California sea lions lay on a dock, fins intertwined

Ecosystem initiatives

The Fishery Ecosystem Plan (Appendix A) contains ecosystem-based fishery management initiatives. These initiatives focus on areas that affect multiple fishery management plans, and they help the Council coordinate its management across these different areas. For full summaries of each initiative, see the initiative appendix.

Fishery ecosystem plan initiative schedule

This Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) is a living document and the following schedule is intended to allow the Council to respond to emerging issues by annually assessing the status of ecosystem-based initiatives and periodically revising priorities as necessary. Each year at the Council’s March meeting, the Council and its advisory bodies will:

  • review progress to date on any ecosystem initiatives the Council already has underway;
  • review the list of potential ecosystem initiatives provided in Appendix A to the FEP, receive new ecosystem initiative proposals, assess whether any existing or newly proposed initiatives help implement the FEP’s Goals or Objectives, and determine whether any of those initiatives merit Council attention in the coming year;
  • if initiatives are chosen for Council efforts, request background materials from the appropriate entities; and
  • identify candidate ecosystem research topics for Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) review to support improvements in the indicators included in the Annual Report.

Current initiatives

  • No current items

Completed initiatives

Candidate initiatives

Long-term effects of Council harvest policies on age- and size- distribution in managed stocks

This cross-plan initiative could help the Council maintain broad age- and size-distributions in managed fish stocks.

Bio-geographic region identification and assessment

The Fishery Ecosystem Plan divides the California Current Ecosystem into three large areas. These areas could be divided into sub-regions to help the Council manage fisheries on a finer level, either for ecosystem management or to help the Council coordinate with other governments, like states. These subdivisions could be based on where species are distributed (estuaries, nearshore, inshore, offshore pelagic, etc.). The data for each of these sub-regions would help the Council refine its fishery management, especially for nearshore species.

Bycatch and catch monitoring policy

There are many Federal requirements for reporting and reducing bycatch (fish that are not targeted). Under this initiative, the Council would look at its bycatch reduction methods across fishery management plans and develop goals for minimizing bycatch in all of its fisheries. Moving beyond a fishery-by-fishery approach could allow the Council to better assess the cumulative effects of bycatch of non-Council-managed species caught; whether gear innovation programs or products in one fishery could benefit other fisheries; and whether the timing and interactions of multiple Council-managed fisheries increase or decrease the likelihood of bycatch in these fisheries.

Essential fish habitat

The Council is required by law to describe essential fish habitat, or EFH (” those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity”) for all of its managed species. Under this initiative, the Council would consider how to integrate EFH in fishery management plans during the EFH review process, which takes place every five years. An ecosystem-based approach would provide a better understanding of complex issues such as research needs, threats to habitat quality, protected species interactions, or ocean acidification. It would help identify habitats that are considered highly productive or biodiverse under more than one fishery management plan; these could serve as focal points for management attention and research. In addition, if area closures in various Council-managed fisheries could be better coordinated between fishery management plans, the Council could reduce confusion and better tailor closed areas to benefit more fisheries.

Safety of human life at sea

The Magnuson-Stevens Act states that “Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea” (National Standard 10). An ecosystem-based, multi-fishery safety review would look at the safety implications of not just one fishery, but at all of the injuries and mortalities in West Coast fisheries. Although the Council does not manage the Dungeness crab fishery, which is considered most dangerous, fishermen and vessels from that fishery regularly participate in Council-managed fisheries. By looking across fisheries, the Council and the public will be better able to assess how fisheries regulations interact with each other, and whether those interactions have unsafe results for participants. West Coast fishing vessels commonly engage in multiple fisheries, which means that vessel owners, captains, and crew have to think about the tradeoffs in participating in various fisheries throughout the year. Taking a broad, ecosystem-based approach to a safety review would better account for the challenges fisheries participants face as they plan their work in various West Coast fisheries.

Human recruitment to the fisheries

Councils must consider how fishing communities can continue to participate in the fisheries it manages. It can be hard for young people to get started in a fishery because of regulation-related costs — the need to purchase a permit for example — which in some cases has led to the “graying” of the fishing fleet.. A cross-FMP look at these kinds of barriers to entry could help the Council make better decisions to support the long-term viability of West Coast fleets. The Council could also identify and encourage training programs that could help younger people acquire the skills needed to start fishing.

Indicators for analyses of Council actions

When it is considering a management proposal Council and NMFS staffs provide an analysis of potential environmental effects to inform the decision. These analyses often consider the cumulative impact of the proposal under consideration and other activities affecting the same parts of the environment. Under this initiative, the Council would look for ways to improve these analyses when it comes to evaluating the effects of a proposal on the structure and function of the California Current ecosystem.

Optimum Yield

Optimum yield is a central idea in the Magnuson-Stevens Act (our national fisheries management law). This concept prompts the Council to consider the full range of concerns when deciding how fisheries should be regulated. Through this initiative the Council could identify and describe the social, economic, and ecological factors relevant to each of its fishery management plans to more clearly and transparently inform future decision-making on matters such as annual catch limits and fishery conservation and management measures.