Current HMS SAFE Report: Council HMS Activities

Council HMS Decisions in 2018

For earlier years please see the archived SAFE documents.


November 2018

Briefing Materials

Council Decisions

Recommend International Management Activities

The Council agreed to send one member of the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel (HMSAS) to participate in the March 5-7 North Pacific albacore management strategy evaluation workshop to be held by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species (ISC) in Yokohama, Japan. The HMSAS member will report back to the Council on workshop outcomes.

The Council tasked the Highly Migratory Species Management Team (HMSMT) to work with the HMSAS in summarizing historical North Pacific albacore catch and effort to provide support for Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) discussions on defining effort. The HMSMT is anticipated to report back on findings at the March 2019 meeting.

In response to IATTC Resolution C-18-01, which establishes a 600 mt 2019-20 commercial catch limit for west coast fisheries catch Pacific bluefin tuna, NMFS is developing regulations for trip limits to ensure the catch limits are not exceeded and the annual sublimit is no more than 425 mt. The Council made recommendations on these regulations at the September 2018 meeting. In November, NMFS reported on the measures it was planning to implement, which incorporate most of the Council’s September recommendations (see Supplemental NMFS Report 2). In response, the Council recommended NMFS incorporate the following changes into the proposed regulations:

  • Allow purse seine landings up to 2 mt without pre-trip notifications.
  • Reduce the purse-seine pre-trip notification requirement from 48 hours to 24 hours.

Biennial Harvest Specifications and Management Measures – Preliminary Action

The Council endorsed the estimates of status determination criteria for the management unit species in the HMS FMP contained in HMSMT Report 1 and reviewed the notification it received from NMFS that Eastern Pacific Ocean yellowfin tuna is subject to overfishing. The Council will take up its response to this notification in June 2019.

Deep-Set Buoy Gear Authorization – Range of Alternatives and Limited Entry Criteria

The Council adopted a final range of alternatives for authorizing use of deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) as described in HMSMT Report 1, including modifications and the range of qualification rankings found in Supplemental HMSMT Report 2, except that Alternative 3, Stand-Alone drift gillnet (DGN) Permit Trade-in, is removed from the range. The Council also incorporated both the alternative proposed in  Supplemental HMSAS Report 1, and the public comment provided by Ms. Tara Brock in  Supplemental Comment 2 as part of the final range of alternatives.

The Council adopted a preliminary preferred alternative for a limited entry permit program for vessels fishing in Federal waters east of 120° 28’ 18” W. longitude. As described under Alternative 2 in HMSMT Report 1, all other Federal waters offshore of California and Oregon would be “open access.”

The Council’s preliminary preferred alternative (PPA) is a variation of Alternative 1 described in Supplemental HMSMT Report 2. Alternative 1 provides an ordered list of qualifying criteria to be used to determine the order of applicants to whom a limited entry DSBG permit would be issued. Individuals could only possess one limited entry permit.  Fifty permits would be issued initially with up to 25 permits issued annually in subsequent years until either a maximum of 300 permits are issued or NMFS or the Council determines that less than 300 permits should be issued. The Council PPA prioritizes active DSBG EFP and DGN fishery participants. Details of the ranking criteria for permit issuance may be found in the Council motion for this agenda item.


September 2018

Briefing Materials

Council Decisions

Final Recommendations on Non-Deep-Set Buoy Gear Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs)

The Council approved the Hall EFP testing deep-set longline inside the Exclusive Economic Zone and forwarded it to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for processing.

Recommend International Management Activities

The Council recommended the following Pacific bluefin tuna catch limits and management measures for 2019 and 2020 West Coast Highly Migratory Species (HMS) fisheries:

  1. In 2019, apply a 15 mt commercial fishery trip limit until landings reach 200 mt. Once landings have reached this level, the trip limit is reduced to 2 mt.  The 2019 annual overall catch limit is 300 mt. The fishery is closed for the balance of the year when this limit is reached.
  2. For 2020, apply a 15 mt commercial fishery trip limit until cumulative 2019-2020 landings reach 475 mt. Once this cumulative biennial level is reached, the trip limit is reduced to 2 mt. The fishery is closed for the balance of the year once the biennial limit of 600 mt is reached.
  3.  Consistent with Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) Resolution C-18-01, underages or overages in any one year are applied to the following year.
  4. Pacific bluefin tuna landings must be reported within 24 hours of landing using the California E-tix reporting system.
  5. NMFS will develop a method to close the fishery or reduce the trip limit via United States Coast Guard radio transmittal, or other means that will halt additional fishing in the most timely manner possible.

The Council also recommended that the 2019 ISC Pacific bluefin Management Strategy Evaluation workshop be held at a location on the U.S. West Coast.

The Council directed its HMS Management Team (HMSMT) to analyze fishing effort in the West Coast North Pacific albacore fishery to support discussions at the IATTC about specifying effort limits consistent with Resolution C-05-02. Based on the comparable Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) conservation and management measure, the WCPFC Northern Committee (NC) defined the effort limit as the 2002-2004 average level. A fishing effort analysis could also support a change in the NC effort definition, to harmonize it with any limit adopted by the IATTC.

Biennial Harvest Specifications and Management Measures

The Council directed its HMSMT to develop a Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation (SAFE) report for Council consideration, incorporating the estimates of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and status determination criteria (SDC) recommended by NMFS.  The Council requested its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to review these estimates for their suitability in management.  The Council will consider SSC comments and the contents of the SAFE report at its November 2018 meeting. The Council may then adopt the estimates of MSY, optimum yield, and SDC presented in the SAFE document for management use and, as appropriate, recommend them to the IATTC and WCPFC. As part of this process, the Council also asked NMFS to provide information relative to the need to establish acceptable biological catch and annual catch limits for Council-managed HMS stocks.

The Council directed the HMSMT and HMS Advisory Subpanel to begin developing a long-term management strategy for Pacific bluefin tuna, recognizing that the stock is rebuilding and there is an opportunity for U.S. catch limits to increase in future years.

Drift Gillnet Performance Metrics Methodology

The Council adopted the regression tree methodology for reviewing the performance of the drift gillnet (DGN) fishery in relation to bycatch of rarely encountered non-marketable species. The Council directed the HMSMT to:

  1. Develop proposed metrics for 22 bycatch species encountered in the DGN fishery using the regression tree method.
  2. Compare a single estimate within a year with a multi-year trend to measure performance in the DGN fishery.
  3. Compare performance indicator uncertainty under different levels of DGN fishery observer coverage.
  4. Develop a proposed process, including potential bycatch reduction measures, that the Council would consider if the fishery is not performing within such metrics.

The Council directed the HMSMT to report back to the Council on these matters at the March 2019 meeting.

Swordfish Management and Monitoring Plan

The Council recommended that edits identified in the Highly Migratory Species Management Team report be added to the Swordfish Monitoring and Management Plan (SMMP), and then hold the plan in draft form. Further revision or adoption of the SMMP for public review was not scheduled. The Council did schedule several future HMS actions, including the development of a deep-set buoy gear fishery, review of proposed drift gillnet performance metrics and analyses, and scoping the development of a shallow-set longline fishery beyond the U.S. economic exclusive zone (outside 200 miles).


June 2018

Briefing Materials

Council Decisions

Recommendations for International Management Activities

The Council recommended that the U.S. oppose proposals to increase catch limits for Pacific bluefin tuna at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Northern Committee meetings.  At its August meeting, the IATTC will be negotiating a new measure for Pacific bluefin management in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) for 2019 and beyond. Immediately following, the Joint Working Group of the Northern Committee and IATTC will meet to discuss long-term Pacific bluefin management and the Northern Committee could propose a revised Conservation and Management Measure for adoption by the WCPFC. In both these forums there will likely be pressure to increase catch limits, because of a recent increase in recruitment resulting in more optimistic projections of stock rebuilding. However, the Council notes these projection results are due to a single year of increased recruitment so it is still highly uncertain that rebuilding targets can be met.

The Council also noted new permit requirements for U.S. vessels intending to fish for albacore in Canadian waters during the 2018 season starting on June 15. The Council asked NMFS to work with the Canadian government to resolve any impediments to access and to keep stakeholders informed.

Drift Gillnet (DGN) Performance Metrics

The Council directed its SSC to review current and proposed methodologies for setting and evaluating bycatch performance metrics for the California large mesh drift gillnet fishery. The HMSMT, with assistance with NMFS, was tasked with preparing the requisite information for SSC review. Based on SSC recommendations, the Council will consider changes to the performance metrics and adopt changes, if any, for the next report on the metrics in June 2019.

Deep-Set Buoy Gear (DSBG) Authorization – Final Range of Alternatives and Preliminary Preferred Alternative for Number of Limited Entry Permits

The Council revised the range of options for the number of permits and the manner of issuance under the limited entry alternative. (Limited entry would apply to the area east of a line extending due south from Point Conception). These options would allow a phased in approach whereby the Council would issue an initial number of permits and could then issue additional permits in subsequent years up to a cap of 300 permits.  These options for initial issuance and total issuance are:

  1. Not more than 50 permits per year, not to exceed 300 total.
  2. Not more than 100 permits per year, not to exceed 300 total.
  3. Not more than 300 permits maximum.

The options are meant to allow flexibility such that the Council would not be obligated to issue the whole of the specified annual number, nor would the Council have to issue all permits up to the specified cap. Rather, these options facilitate the analysis of a phase-in approach, which would allow the Council to proceed cautiously to reach a level of permits that best meets management objectives.

The Council specified an estimate of 500 vessels for the purposes of analyzing an open access fishery.

Preliminary Review of New Non-Deep-Set Buoy Gear Exempted Fishing Permit Applications and Resubmission of Previous DSBG Applications

The Council reviewed two EFP applications. Mr. David Hutto submitted a revised application to use DSBG, as requested by the Council in March 2018. The Council recommended that NMFS issue the EFP to Mr. Hutto based on his revised application. Dr. John Hall submitted an application to test short (≤5 nm) deep-set pelagic longline gear within the West Coast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Council approved this application for public review, noting that fishing in waters off Washington should not be allowed, and will make a final recommendation at its September 2018 meeting.

Swordfish Management Project Planning and Observer Coverage

The Council recommended making basic revisions to the draft Swordfish Management and Monitoring Plan based on recommendations from NMFS, the HMSMT, and Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel (HMSAS).  The Council will review the draft plan, with the intention of adopting a final plan at a future meeting once more information on ongoing initiatives becomes available. These include SSC review of bycatch estimation methodologies that could be used for DGN fishery performance standards; trials of electronic monitoring in the DGN fishery, especially for unobservable vessels; results from EFPs the Council previously recommended for issuance or is currently considering; and establishing a regulatory framework for a DSBG fishery.

Increased monitoring of the DGN fishery is an objective of the SMMP. The Council reaffirmed its preferred alternative adopted in September 2015. The Council’s preferred alternative, as reaffirmed, is in the near term to achieve a 30 percent monitoring coverage level through a combination of human observers and electronic monitoring and work toward the objective of monitoring all vessels. In doing so, NMFS should find ways to ensure all vessels are capable of observation by electronic monitoring (including those vessels that cannot currently accommodate human observers). The Council will further consider its proposal at a future time as information becomes available on initiatives to enhance DGN fishery monitoring.


March 2018

Briefing Materials

Council Decisions

Deep-Set Buoy Gear Authorization – Final Range of Alternatives/Preliminary Preferred Alternative

The Council adopted a range of alternatives to authorize a deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) fishery based on the preliminary range adopted in September 2017 and provided guidance to the Highly Migratory Species Management Team (HMSMT) on analyses to support a decision on the number of limited entry permits that may be issued.  In September 2018 the Council will consider potential qualifying criteria for a limited entry permit.  In March 2019 the Council is scheduled to select its final preferred alternatives including qualifying criteria for a limited entry permit.

Proposed Deep-Set Buoy Gear Exempted Fishing Permits

The Council made a recommendation to NMFS on issuance of the 13 DSBG EFP applications submitted for review at this meeting based on input from its HMSMT.

The Council also decided to suspend the current practice of accepting DSBG EFP applications at every meeting at which HMS items are on the agenda.  Those applications for which the Council requested revision and resubmission will be reviewed again at the June 2018 Council meeting, when a final recommendation will be made.  The Council will next consider new DSBG EFP applications in June 2019, following the process outlined in Council Operating Procedure 20.