NPFMC Adopts Fishery Ecosystem Plan

Federal fisheries managers, in a move to provide sustainable fisheries in an area impacted by dramatic climate shifts, have adopted a new fishery ecosystem plan for Bering Sea fisheries.

The action taken by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at its December meeting in Anchorage is intended to be the beginning of a process of using the plan framework and its action modules to maintain this rich ecosystem by incorporating local knowledge and traditional knowledge into management plans.
In adopting the new ecosystem plan on Dec. 7, the council tasked its Bering Sea fishery ecosystem plan team with prioritizing work plans for two action modules.

The first would evaluate short- and long-term effects of climate change on fish and fisheries and develop management considerations. The second is to develop protocols for using local knowledge and traditional knowledge in management and understanding impacts of council decisions on subsistence.

The council also tasked the team with developing work plans for three other action modules and to come back for council review of those plans at a later date. These include gap analysis of Bering Sea management with ecosystem-based fishery management best practices, creation of a series of interdisciplinary conceptual models for the Bering Sea ecosystem and aligning and tracking council priorities with research funding opportunities.

The council’s advisory panel and scientific and statistical committee said in their reports to the council that they favored moving forward with the plan, but the SSC did express concern that plan authors underestimated the resources that would be needed to fully implement the plan.

The nonprofit organization Ocean Conservancy, whose work is directed at keeping oceans healthy, applauded the council’s action.

“It provides a path forward to improve understanding and to guide the management changes needed to ensure that fisheries management continues to be sustainable in the face of these (climate) changes, said. Becca Robbins Gisclair, Ocean Conservancy’s senior director for Arctic programs. “Sustainable fisheries are vital to Alaska’s economy, culture and way of life and the incredibly productive Bering Sea ecosystem produces more than half of Alaska’s seafood,” Gisclair said. “It supports large and small-scale fisheries, local, state and national economies, and coastal and indigenous communities.”

The fisheries ecosystem plan will also enhance the council’s ability to manage sustainably in changing conditions by identifying ecosystem objectives and improving understanding of ecosystem processes, she said.