NMFS + NOAA
The Pacific Fishery Management Council met April 9-14, 2016 in Vancouver, Washington. The April 2016 Council Meeting Decisions Summary Document contains the highlights of significant decisions made at that meeting. Results of agenda items that do not reach a level of highlight significance are typically not described in the Decisions Summary Document.
- April 2016 Decisions Summary Document
- For previous decisions, visit the “Council Meeting Decisions Summary Documents Archives”
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reminds the fishing industry of several year-end items for the groundfish fishery's trawl rationalization program, a catch share program, as we approach 2016.
The limited entry fixed gear and open access sablefish daily trip limit fisheries north of 36 degrees north latitude with close on November 1, 2015. Landings of sablefish must begin by midnight, October 31, 2015.
In the limited entry fixed gear sablefish primary fishery, retention of incidentally caught Pacific Halibut north of Point Chehalis, WA is prohibited, effective October 13, 2015.
NMFS has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register (80 FR 53088; September 2, 2015) that would clarify and expand the methods available by which quota share (QS) owners in the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota Program would divest themselves of excess QS. The proposed rule is currently available for public review and comment.
Since implementation of the trawl rationalization program, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and NMFS have been working to implement additional regulatory changes to further improve the program and respond to industry needs. QS permit owners who exceed control rules must divest by November 30, 2015, at which time NMFS will revoke their excess. The rulemaking is intended to add another option for divestiture and clarify revocation procedures.
The process for divestiture of excess QS proposed rule includes three distinct proposed actions:
- Allowing QS permit owners who exceed the initial November 2015 aggregate control limit to abandon QS to NMFS,
- Allowing QS permit owners who exceed the aggregate control limit in 2016 and beyond to abandon QS to NMFS, and
- If a QS permit owner does not take action to meet either an individual species control limit across multiple QS permits or the aggregate control limit, implementing methods by which NMFS will revoke and redistribute QS from such QS permit owners.
The rule is available here.
Public comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., local time on October 2, 2015.
The following letter appears in the December 2014 issue of Fishermen's News.
In October’s issue of Fishermen’s News, Will Stelle, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, noted the significant conservation gains seen since the trawl IFQ program went into effect. He rightly credited fishermen, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and other fishery stakeholders for creating and implementing a fishery management system that has led to major recent announcements from the Marine Stewardship Council and the Seafood Watch Program about the sustainability of trawl-caught species. One of those “other fishery stakeholders” is my employer, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which has worked alongside West Coast fishermen for years.
The Note from NOAA column (Something Good is Happening on the Water, October 2014) also described how fewer fishing trips are yielding higher revenues, along with dramatically reduced bycatch. At first glance, this all sounds positive. Under catch shares we are seeing fewer trips, with larger deliveries and higher revenues. As every fisherman and every business owner understands, however, higher revenues don’t increase the bottom line – net income – unless you also keep costs under control. When operating costs increase along with or faster than revenue, you’re either treading water or slowly going down.
While that Note from NOAA was on newsstands, my EDF colleagues and I were at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Spokane, listening as one trawl industry leader after another spoke of razor-thin profits, burdensome reporting requirements, ongoing struggles to schedule expensive observers, and additional looming costs with the potential to sink the non-whiting fleet. All against the backdrop of Council and agency processes that move far slower than the seasons fishermen live by.
It was clear at that meeting that satisfaction with management of this fishery is at a dangerously low ebb. Consider what West Coast trawlers from Bellingham to Morro Bay are dealing with as they try to generate profits.
- Buyback loan payments: Five percent off the top for their share of payments on a restructured permit and vessel buyback loan with approximately $26 million still outstanding – nearly as much as when the loan was implemented in 2003.
- Agency cost recovery: Three percent off the top for the mandated cost-recovery fee levied on fishermen to pay for management of the IFQ program.
- Observer cost and logistics: Mandatory but difficult-to-schedule observers, with day rates of $465, and a likelihood of that rate climbing significantly from there.
Management of any complex, multi-species trawl fishery is extremely tough, and NOAA has a lot to be proud of. This fishery, as demonstrated already by that MSC label, truly has the potential to serve as an international model. But only if – and this is the big if – fishermen can sustain themselves economically. Whether or not they will is very much an open question.
True sustainability for the West Coast groundfish industry won’t be measured by revenue numbers; it will be achieved through responsive regulatory processes, flexible management practices, and profitable deliveries.
###Shems Jud is Pacific Oceans Progam Regional Director, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). He serves on the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Groundfish Advisroy Subpanel, and works with industry leaders and regulators coast-wide to strengthen fishery management practices.
At the September 2014 Council meeting in Spokane, WA, the Council selected their final preferred alternatives for an electronic monitoring program for the Pacific coast limited entry trawl groundfish fishery catch shares program. See the “Fishery specific tables that show the Council’s final preferred alternatives” (PDF format). More detail regarding the Council’s decision will be provided in the near future on the Council’s website.
The Council also provided guidance to NMFS regarding preservation of the IFQ Program goals and the development performance standards when developing regulations to implement an EM Program. In order to preserve the conservation and accountability aspects of the IFQ Program, the EM Program must accurately capture discard events (i.e., whether discard has occurred), amount of discard (i.e., volume in weight and size of individual fish), disposition of discard (i.e., if we are to consider providing survivability credit for released fish, such as halibut), and do so even for rare events (e.g., catch and discard of rebuilding rockfish, by species).
In developing performance standards and accountability measures, the Council recommends NMFS consider the economic incentives to misreport or underreport catches and mortalities of overfished rockfish and Pacific halibut.
Individual accountability in the fisheries will hold only so far as monitoring programs are able to counteract these incentives. As such, having adequate enforcement to ensure compliance with the EM Program with strong consequences in place for violations are keys to success.
Performance standards examples are listed below:
- Require recording of discards in logbooks with estimated weights given for each species for each haul or set;
- Require a minimum of 30% video review during times of gear retrieval and 30% of video review of the remainder of the trip; compare to logbook entries for logbook certification;
- Logbook certification is achieved if video review determines that logbook amounts are within 20% accuracy of video review, by species;
- If logbook amounts do not meet 20% accuracy standard, then a 100% video review is triggered at vessel account holder expense and vessel cannot commence another fishing trip until video has been reviewed and vessel account has been debited;
- If the 100% video review is triggered more than twice within a six-month time period, then 100% video review is in effect for all fishing trips for the six months following the commencement of fishing activity, again at the vessel account holder’s expense.
The National Marine Fisheries Service stands in strong support of West Coast fishermen and the catch shares program. For fishermen and coastal community members who were unable to attend the Santa Rosa IFQ workshop, here is a video of remarks by Will Stelle, NOAA's Northwest Regional Administrator. His overall message - engage in the process and provide your expertise to NOAA as the transition to catch shares is implemented, adjusted and improved over time.
Dayna Matthews, of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office of Law Enforcement, provided an overview of regulatory requirements under catch shares.
Dayna's talk and the ensuing Q&As discussed:
- Quota Shares and Quota Pounds: How it goes from the QS account to the vessel to be fished
- Catch Accounting
- The First Receiver Site License
- Carryover Provision and the 30 Day Clock
Dayna's contact information is listed, and a video of his presentation - complete with NASCAR props - will be posted soon.
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