At this meeting, the Council adopted draft alternatives for an analysis to establish a rebuilding plan for Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) snow crab, and requested public comment on ways to reduce fishing-related mortality of snow crab. On October 19, 2021, NMFS notified the Council that the Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) snow crab status has been changed to overfished. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires that a rebuilding plan be developed and implemented within two years of the stock being declared overfished. The Council recognized that developing alternatives for rebuilding proves difficult without an SSC recommendation for the projected minimum time to rebuild the EBS snow crab stock without an established fishing mortality, as required per the rebuilding plan guidelines. In October 2022, the SSC will review several recommended model scenarios to aid in establishing model parameters and the selection of Tmin and Tmax, which establish the minimum and maximum time limits for rebuilding the snow crab stock under the rebuilding plan. The Council motion included the following draft alternatives:
Alternative 1: No Action
Alternative 2: Adopt a rebuilding plan and specify a target rebuilding time not to exceed TMAX, as recommended by the SSC. The stock will be considered “rebuilt” once it reaches BMSY.
Option 1: No directed fishing until the stock is rebuilt, allow bycatch removals only
Option 2: Allow bycatch removals and a directed snow crab fishery under the current State of Alaska harvest strategy
The motion also included a request to staff to provide additional information about the extent to which specific bycatch management measures might affect the rebuilding timeline. This information will be included in the initial review analysis, currently scheduled for December 2022.
Additionally, the Council requests public comment at the October 2022 meeting on ways to reduce fishing-related mortality of snow crab. Comments from fishery participants and the public on the following issues would be particularly useful:
- Voluntary measures for implementation in 2023 and beyond to avoid EBS snow crab and reduce crab mortality in the non-directed fisheries.
- Measures in the directed crab fishery to reduce discard mortality of EBS snow crab.
- Description of research that would inform the development of more flexible and effective spatial management measures, gear modifications to reduce impacts on the EBS snow crab stock, or to evaluate unobserved mortality in the trawl sector.
Staff contact for snow crab rebuilding is Jon McCracken and Sarah Rheinsmith.