Catch and bycatch monitoring programs vary among Council fisheries, as do the quantity and quality of information provided by these programs. In 2021, the Council conducted a cross-fishery review of its standardized bycatch reporting methodologies, in keeping with 50 CFR 600.1610. Consistent with National Standard 9, many of the Council’s fishery-specific regulations focus on achieving harvest levels of target species while minimizing bycatch of non-target species. Under this initiative, the Council would build on that 2021 work to consider whether spatial bycatch reduction approaches (area-based management, seasonal closures, dynamic management) could be more easily extended across fisheries with bycatch species in common.
FMP-based bycatch minimization policies necessarily focus on the bycatch within particular fisheries. Responding to the MSA by reducing the volume and rate of bycatch in individual Council-managed fisheries has resulted in an overall reduction in the total volume of incidentally-caught and discarded CCE marine life over recent decades. Yet at the same time, there have been economic costs to some fisheries and fishing communities as a result of bycatch reduction efforts, which has hampered MSA goals of sustained food security. However, moving beyond the fishery-by-fishery approach could allow the Council to address issues like: the cumulative effects of the bycatch of species taken in Council-managed fisheries; whether gear innovation programs or products in one fishery could benefit other fisheries; whether the migration patterns of major bycatch species could be better tracked to avoid interactions with fisheries generally; and whether the timing and interactions of multiple Council-managed fisheries increase or decrease the likelihood of bycatch in these fisheries.
Background information for this initiative is already available in Council stock assessment and fishery evaluation documents and in National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reports, particularly in the National Bycatch Report and follow-on work (NMFS 2011, Savoca et al. 2020). Building upon national efforts (Savoca et al. 2020), if agency staff were to review available West Coast data to provide a cross-comparison of bycatch management programs within Council-managed fisheries, including an evaluation of where fisheries management and regulations for different fisheries might intersect to affect bycatch rates, that review could provide the Council with a priority group of bycatch species affecting multiple fisheries. Species avoided as potential bycatch in multiple Council-managed fisheries would become higher priority for cross-fishery potentially dynamic bycatch management. This initiative would address FEP objectives 3a and 5b.
To implement this initiative, the Council could assemble an ad hoc advisory committee to assess: the availability of spatial data/information on migration patterns of non-target species that fishing vessels are trying to avoid in multiple fisheries; ocean conditions that may alter migration patterns of non-target species; and, technology available for sharing at-sea bycatch conditions in real time. That advisory committee could consist of Federal, state, and tribal catch monitoring, gear development, and protected species programs; fishery participants across Council-managed fisheries; enforcement professionals (including those from the Council’s Enforcement Consultants); and others the Council deems appropriate to the task. Ultimately, cross-FMP efforts could extend across fishery management councils and management areas for highly migratory species and other shared stocks to ensure that bycatch reduction and species management efforts are aligned in the face of shifting stocks and shifting fisheries. While cross-fishery management council work is beyond the scope of this FEP, considering bycatch across different management areas could better support our Council members and agency representatives working on fisheries conservation and management nationally and globally.