Federal Fisheries Council Settles in for Long Term Virtual Meetings During Pandemic

Federal fisheries managers bracing for the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus are now planning to hold three meetings normally held in December in Anchorage, February in Seattle and again in Anchorage in April in a virtual format.

On tap for the Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council are final action on the Cook Inlet salmon fishery management plan, final specifications for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvests and initial reviews of the Pacific cod pot and trawl catcher vessel LAPP (limited access privilege program) programs.

The draft agenda for the Feb. 1-2 meeting includes final action on Pacific cod pot catcher vessel management, plus a number of other interim actions, reports and discussion papers on individual fishing quota share transfers and hired masters. Final action on small sablefish release and other actions are on the draft agenda for April 5-16.

All meetings are open to the public via Adobe Connect and the council strongly encourages written comment on agenda items in advance of each meeting. Participants are invited to log on to the link provided in advance of each meeting and have the meeting participants call on them to provide comments.

During its virtual October meeting the council approved a list of priority actions in compliance with President Trump’s new executive order to promote American seafood, reduce burdens on domestic fishing and increase production within sustainable fisheries. The council identified as their highest priority actions non-regulatory actions related to domestic production, including prioritizing internal NOAA funding for groundfish surveys off Alaska and stock assessments, and prioritizing internal NOAA funding for observer coverage and electronic monitoring.

The council motion noted that this is core data for stock assessments, understanding climate effects, and ecosystem management, and should include the Northern Bering Sea as an annual survey for the near term. “Regular stock assessment surveys increase certainty about stock status which is the largest driver in increasing catch limits and therefore domestic production within sustainable fisheries,” the council motion added.

Council members approved a revised purpose need statement and alternatives on a halibut abundance-based management program for halibut for the Amendment 80 fleet in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.

During the same session the council also approved the final 2020 Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab SAFE (Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation) plan and specified OFLS
(overfishing limits) and ABC (acceptable biological catch) for Eastern Bering Sea snow crab. Bristol Bay red king crab, Eastern Bering Tanner crab, Saint Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Island blue king crab for the 2020-2021 fishing season.
Details on these and all other actions at the October meeting are in the NPFMC’s October newsletter, online at https://www.npfmc.org/npfmc-newsletters/