Gear switching and trawl allocation attainment

Action status

  • Implemented
  • Undergoing NMFS Review
  • Approved by Council
  • Under development by the Council

Based on issues identified in its first review of the trawl catch share program (review of Amendment 20 to the FMP), the Council undertook a number of follow-on actions (see Section 5.0 of the review document, completed in November 2017).  One of these issues was related to gear switching in the shoreside individual fishing quoa fishery (IFQ) and its possible impact on the attainment of trawl allocations.  Gear switching is the use of nontrawl gear by a trawl permitted vessel to take trawl allocation–covering the catch with trawl quota pounts (QP).  One of the primary concerns about gear switching vessels is their utilization of the trawl allocation of sablefish north of 36° N. latitude (sablefish north).  Trawl vessels need sablefish to take other species because sablefish is co-occurs with those other species in trawl gear catch.  The trawl sector sablefish north allocations tends to at near full utilization every year.  The vast majority of the catch taken by gear switching vessels is sablefish.  Connected to the gear switching issue is sablefish area management and the underattainment of the sablefish allocation south of 36° N. latitude. 

Initial deliberations and committee appointment

When the Council identified that a limitation on gear switching might be one of the follow-on actions it would consider, it adopted a control date (September 15, 2017) to put participants on notice that a change in access privileges related to gear switching may occur. At its March 2018 meeting the Council decided to begin a formal process that could culminate in a gear switching limitation (see meeting record).  And, at its April 2018 meeting, the Council created the Sablefish Management and Trawl Allocation Attainment Committee (SaMTAAC) to address these issues (see meeting record).  The SaMTAAC’s charge was to “…identify obstacles to achieving the goals and objectives of the catch share plan related to under attainment of non-sablefish trawl allocations and unharvested sablefish quota pounds (QP) south of 36° N. latitude. As appropriate to overcome identified obstacles, the committee will discuss and develop options, including but not limited to, actions that may modify rules for gear switching by trawl permit holders and QP leasing to vessels using fixed gear, as well as options that may encourage increased utilization of sablefish QPs south of 36° N. latitude.” The SaMTAACs final report to the Council was been provided as an informational report for the June 2020 Council meeting and in briefing materials for the September 2020 Council meeting.  See the section below on “SaMTAAC activities and key documents” for meetings and materials related to the SaMTAAC process.  Accompanying the SaMTAAC report was an analytical document containing a preliminary assessment of under attainment issues that was updated for the September 2020 meeting.  The SaMTAAC report included a set of action alternatives to limit gear switching, along with a no action alternative, and it recommended that any action to modify the management of the sablefish allocation south of 36° N. lat. be delayed until after the gear switching issue is resolved.  The Council formally reviewed the report at its September 2020 meeting (along with statements from other advisory bodies and public comment, see briefing book materials), and voted to move forward with considering of a range of alternatives that would limit gear switching for sablefish in the trawl individual fishing quota fishery north of 36° N. lat., and adopted a purpose and need statement.

Development of the range of alternatives and selection of a preliminary preferred alternative

At the June 2020 Council meeting, the SaMTAAC delivered its final report to the Council as an informational report, including a recommended range of alternatives.  At its September 2020 Council meeting, the Council adopted a purpose and need and decided to proceed with consideration of the range of alternatives.  In November 2020, the Council decided to first set a tentative policy for the maximum amount of gear switching to be allowed, with the idea that this would further guide development of the action alternatives.  The Council set 29 percent as a maximum gear switching level at its April 2021 meeting that would be used in development of the range of action alternatives. A range, including a no action alternative was adopted at the September 2021 Council meeting (range of alternatives based on September motions) and modified at the June 2022, November 2022, and April 2023 Council meetings.  At its June 2023 meeting, the Council selected dual initial preliminary preferred alternatives (No Action and Alternative 2).  At its November 2023 meeting, the Council made modifications to Alternative 2 and selected the modified alternative as its preliminary preferred alternative (see November 2023 decision summary document).

Final Council Action

At its April 2024 meeting, the Council voted to recommend a limit on gear switching.  If approved by NMFS, the amount of sablefish north of 36° N. lat. (northern sablefish) taken while gear switching would be limited to 29 percent, but only for years in which the northern sablefish ACL is less than 6,000 mt.  The gear-switching limitation will be based on the mechanisms provided in Alternative 2 (gear-specific QP).  Additional information on the preferred alternative and supporting analysis will be posted here as they become available. 

April 2024 Decision Summary Document

Gear-Switching Final Preferred Alternative (FPA) and Fishery Management Plan (FMP) Amendment Language

SaMTAAC activities and key documents