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Council HMS activities

The Council made the following HMS-related decisions in 2019.

November (briefing book)

Recommend International Management Activities

The Council endorsed the recommendations to National Marine Fisheries Service of the Enforcement Consultants and the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel. Specifically, the United States government should:

  • Strengthen or seek adoption of regional fishery management organization measures to require vessels comply with a garbage plan to prevent discarding of waste at sea
  • Seek adoption of RFMO measures to require vessels to carry and deploy boarding ladders that allow safe boarding during high seas inspections
  • Establish a catch attribution system for Canadian North Pacific albacore catch within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and vice versa
  • Work with Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans to harmonize paperwork requirements for EEZ and port access
  • Investigate and provide information on the source of cheap albacore imported into Canada and re-exported to the U.S. under the label “Product of Canada”
  • Support Permanent Advisory Committee recommendations on South Pacific albacore conservation and management by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
  • Work through the WCPFC to determine if unreported North Pacific albacore catch is occurring in the Convention Area and to better understand the impact of incidental catch of North Pacific albacore, especially by Small Island Developing State) fleets, not bound by current fishing effort limits.

Scoping an Amendment Authorizing Shallow-Set Longline Gear Outside of the Exclusive Economic Zone

The Council chose not to proceed with further scoping or consideration of an amendment to establish a west coast permit to use shallow-set longline fishing gear outside the U.S. EEZ at this time. The Council directed the HMSMT to analyze the following issues in support of the Swordfish Monitoring and Management Plan and report back to the Council at the June 2020 meeting in San Diego, California:

  1. Analyze effort, catch, and bycatch in subsets of Hawaii shallow-set longline observer data for potential action area delineations.
  2. Document all sources of swordfish supply to the U.S. West Coast, including both foreign and domestic (west coast and Hawaii) caught.
  3. Estimate related conservation impacts to characterize the relationship between domestic and foreign sources of swordfish supply and the potential to mitigate conservation impacts and reduce the Nation’s seafood trade deficit through increased west coast production.

September (briefing book)

Recommend International Management Activities

The Council made the following recommendations on U.S. positions for the Permanent Advisory Committee to advise the U.S. Commissioners to the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission:

  • Negotiate an equitable allocation of harvest opportunity for Pacific bluefin tuna between the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
  • Seek a change in the proportion of Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Northern Committee members that must be present for its meeting to achieve a quorum. The current threshold is too high, such that the Northern Committee did not reach a quorum when members met in September 2019.

Exempted Fishing Permits – Final Recommendations

The Council approved the Exempted Fishing Permit application submitted by Nathan Perez and Thomas Carson to fish a modified configuration of both standard and linked night-set buoy gear (fishing the gear at night) and recommended that National Marine Fisheries Service issue the permit with a 100 percent observer coverage requirement.

Deep-Set Buoy Gear Authorization – Final Action

The Council adopted its Preliminary Preferred Alternative for authorization of a Deep-Set Buoy Gear Fishery as its Final Preferred Alternative with the following clarifications:

  1. Permit issuance is intended to be cumulative, adding 25 permits each year to the prior year total until a maximum of 300 is reached. Any permits issued in previous years that were not issued or renewed would also be available for issuance each year.
  2. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will provide updates to the Council on permit issuance, though the number of additional permits issued by NMFS each year need not be reconsidered nor approved by the Council annually.
  3. A cessation or temporary halt (“pause”) in permit issuance before 300 permits are issued is possible and would be considered by the Council in order to address concerns identified by NMFS or the Council.
  4. The end-date for demonstrated swordfish experience found in the Limited Entry Permit issuance criterion (Suboption 4) number 8 is removed.

The Council also adopted draft proposed FMP amendment language (Amendment 6 to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan) with some modest changes.

The Council’s preliminary preferred alternative (now final preferred) is described in the Preliminary Draft Environmental Impact Statement as Alternative 3 (see section 2.3 beginning on page 8).

June (briefing book)

Recommend International Management Activities

The Council reiterated its support of US stakeholder participation in the North Pacific albacore and Pacific bluefin management strategy evaluation processes. Furthermore, these processes should provide equitable opportunity for U.S. stakeholder participation by holding workshops in the U.S. (as well as the Asia-Pacific region) and facilitating U.S. stakeholder participation in meetings outside the U.S.

With regard to the upcoming 94th Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) meeting (July 22-26), the Council took note of:

  • The U.S. proposal to strengthen the existing sea turtle bycatch resolution (C-07-03), recognizing that this would implement mitigation requirements on foreign fleets comparable to measures currently required by U.S. pelagic longline vessels (e.g., circle hooks, finfish bait).
  •  A proposal presented in Agenda Item I.2.a, Supplemental HMSAS Report 2 to address fishing effort by longline vessels fishing for North Pacific albacore in the EPO. While not taking a position on whether the U.S. should submit such a proposal, the Council endorses the goal of this proposal to prevent any substantial increase in fishing effort directed at North Pacific albacore.

The Council supports the appropriate international entity (whether the International Scientific Committee or IATTC) conducting a new assessment of the EPO swordfish stock to better understand current stock status.

The Council agreed to fund travel costs for two Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Management Team (HMSMT) members and four HMS Advisory Subpanel members to attend the Pacific bluefin Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission-(IATTC) Northern Committee Joint Working Group and Northern Committee meetings the week of September 2, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. This will allow advisory bodies to better understand the Regional Fishery Management Organization process and communicate those lessons to the Council.

 Yellowfin Tuna Overfishing Response

On November 2, 2018, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) notified the Council that the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) stock of yellowfin tuna is subject to overfishing, and the Council must make recommendations within one year of that date to address the status of the stock pursuant to section 304(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act within one year. The Council had concerns about the quality or the most recent stock assessment and recognized the small impacts of West Coast fisheries to this stock and recommended no changes to domestic regulations to address the relative impact of fishing vessels of the U.S. at this time.  The Council also requested that IATTC scientific staff prioritize tasks intended to improve the EPO yellowfin benchmark assessment to be completed in 2020, including examining the sensitivity of the model to the 2018 catch-per-unit-effort longline data and obtaining the necessary additional data to explore spatial and temporal factors (e.g., fleet behavior). This recommendation will be submitted to the Secretary of State and Congress.

Drift Gillnet Performance Metrics Review

In Agenda Item J.4.a, Supplemental HMSMT Report 1 the HMSMT presented drift gillnet performance metrics for the 2017 calendar year and described an alternative, multi-annual  method for assessing bycatch performance in the fishery.  The Council directed the HMSMT to present an assessment of fishery performance using this method at the June 2020 Council meeting. (This assessment will cover the species of interest identified in Motion 11 from the September 2018 Council Meeting.) In further developing this method, the HMSMT will include an additional assessment threshold for detecting exceptionally high bycatch rates.

Exempted Fishing Permits

The Council reviewed 18 deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) exempted fishing permit (EFP) applications submitted by the May 23 deadline and:

  1. Approved 16 applications for EFP issuance by NMFS
  2. Preliminarily approved the Perez/Carson EFP for night set buoy gear (Attachment 17) under 100 percent observer coverage. The Council will make a final recommendation on this EFP at its September 2019 meeting
  3. Recommended that NMFS prioritize issuance of these EFPs over previously approved applications for which EFPs have not yet been issued, within the limits in the existing protected resources consultation, recommended that NMFS extend currently issued DSBG EFPs through 2020 (see Attachment 21), and recommended that NMFS consider any EFP applications previously approved by the Council but not issued by December 31, 2019, due to inaction by the applicant, as ineligible for issuance.

Deep-Set Buoy Gear Authorization

NMFS presented its preliminary analysis of the biological impacts of authorizing a DSBG fishery. The Council noted the potential socioeconomic effects stemming from the number of limited entry permits issued to fish in the Southern California Bight and asked that the analysis of the range of alternatives to be provided in September include information to facilitate an informed final Council decision on the permit issuance process. The Council is scheduled to choose a final preferred alternative at its September 2019 meeting.

March (briefing book)

Drift Gillnet Performance Metrics Review

The Council directed the HMSMT to continue work on its proposed method for reporting annual performance metrics and for evaluating multi-year trends in fishery performance using a bycatch rate approach. The Council also asked the HMSMT to consider how performance metrics can incentivize bycatch reduction by fishery participants. The HMSMT is slated to provide annual estimates against performance metrics at the June Council meeting and detail the methodology for a multi-annual bycatch rate approach along with results from the proposed method.