks. In addition, the Council encourages the formation of a working group to develop a framework for how to estimate the magnitude of unobserved mortality for crab stocks and how these estimations may be utilized in BSAI crab stock assessments.
Staff contact is Sarah Rheinsmith.
BSAI Small Vessel Access
The Council evaluated the final action draft of the Bering Sea Aleutian Island (BSAI) small vessel analysis. After receiving a presentation on the analysis, public comment, and recommendations from the Advisory Panel, the Council selected a preferred alternative to submit to the Secretary of Commerce.
The Council’s preferred alternative would redefine the BSAI Pacific cod jig sector during the A-season (January 1—April 30) to include hook-and-line (H&L) and pot catcher vessels (CVs) less than or equal to 55’ LOA. The current less than 60’ H&L or pot CV sector would also be redefined during the jig A-season so that only the Pacific cod harvest from H&L or pot CVs with a reported LOA between 56-59’ would be deducted from the current sector’s 2% allocation of Federal BSAI Pacific cod. After the jig sector’s A-season ends on April 30, all H&L or pot CVs less than 60’ LOA would be in the same sector and eligible for reallocations of Federal BSAI Pacific cod later in the year (typically September—December).
The Council’s preferred alternative could provide stability and additional opportunities for fishery participants with smaller H&L or pot CVs less than or equal to 55’ LOA, particularly early in the year during the jig sector’s A-season.
Staff contact is Kate Haapala.
Trawl Electronic Monitoring
The Council took final action to implement electronic monitoring (EM) on pelagic trawl pollock catcher vessels and tenders delivering to shoreside processors in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The trawl EM program is designed to use EM for compliance monitoring, meaning that EM video data does not directly feed into catch accounting or stock assessments. Instead, catch accounting uses industry-reported data (verified through EM) and data collected by shoreside observers. Maximized retention ensures that unsorted catch will be delivered and available to be sampled by shoreside observers, allowing for non-biased data to be collected at the trip level by shoreside observers at the processing plant. The trawl EM program has been operating under an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to evaluate the efficacy of EM systems and shoreside observers since 2020. The intended timeline is to implement the regulatory program in 2024 to ensure there is no gap between the EFP and the regulated program. The purpose of the action is to improve catch accounting for salmon, advance cost efficiency, and monitor for compliance with discard restrictions.
This is a voluntary program in which vessels request to enter the EM program each year. Vessels that are not in the trawl EM program remain in full coverage or the partial coverage observer selection pool, to carry an at-sea observer. Vessels participating in the trawl EM program will be required to use EM on all trips using only pelagic trawl gear. All trips using multiple gear types will remain in the observer selection pool.
The Council also clarified that the partial coverage 1.65% fee will be used to pay for EM equipment, service, and maintenance costs for vessels that do not participate in trawl catch share programs with an EM option. Additionally, the fee should be used to pay for housing and food for shoreside observers during deployments at processors to monitor partial coverage directed pelagic pollock deliveries from vessels using EM. Costs for video review in the Bering Sea will be paid for by a new BSAI EM fee. This fee will be calculated as the annual cost of EM review, data storage and transmission for the prior year divided by the proportion of actual annual pollock harvested in the prior year by each vessel that participates in the BSAI trawl EM program.
The Council supported the implementation of industry-managed incentive plans that provide a framework to meet annual performance standards to limit changes in fishing behavior due to the removal of MRA (maximum retainable amount) incidental catch limits and pollock trip limits for vessels participating in the Trawl EM program. These incentive plans will be developed by industry and approved by NMFS, and will be specific to either the Bering Sea or the Gulf of Alaska. Each incentive plan will designate an individual as the plan representative who will be required to submit a written annual report to the Council.
The Council also clarified that should the CDQ or AI pollock fishery be open and prosecuted with catcher vessels, they would not be precluded from the opportunity to participate in the trawl EM program.
Trawl EM Committee
The Council directed the Trawl EM Committee to meet regarding the status of current and potential future EM projects and the future role and appropriate makeup of the Trawl EM Committee. The Committee will report back to the Council at the February meeting with recommendations; public input is encouraged at that time.
Staff contact is Anna Henry.
Greenland Turbot in Longline Pots
The Council completed an initial review of an analysis to authorize the use of longline pot gear when directed fishing for Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea subarea. After reviewing the analysis, the Council released the analysis for final action, adjusted the problem statement, included a new alternative (Alternative 3), and identified a preliminary preferred alternative (PPA). The SSC also reviewed the analysis and suggested some minor modifications to the analysis that staff will incorporate in the final review draft to the extent practicable.
The Council’s problem statement including the new language (bolded text) is provided below:
Whale depredation is precluding directed fishing for Greenland turbot by commercial hook-and-line (HAL) gear vessels in the Bering Sea. Participation in this fishery has been a significant source of income for a number of HAL catcher processor (CP) vessels that primarily target Pacific cod. The importance of turbot fishing increased for these vessels as Pacific cod TACs in the Bering Sea saw major declines between 2012 and 2021. Although single pot gear is currently authorized for Greenland turbot, single pots have not been deployed because of their inefficiency in the depth and location where the fishery occurs. A regulatory amendment that would allow vessels to use longline pots when fishing for Greenland turbot would likely resolve the depredation problem and allow this fishery to resume. Other benefits of reduced whale depredation on Greenland turbot could include improved catch accounting for managers, and data quality for the Greenland turbot stock assessment. The use of longline pots could disrupt historic and current participants in the HAL CP and the Amendment 80 sectors should it encourage new entrants with no previous activity in the fishery.
The intent of the new Alternative 3 is to reduce the potential for disruption to the historic and current participants should this new longline pot gear encourage new entrants in the directed Greenland turbot fishery in the Bering sea subarea. Recognizing the potential for disruption, the Council selected Alternative 3 and Option 1 as its preliminary preferred alternative. The existing suite of alternatives and the new alternative are provided below:
Alternative 1: No Action. (Longline pot gear is not authorized for Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea Subarea)
Alternative 2: Authorize the use of longline pot gear when directed fishing for Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea subarea
Alternative 3 (PPA): Authorize the use of longline pot gear only for vessels in the HAL CP sector when directed fishing for Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea subarea
Option 1 (PPA): Exemption from the 9-inch maximum tunnel opening restriction. (The 9-inch maximum tunnel opening requirement does not apply to longline pots used to directed fish for Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea subarea.)
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
Groundfish Proposed Specifications
The Council received reports from the recent Joint, BSAI, and GOA Groundfish Plan Team meetings and recommended 2023 and 2024 BSAI and GOA groundfish harvest specifications and prohibited species catch (PSC) limit apportionments for proposed rulemaking. The Council also received two Spatial Management Policy Discussion papers on BSAI blackspotted and rougheye rockfish and GOA Demersal Shelf Rockfish, resulting in direction for the GOA DSR complex in 2023 as described below and a modification to the Council’s Spatial Management Policy. That modification is described in a separate section of the newsletter.
The SSC was presented with the Joint Groundfish Plan Team Report, the BSAI Groundfish Plan Team Report, and the GOA Groundfish Plan Team Report that summarized the issues discussed and actions taken by the Plan Teams at their September meetings. The SSC received a preview of ecosystem status reports (ESRs) which highlighted areas of concern, noteworthy topics, and developing narratives for the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska under their C1 Crab Specifications agenda item. Full presentations of these reports will be provided to the Council in December.
The Council received condensed presentations of the Groundfish Plan Team reports that focused on issues most relevant to proposed specifications. Updated groundfish stock assessments will be reviewed by the Plan Teams at the upcoming meetings November 14-18 and the Council will receive full reports at its December meeting prior to recommending final BSAI and GOA groundfish harvest specifications. Highlights from the Joint Plan Team meeting included preliminary survey results and proposed modeling updates.
For proposed rulemaking for the 2023 and 2024 fishing years, the Council recommended OFLs and ABCs consistent with SSC recommendations, based on rollover of the existing 2023 specifications for all BSAI groundfish stocks. The Council also recommended proposed TACs for all species, PSC limit apportionments for halibut, crab, and herring, and adopted halibut Discard Mortality Rates (DMRs) for 2023 and 2024. Full details are included in the Council motion for proposed BSAI groundfish harvest specifications.
The Council received a letter from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) indicating that the combined, post-season sum of the run sizes from the rivers comprising the three-river index (Upper Yukon, Unalakleet, and Kuskokwim Rivers) of Chinook salmon is 158,646 and is below the threshold level of 250,000. Therefore, the performance standard for the Bering Sea pollock fishery will remain at 33,318 Chinook salmon, and the PSC limit will remain at 45,000, as identified in 50 CFR 679.21.
Highlights from the BSAI Plan Team report included results and from the acoustic trawl and bottom trawl surveys. In discussions of BS/RE with the Council as it relates to the spatial management policy (described in a separate article), the BSAI Plan Team will review the full assessment for BS/RE in November and address any resulting spatial issues in accordinance with the revised policy at that time. Any further recommendations will come to the Council in December as needed for that stock.
Staff contact for BSAI groundfish is Diana Stram.
For proposed rulemaking for the 2023 and 2024 fishing years, the Council recommended OFLs and ABCs consistent with SSC recommendations, based on rollover of the existing 2023 specifications for all GOA groundfish stocks. The Council also recommended proposed TACs for all species. Lastly, the Council recommended GOA halibut PSC limit apportionments and adopted updated halibut DMRs for 2023 and 2024; full details are included in the Council motion for the GOA. Regarding spatial management of the demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) complex, the Council supports consideration of moving the seven DSR species which currently occur in the ‘other rockfish’ complex (i.e., those occurring to the west of EY/SEO) into the DSR assessment and expanding the DSR complex assessment to be GOA-wide during the 2023 Plan Team cycle when the next full assessment for ‘other rockfish’ is scheduled. Information should be included on the impacts of this change to both DSR and the ‘other rockfish’ complex.
Highlights from the GOA Plan Team report included results from the Shelikof winter acoustics survey.
Staff contact for GOA groundfish is Sara Cleaver.
Spatial Management Policy
The Council reviewed a discussion paper addressing spatial management issues for BSAI blackspotted and rougheye rockfish and concerns relating to the overall application of the Spatial Management Policy. Adopted in 2014, the Council’s Spatial Management Policy is intended to guide discussions and considerations of spatial management of fish and invertebrate stocks. Based upon clarifications requested by the Joint Groundfish Plan Teams, the Council moved to amend the policy to include the following guidance on iterative reviews of spatial issues:
If the application of the spatial management policy did not result in the Council adopting management changes, the authors and the Plan Teams should continue to monitor and the SSC should advise the Council if there are associated conservation concerns and any changes in the scale of concern, if identified, during the next full assessment cycle.
Staff contacts are Diana Stram and Sara Cleaver.
The Council received a review of the North Pacific stock assessment prioritization process and a proposal for reducing the assessment frequency for candidate groundfish stocks, and supports proposed efficiencies and developing information to consider additional changes in early 2023. The North Pacific approach for applying the National Stock Assessment Prioritization Plan was developed by NMFS and the Council in February 2017. The national plan envisions a common approach for all regions to determine how often their stock assessments would be conducted. Under the approach, assessments for some stocks with consistently low catches relative to harvest limits, and no ongoing management concerns, were reduced in frequency such that formerly annual assessments were switched to a longer (2-4 year) cycle.
In 2017, the Council requested a review be conducted after one complete cycle of the revised assessment frequencies. At this meeting, AFSC staff provided an update on the groundfish assessment process, highlighting increasing demands on AFSC stock assessment authors and reviewers, differentiating the types of assessment conducted in the North Pacific (‘benchmark’, ‘full update’ and ‘partial update’), and information about the stability in specifications from species that were put on a less frequent assessment cycle. The AFSC also proposed additional recommendations to continue to improve efficiency while maintaining the ability to meet the need for timely and high-quality assessments.
Due to staffing constraints, two groundfish assessments in the BSAI that were slated to have been full assessments in 2022 will now be partial assessments (BSAI flathead sole and BSAI skates). At least nine additional groundfish stocks have been proposed for reduced assessment frequency beginning in 2023. On the recommendation of the SSC, the Council endorsed AFSC staff recommendations on developing revised groundfish SAFE guidelines and standards of documentation for the different types of assessment, and best practices for producing stock assessments. The Council also supports AFSC staff preparing a discussion paper for review in early 2023 which summarizes stock-specific metrics and considerations for the candidate groundfish stocks. The SSC requested the groundfish and crab Plan Teams provide input on the AFSC workproducts, and specifically requested that the Crab Plan Team conduct a similar process to re-evaluate stock prioritization for BSAI crab assessments.
Staff contact is Diana Stram.
BBRKC discussion paper
At this meeting the Council identified the Bristol Bay red king crab (BBRKC) and Bering Sea snow crab stocks as a priority conservation concern. The Council provided direction to address this level of concern through several avenues.First, the Council will consider an emergency rulemaking petition in December 2022. Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers submitted an emergency petition to the to the Secretary of Commerce under section 305(c)(1) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to close the Red King Crab Savings Area and the Red King Crab Savings Subarea to all fishing gears from January 1, 2023 to June 30, 2023. NMFS invited the Council to review and provide input on this request. The Council intends to review an analysis for an emergency rule request prepared by NMFS staff and provide any recommendation to the Secretary in December 2022. This analysis could also be used as a basis to initiate a regulatory amendment in December through the normal rule making process to consider permanently closing the savings area and subarea to some or all gear types.
Secondly, the Council received feedback from the public through a Request for Information (RFI) on a number of topics including: voluntary measures that could be implemented as soon as 2023 to avoid BBRKC and reduce crab mortality in non-directed fisheries, measures to reduce discard mortality in the directed crab fisheries, and research that could inform development of flexible spatial management measures or gear modifications that would reduce the impacts on crab or better evaluate unobserved mortality of crab due to trawl gear interactions. The Council appreciated industry responses to requests for information on voluntary measures and encourages all sectors to implement these voluntary measures in the 2023 season. The Council requests trade association representatives in both the non-directed sectors and the directed crab fishing sectors provide a status report on the efficacy of these measures in December 2023.
Based on projects described in the Request for Information and public testimony, the Council encourages continued research and testing on:
- pot gear modifications, soak times and handling practices that reduce unintended mortality of crab PSC
- evaluating the interactions of pelagic trawl gear with the sea floor and crab to inform gear modifications to reduce unintended mortality of crab PSC and impacts on benthic habitat
- methods to gather data on interannual and seasonal distribution of crab, such as additional surveys and tagging studies
ADF&G staff also intend to work with Council and NMFS staff to develop a draft workplan targeted at addressing Bristol Bay red king crab and Eastern Bering Sea snow crab conservation concerns and the need for a comprehensive ecosystem-based approach for crab research and management. The workplan will prioritize reducing fishing impacts on molting and mating crab, providing protections to improve recruitment, protecting habitat, and building in resilience to changing environmental conditions, predation, and fishing pressure. This may include promoting specific areas of research and/ or further development of conservation and management actions focused on restoring and sustaining BSAI crab stocks. ADF&G will provide the draft workplan for the Council’s consideration at the December meeting.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
Universal Data Collection
The Council reviewed and provided direction on a discussion paper which identified a few data components that could be collected across all federal fishing sectors to improve Fishery Management Plan amendment and regulatory impact analyses. In particular, staff identified potential pathways for collecting data on 1) crew licenses, 2) crew positions, 2) fuel/ lube costs, and 4) regulatory expenses (e.g., lease costs).
In response, the Council directed staff to prepare an expanded discussion paper evaluating implementation of a universal data collection program to collect ADF&G or CFEC crew license data; crew compensation; and number of crew positions on vessels operating in federal fisheries. Staff were asked to evaluate the scale of data to be collected by fishery and area, and outline a simple annual collection mechanism(s) and associated cost/burden. The paper will also evaluate the associated analytical value and ability of NMFS to collect quota lease costs as part of the annual quota applications administered by the NMFS Restricted Access Management Division, for those programs that currently do not report lease costs.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
Amendment 80 Program Review
The Council and its advisory bodies reviewed and approved the Amendment 80 workplan for the required first 7-year program review for the Amendment 80 Program, and the workplan for its required allocation review.
The Amendment 80 Program (AM80 Program) has been in place since the 2008 fishing year. Section 303A(c)(1)(G) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act states that all Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPP) must include provisions for regular monitoring and review. A formal and detailed review must occur 5 years after implementation of the LAPP (which occurred in October 2014) and every 7 years thereafter. This 7-year review will assess whether the program is continuing to meet the Council’s original goals and, if not, highlight those program areas that appear to diverge from those goals.
In addition, the Council is also required to conduct an AM80 Program allocation review based on NMFS Fisheries Allocation Policy Directive that was published in July 2016. Allocation reviews are intended to be a brief periodic review of the allocation to ensure it is contributing to overall groundfish optimal yield under current conditions.
The Council approved the workplan and asked staff to include information on revenues by communities from the harvest of CDQ allocations of Amendment 80 species, and include the SSC’s suggestions to the extent practicable.
Staff contact is Sam Cunningham
The Council received a report from the Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC) which summarized recommendations coming out of the committee’s recent meeting. Per Council direction in June, the purpose of the meeting was for the committee to receive an update on the Partial Observer Coverage Cost Efficiencies Integrated Analysis for the Draft 2024 Annual Deployment Plan (ADP). This analysis is intended to evaluate deployment designs to more efficiently spend observer fee revenues (fixed as a percentage of ex-vessel revenue) such that greater coverage and/or improved monitoring is achieved using both observers and electronic monitoring (EM). The analysis is being conducted in 2022 and early 2023, will be released for public and Council review in mid-2023, and incorporated into the 2024 ADP. The Council will review the draft 2024 Observer ADP at its October 2023 meeting.
The Council supported the Committee’s recommendations for analytical staff to provide further description and evaluation of the proposed deployment designs, evaluation criteria, and underlying assumptions for the partial coverage cost efficiencies analysis as outlined in the September 2022 PCFMAC report. The Council also supported the agency providing an abbreviated 2022 Observer Annual Report (Chapters 3 and 4) in June 2023, in order to make analytical time for these requests and complete the cost efficiencies analysis in time for incorporation in the draft 2024 Observer ADP.
Under staff tasking, the Council tasked the PCFMAC with considering the potential implications of allowing fishing vessels to contract directly with observer providers as a potential way to reduce costs and/or increase observer coverage in the partial coverage component of the observer program. However, the Council intends that this work should not begin until the PCFMAC completes the broader cost efficiencies analysis that is currently in progress, and that the PCFMAC will recommend how to prioritize this new tasking relative to other priorities being considered by the committee.
Staff contact is Sara Cleaver.
Climate Change Taskforce and Climate Readiness Synthesis Report
The Council reviewed a draft Climate Readiness Synthesis report prepared by the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan Climate Change Taskforce (CCTF) and supports continued leadership by the Taskforce to finalize the report and begin to identify a toolbox of adaptive and resilient management measures. The CCTF has compiled the Climate Readiness Synthesis as a starting point for the Council in ascertaining how “climate ready” the current management system is overall, meaning whether management tools, assessments, and information on-ramps are designed to address and consider long-term climate change and the unprecedented conditions and unique challenges that it presents (in contrast to addressing natural climate variability). The report also identifies opportunities to augment existing management for improved climate resilience.
The Council also received an update on ongoing work under the Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling project (ACLIM), and an overview of the findings of the 6th assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ACLIM represents a comprehensive effort by AFSC and partners to describe and project responses of the Bering Sea ecosystem – both the physical environment and human communities — to varying climate conditions. This effort informs managers of the risks of climate change on fish and fisheries and enables the evaluation of a range of adaptation strategies.
The Council indicated its support for the ongoing work of the Climate Change Taskforce and the development of the draft Climate Readiness Synthesis Report, and the Council directs staff to incorporate comments from SSC, Ecosystem Committee, and Council review at this meeting, and to bring back the revised Report in February 2023. The Council also endorses the next phase of the Taskforce workplan to lead consideration of near-term adjustments to support additional resiliency. In particular, the Council supports holding public climate change scenario-planning workshops in order to build out adaptive and resilient management measures. The CCTF will develop a plan for such a workshop for the February 2023 meeting.
Staff contact is Diana Stram.
The Council received a report from the Ecosystem Committee regarding their October meeting and supported Committee recommendations. The Committee’s agenda focused on issues linked to climate change. Based on the Committee’s report, the Council:
- endorsed the recommendation to review the Essential Fish Habitat 5-year Review Summary Report at a future meeting, likely February 2023.
- supported the Committee’s recommendation for the Climate Change Taskforce to continue to identify possible adjustments to improve climate readiness, develop a toolbox for climate resilient management, and plan an inclusive workshop for stakeholder engagement (see also separate newsletter).
- tasked staff with a discussion paper to provide a basis for beginning informal scoping that will inform revisions to the 2004 programmatic groundfish fishery evaluation (PSEIS) to better address the impacts of climate change with respect to groundfish fisheries.
The Committee was scheduled to discuss developing a scoping process for a potential GOA Fishery Ecosystem Plan, but this will be taken up at a future meeting. The Council also received notice of opportunities for stakeholder engagement with the development of an Alaska Marine Debris Action Plan, which NMFS is spearheading this fall. The Committee plans to meet again prior to the February Council meeting.
Staff contact is Nicole Watson.
Essential Fish Habitat 5-year Review
The SSC reviewed two components of the essential fish habitat (EFH) 5-year review report that is being prepared for Council review early in 2023, and recommended using the descriptions and maps of EFH by species as presented, and methodology and estimates from evaluating the effects of fishing on EFH as a reasonable basis for the determination of habitat disturbance. Based on the information provided, the SSC finds that the 2022 FE evaluation supports the continued conclusion that the adverse effects of fishing activity on EFH are minimal and temporary in nature, and that no species should be elevated for mitigation due to fishing impacts.
Staff reported on additional information gathered from the species distribution model (SDM)-based EFH maps, which have also undergone additional review by stock assessment authors. The SSC found that overall, the additional information provided clarity and transparency for those stocks where stock authors exhibited concerns. For the fishing effects model, the SSC found that the results brought forth during this analysis are the best available scientific data, and all results exhibit that the fishing effects on the FMP species assessed are minimal and temporary in nature. This endorsement allows analysts to incorporate the results of the fishing effects model into EFH definitions brought forth in the EFH 5-year review summary report.
The EFH 5-year Summary Report will contain an evaluation of all ten EFH components, which in addition to those already identified, include effects on habitat of non-Federal fisheries, non-fishing activities, and cumulative impacts; EFH conservation recommendations and habitat areas of particular concern (HAPC); consideration of prey species; and research needs. The SSC identified several recommendations for areas of future research to incorporate into the next EFH 5-year review as noted in their report. Specifically, the SSC encourages further consideration of what products or areas of research are necessary to satisfy EFH regulatory requirements as compared to what would benefit fishery management more generally, and whether a working group of EFH analysts and SSC members should be created to guide future research in this area.
The Council is tentatively scheduled to review the 2022 EFH 5-year Review Summary Report in February 2023. Staff contact is Sarah Rheinsmith.
The Council discussed the relative priority and scheduling of previously-tasked projects, and identified new tasking. The revised 3 meeting outlook reflects this guidance.
Under the Executive Director’s report, staff provided an update on two issues from the “Council process ideas for change” paper that the Council has been considering throughout 2022, with respect to harvest specifications timing and reducing the number of annual Council meetings from 5 to 4. No Council decision point was suggested for the October meeting, and staff will report back in April 2023. The Council will hold both the February 2023 and February 2024 meetings in Seattle, WA.
Following review of the Council advisory groups, the Council took the following actions:
- Call for nominations for a newly established Alaska Tribal representative seat on the Advisory Panel (see also separate newsletter).
- Appointed Dr. Ben Williams and Dr. Cecilia O’Leary to the GOA Groundfish Plan Team.
- Appointed Ernie Weiss and Megan Onders to the Community Engagement Committee.
- Directed the Trawl EM Committee to report back in February with the status of current and future EM projects.
- Tasked the Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee to consider implications of vessels contracting directly with observer providers, once work on the broader cost efficiencies analysis is complete.
The Council provided the following direction and guidance:
- Write a letterto NOAA Fisheries with support for and comments on the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries policy.
- Request to NMFS to consider public testimony on the interim policy establishing a minimum age of 18 years old for the issuance of a Transfer Eligibility Certificate, and direction to staff to include this issue as part of the IFQ program review.
Under the B reports, the NMFS Alaska Regional Office reported that due to staffing issues that they are working to resolve, it is having to prioritize staff workload. The highest priority items are those that keep fishing operational and prevent overfishing (in-season management, monitoring programs, specifications, halibut management measures), legal mandates (for example, rebuilding plans, freedom of information act requests, and litigation), and responding to emergency rules. As time becomes available, NMFS staff can work on FMP and regulatory amendments, with a priority on conservation, legal considerations, Council priorities, and proximity to mandatory deadlines. Rulemaking for final actions will be a higher priority than input on analyses that are making way through Council process.
As a result, the Council reviewed an assessment of how currently tasked projects (i.e., those that appear on the 3-meeting outlook either scheduled or in the batter’s box) match with NMFS priorities. High priority items will continue to move through the Council process as normal. For lower priority items, the Council acknowledged that for the immediate future, staff will be less predictive about when items can be scheduled on the 3-meeting outlook, if they require input from NMFS staff before a Council decision, and instead will capitalize on windows of availability to move projects along. The Council was cautioned to prepare for a longer time between Council final action and implementation, and staff noted that a backlog in implementation could result in duplicative efforts as staff is required to update analyses on which the Council has taken final action with new information.
The Council tasked staff with the following new projects:
- An analysis for a new amendment to the Salmon FMP, building on the final review draft considered by the Council in December 2020 but with a revised purpose and need statement. The amendment to the Salmon FMP is a direct response to a recent summary judgment opinion of the Alaska District Court.
- An analysis to provide continued vessel use cap flexibility through 2027 to IFQ participants in IPHC Area 4 while the Council analyzes options for a long-term adjustment. The Council acknowledged that the longer-term analysis will likely be delayed given NMFS’ workload constraints.
- A change to the Council’s tasking for a discussion paper to look at adjustments in the Aleutian Islands Golden King Crab, to bifurcate the action and address the crab program facility use cap issue (which requires less analytical input from NMFS staff) on a faster timeline.
- A discussion paper for a roadmap and timeline for reevaluating the Programmatic Groundfish Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (PSEIS), in order to better address the impacts of climate change. The initial work for the discussion paper and compilation of information would be prepared by Council staff.
Staff contact is Diana Evans.
The following Committee and Plan Team meetings are currently anticipated:
- Charter Halibut Management Committee – October 21, 2022; Anchorage, AK/hybrid
- Joint Groundfish Plan Teams – week of November 14-18, 2022; Seattle, WA/hybrid
- Salmon Bycatch Committee – November 2022 (T)
- BSAI Crab Plan Team special meeting to review snow crab rebuilding – November 2022 (T); virtual
- BS FEP Local Knowledge, Traditional Knowledge, and Subsistence Taskforce (LKTKS) –December 5, 2022; Anchorage, AK
- Charter Halibut Management Committee – December 7, 2022; Anchorage, AK/hybrid
- BSAI Crab Plan Team – January 17-20, 2023; Kodiak, AK (T)/hybrid
- Joint Groundfish Plan Teams special meeting to review stock prioritization – January 2023 (T); virtual
- Trawl Electronic Monitoring Committee – January 2023 (T)
- Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC) – January 2023
- Ecosystem Committee – January 2023 (T)
The SSC is also hosting an SSC workshop on February 7-8, 2022, as part of the Council meeting in Seattle, WA.
Also, the Marine Resource Education Program (MREP) is developing an annual workshop program for the North Pacific. By and for those involved in and impacted by fisheries, MREP provides fishermen and others with an interest in federal fisheries with an opportunity to gain insight into how fisheries data are collected and how those data lead to regulations. The first North Pacific Fisheries Science and Management Workshop has been scheduled for April 24-28, 2023, in Juneau, AK. The workshop is free to participants; more information and applications to participate can be found at: https://mrep.gmri.org/apply