The Council discussed the relative priority and scheduling of previously tasked projects, and identified new tasking. The revised 3 meeting outlook reflects this guidance. Council meetings, including Plan Team and Committee meetings, will be held virtually through September 2021 at least. The Council provided feedback about returning to in-person meetings, and staff will develop a more detailed proposal to discuss in June. Staff will include an option for remote testimony during the transition back to in-person, but members cannot participate remotely unless that group’s meeting is entirely virtual. The Council is currently contemplating holding the first in-person meeting in October 2021.
The Council was briefed on staff progress on implementing the Council’s community engagement Community Engagement Committee (CEC)’s recommendations as endorsed by the Council in February 2021. Responsibilities for a Rural Fisheries Community and Tribal Liaison role have been assigned to Dr. Kate Haapala, on Council staff. It is envisioned that in that role, she will also support the reconstituted CEC and work with NMFS to receive and understand the results of Tribal Consultation meetings as early in the process as possible. Staff will attend a virtual cultural awareness training program later this year, in advance of similar training for Council members.
The Council also heard the report of the Council’s Executive Committee. The Committee approved revisions to the AP and SSC handbooks that were reviewed with those groups in February, and affirmed the current practice for recording Council meetings during virtual, and archiving recordings. Additionally, the Council approved a number of changes to the current written public comment policy.
The Council directed staff to write the following letters:
- To the U.S. Navy, thanking them for the presentation on the upcoming Northern Edge exercises in the Gulf of Alaska, and requesting a report later this year on how the exercises transpired.
- To the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the USCG, in favor of allowing AIS to be used to identify fishing gear locations.
The Council also provided the following additional direction:
- The Council tasked a discussion paper to consider identifying longline pots as legal gear for Bering Sea Greenland turbot.
- The Council requested the Ecosystem Committee to assess the FAO guidance on Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) and how the Alaska fishery conservation areas would qualify, or if they do not, what potential additional actions might be considered.
- The Council endorsed the SSC suggestions regarding the agency’s approach to preparing the EFH 5-year review for 2022, including additional SSC review of various components as they are being developed. The Council also identified its intent to consider the utility of a HAPC nomination process after receiving the full 5-year review summary report (currently scheduled for June 2022).
- In response to comments raised by the SSC, the Council directed the Groundfish Plan Teams to include an agenda item in September to review spatial distribution data on blackspotted-rougheye rockfish, potential tools to augment the current maximum subarea species catch management, and to identify priority areas for further research.
The Council appreciates notification of collaborative efforts underway by industry participants to find solutions to avoid stranding Pacific cod in the Aleutian Islands, and to develop a proposal for access opportunities to the IFQ fisheries that address concerns raised at this meeting.
Finally, the Council discussed the work of upcoming Committees, and approved the revised Terms of Reference for the reconstituted CEC. The Council issued a call for nominations for members of a reconstituted CEC, and for a new member of the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee.