June 2021 Decision Document

June 24-26, 28-30, 2021 

Council Meeting Decision Summary Documents are highlights of significant decisions made at Council meetings.  Results of agenda items that do not reach a level of highlight significance are typically not described in the Decision Summary Document.  For a more detailed account of Council meeting discussions, see the Council meeting record and transcripts or the Council newsletter.

Habitat Issues

Current Habitat Issues

The Council directed staff to draft and send a letter to NOAA on its Draft Mitigation Policy in time for the July 30th comment deadline. The Council also directed the Habitat Committee to take the lead on a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on oil rig decommissioning, including coordinating with other Council advisory bodies. The letter would either be a “quick response” letter or will be included in the September Briefing Book, depending on the timing of the comment period. Finally, the Council directed the Habitat Committee to take the lead on a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on its expanded “Morro Bay 399” Call Area, which is expected to be announced this month and available for public comment.

Salmon Management

Southern Oregon Northern California Coast Coho Endangered Species Act Consultation

The Council provided guidance on a range of harvest control rules for Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast (SONCC) coho, based on information provided in the Ad-Hoc SONCC Workgroup’s Fishery Harvest Control Rule Risk Assessment.  

The Council asked the SONCC Coho Workgroup (Workgroup) to::

  1. Focus on total (ocean and freshwater) exploitation rates (exclude alternatives that are ‘ocean only’)
  2. Focus on constant exploitation rates (exclude alternatives that are abundance -based, or matrix-based) 
  3. Evaluate constant exploitation rates between 7 and 20 percent, with incremental increases on the higher end of the range (~13-20)
  4. Include a ‘no-fishing’ alternative (zero exploitation rate) 
  5. Include a ‘status quo’ alternative, and
  6. Include in the Risk Assessment a section describing any Workgroup recommendations, and/or evaluation of the pros/cons of the alternatives provided.

The Council is scheduled to review a revised risk assessment of this range of alternative harvest control rules and identify a preliminary preferred alternative at its September 2021 meeting.

Highly Migratory Species Management

International Management Activities

The Council recommended that the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) adopt status quo catch limits for Pacific bluefin tuna in a one-year measure for 2022. This would allow a future multi-year IATTC resolution to align with the results from a new, benchmark stock assessment scheduled for completion in 2022. Any IATTC resolution would need to be coordinated with complementary measures in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Convention Area through the Joint Working Group process. The Sixth Session of the Joint IATTC and WCPFC-NC Working Group on Management of Pacific Bluefin Tuna is scheduled for July 27 to 29, in advance of the IATTC regular session in August.

The Council also recommended that further development of the interim harvest strategy for North Pacific albacore, based on the results of the recently-completed management strategy evaluation (MSE), be deferred until 2022. This would give managers and stakeholders more time to consider MSE results and identify a preferred harvest control rule and any related management measures.

Exempted Fishing Permits

The Council recommended National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issue exempted fishing permits (EFPs) for the seven applications received to test deep-set buoy gear (DSBG, see Attachments 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10). Three other applications (Attachments 2, 4, and 9) described activities other than testing conventional DSBG. (Attachment 9 is a request to use DSBG and night-set buoy gear in specific areas within California state waters, which is not part of current EFP terms and conditions.) The Council forwarded these applications for further consideration and final action at the September Council meeting, with the expectation that applicants will provide more detail about the requested activities. The Council also recommended that NMFS reissue expiring EFPs for 2022 and 2023  to current active permit holders. The Council recommended not reissuing the Hall short-line EFP, which is based on the application reviewed and approved by the Council in 2018, because the EFP recipient was unable to arrange a vessel to implement the EFP and no fishing occurred.

Drift Gillnet Fishery Bycatch Performance Report

The Council reviewed bycatch estimates for the California large mesh drift gillnet fishery against previously adopted performance metrics for certain finfish, marine mammal, and sea turtle species as reported by the HMSMT. None of the performance metrics were exceeded in calendar years 2018 or 2019. The Council also endorsed the continued work on the methods to estimate bycatch and detect trends in bycatch levels in the fishery as recommended by the HMSMT.

Drift Gillnet Fishery Hard Caps

The Council adopted the following revised purpose and need statement for the implementation of hard caps for selected protected species taken in the California large mesh drift gillnet (DGN) fishery: 

The purpose is to incentivize fishing practices and tools in an effort to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality, as well as to conserve other unmarketable non-target species, including Endangered Species Act- (ESA-) listed species and marine mammals, in the DGN fishery to the extent practicable. The need is to ensure that take and bycatch of unmarketable non-target species, including ESA-listed species and marine mammals, in the DGN fishery is minimized to the extent practicable and that such take and bycatch does not result in limitations on the economic viability of the west coast swordfish fishery.

The Council originally adopted hard caps for the fishery in 2015 but implementing regulations were vacated due to a court order. 

The Council also directed its HMSMT to develop a final range of alternatives for adoption by the Council including:

  • A no action alternative (as required by the National Environmental Policy Act).
  • Hard caps as in the Council’s original 2015 action, which were rolling two-year caps based on observed mortality/injury for five marine mammal and three sea turtle species.
  • Annual hard caps based on the hard cap numbers in the original action with sub-options for different closure period durations.
  • Hard caps that apply both to individual vessels and the fleet as a whole. When a vessel meets an individual cap, both that vessel and all unobservable vessels would have to stop fishing. All vessels in the fishery would have to stop fishing when a fleet-wide cap is reached. As above, sub-options for different closure period durations will be included. The individual and fleet-wide caps under this alternative are:
SpeciesIndividual CapTwo-Year Fleetwide Cap
Fin whale12
Humpback whale12
Sperm whale12
Leatherback sea turtle12
Loggerhead sea turtle12
Olive-Ridley sea turtle12
Green sea turtle12
Short-fin pilot whale CA/OR/WA24
Common bottlenose dolphin CA/OR/WA Offshore stock24

Coastal Pelagic Species Management

Pacific Mackerel Assessment and Management Measures

The Council adopted harvest specifications and management measures for Pacific mackerel for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 fishing years, which run July 1 through June 30. Should the directed fishery realize the Annual Catch Target (ACT), the directed fishery will close and shift to an incidental-only fishery for the remainder of the fishing year, with a 45 percent incidental landing allowance when Pacific mackerel are landed with other coastal pelagic species (CPS). Up to 3 mt of Pacific mackerel per landing could be landed in non-CPS fisheries.

Table 1.  CPSMT Proposed 2021-22 Pacific Mackerel Harvest Specifications (mt)

ABC0.45  (Tier 3)9,446
ACL (=ABC)9,446

Table 2. CPSMT Proposed 2022-2023 Pacific Mackerel Harvest Specifications (mt)

ABC0.45  (Tier 3)7,501
ACL (=ABC)7,501

Management Framework for the Central Subpopulation of Northern Anchovy 

The Council considered a proposed framework for frequency of conducting stock assessments, and triggers for revising acceptable biological catch levels in response to changes in stock abundance indices.  The Council directed the Coastal Pelagic Species Management Team to develop draft language incorporating the framework into Council Operating Procedure 9, for consideration at the November 2021 meeting. 

Groundfish Management 

Fixed Gear Catch Sharing Review – Scoping

The Council directed analysts to move forward with development of a  public review draft of the 2021 Limited Entry Fixed Gear Review, working from the draft outline provided at this meeting and incorporating input from the Enforcement Consultants, Groundfish Advisory Panel, Groundfish Management Team, Scientific and Statistical Committee reports.  This topic is tentatively scheduled for the November 2021 Council meeting, at which time the Council could approve a draft document for public review and consider potential program modifications that would be listed in the review document for possible future action.  Program changes requiring minimal analytical support and regulatory change might be scheduled for development at the same time the review is being completed.  Input will also be sought on research and data needs related to the fixed gear catch share program.

Electronic Monitoring Update

The Council directed staff to draft a letter to NMFS requesting a delay in electronic monitoring (EM) Program implementation and extension of the EM exempted fishing permits through 2022. In addition, the Council would like NMFS to examine the potential use of West Coast catch share cost recovery funds to support the EM Program video review and storage through a grant contract with Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. The Council is scheduled to discuss these potential changes at the September 2021 Council meeting.

Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup Report 

The Council requested NMFS provide the following information to be available for review by the Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup (GESW) at their 2023 meeting: 

  1. Updates to any telemetry and observer data for short-tailed albatross south of 36° N. lat.  
  2. Status of fulfilling the humpback whale Incidental Take Statement Terms and Conditions.
  3. Updated seabird avoidance and bycatch minimization research results for floating longline gear, notably the cooperative NMFS, Oregon Sea Grant, and industry research funded for FY2022.

The Council recommended NMFS continue their funding of the WDFW Columbia River eulachon spawning stock biomass survey.

The Council also directed staff to write a letter to the Federal Communications Commission regarding their proposed rule on the use of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) devices to mark fishing equipment and encourage them to reconsider their current prohibition of using AIS as a gear marking device.

Adopt Stock Assessments

The Council adopted a new full assessment of Dover sole, an update assessment of sablefish, data-moderate assessments of copper rockfish in WA and OR, and data-moderate assessments of quillback rockfish in WA and OR.  The Council delayed adoption of a new full assessment of spiny dogfish and requested further evaluation of the scale of the population by investigating the choice of the catchability (q) of spiny dogfish in the West Coast Groundfish Bottom Trawl survey.  The Council also delayed adoption of data-moderate assessments of copper rockfish in CA south and north of Pt. Conception, a data-moderate assessment of quillback rockfish in CA, and a data-moderate assessment of squarespot rockfish in CA.  The Council requested further evaluation of the CA data-moderate rockfish assessments with a review of the sensitivity analyses outlined in CDFW Report 1, apparent errors in catch streams that may affect scale estimates as outlined in CDFW Report 2, and an evaluation of the appropriate stock delineation of Pt. Conception used in the copper rockfish assessments.  The Groundfish Subcommittee of the Scientific and Statistical Committee is scheduled to review any additional assessment analyses at a virtual meeting scheduled for August 17.

2023-2024 Harvest Specification and Management Measures Planning

The Council adopted the proposed schedule for developing the 2023-2024 Groundfish Harvest Specification and Management Measure and discussed potential management measure items for inclusion. The Council is scheduled to adopt preliminary harvest specifications and resume discussion of preliminary management measures at their September 2021 meeting. 

Inseason Adjustments – Final Action

The Council received one request to increase the open access canary rockfish trip limits north of 40° 10’ N. lat., but based on reports from the GMT and the GAP the Council did not recommend any inseason adjustments.

Administrative Matters

Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology – Scoping

The Council considered the scoping document and Management Team reports for potential fishery management plan amendments. It is anticipated that one or more plans may need to be amended to be consistent with NMFS final rule. The Council is examining which Council meeting(s) in 2021 the next review will take place.    

Update on Executive Order 14008

The Council received a presentation by Mr. Sam Rauch on the National Climate Task Force report “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful.”  One of the report’s recommendations was that an interagency working group should develop an American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas to measure the progress of conservation, stewardship, and restoration efforts across the United States.  Council staff is participating in an Area-Based Management Subcommittee established by the Council Coordination Committee to develop a common understanding among the Councils of area-based management measures and to develop a report on area-based measures in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to assist with the development of the Atlas.

Marine Planning

The Council received verbal updates on NOAA Aquaculture Opportunity Area planning and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management planning for offshore wind energy development on the West Coast.  The Council also considered options for addressing and responding to offshore development activities, and established an ad hoc Marine Planning Committee (MPC), to track and advise the Council on marine planning issues and their effects on Council managed fisheries, data collection surveys, habitat, and coastal communities. 

The MPC will consist of six representatives from current PFMC Advisory Bodies (one each from HMS Advisory Subpanel, CPS Advisory Subpanel, Groundfish Advisory Subpanel, Salmon Advisory Subpanel, Ecosystem Advisory Subpanel, and Habitat Committee); one conservation representative selected from one of the Council’s Advisory Subpanels; three resource managers representing the states of Washington, Oregon, and California; one Tribal representative nominated by the Council’s Tribal representative; and one representative from NMFS. 

Fiscal Matters 

The Council approved the CY 2021 Operational Budget of $5,040,430 including the amounts for No-Cost Extension projects. Council also approved the 2020 Audit Results, and recommended scheduling a Budget Committee meeting in September 2021 to identify 2022 budget priorities and in November 2021 to recommend a 2022 provisional budget. 

Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures

The Council elected Mr. Marc Gorelnik as the Council Chair and Mr. Brad Pettinger as the Council Vice-Chair for the August 11, 2021 through August 10, 2022 term.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) announced changes to their Council designees. Lieutenant Commander Scott McGrew will remain RADM Vogt’s first designee, Lieutenant Lelea Lingo will become his second designee, and Mr. Chris German will be his third designee. 

The USCG and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced changes to their Enforcement Consultants.  Mr. Chris German and Lieutenant Lelea Lingo will represent the 13th and 11th Districts of the Coast Guard respectively.  Captain Eric Kord was appointed as CDFW’s primary Enforcement Consultant and Lieutenant Jason Kraus will serve as CDFW’s alternate designee.

The Council appointed Ms. Abbie Moyer to the NMFS West Coast Region (WCR) position on the Groundfish Management Team formerly held by Ms. Gretchen Hanshew and appointed Mr. Dan Lawson to a NMFS WCR position on the Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup.

The Council reviewed the Council Operating Procedures, particularly the composition of Advisory Bodies and adopted the following proposed changes for public review.

  • Regarding the HMS Advisory Subpanel (HMSAS):
    • Relabel the two HMSAS Commercial At-Large seats as Commercial Fisheries North and South of Point Conception.
    • Add a Private Recreational North of Pt. Conception position and relabel the existing Private Recreational position as South of Pt. Conception.
    • Change the At-Large position to a Deep-Set Buoy Gear Position.
  • Regarding the Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup, add a Fishing Industry Representative position.
  • Revise COP 4 to allow At-Large Scientific and Statistical Committee members to request an alternate.
  • Revise COP 2 to remove language referring to “majority and minority” reports but continue to require Subpanel Chairs to report areas of consensus and differences.

Council Staff will prepare public review drafts of the Council Operating Procedures for potential final adoption by the Council at its September meeting.

In response to Executive Director Chuck Tracy’s announced retirement, the Council created the Ad Hoc Executive Director Selection Committee and, in consultation with the Council, Chair Gorelnik appointed himself, Vice Chair Pettinger, Mr. Phil Anderson, Mr. Pete Hassemer, and Ms. Heather Hall to the Committee.  The Council anticipates posting a recruitment announcement for a new Executive Director no later than July 7.

It was also announced at this meeting that Mr. Phil Anderson, Mr. Bob Dooley, Mr. Joe Oatman and Ms. Christa Svennson will be reappointed, and that Mr. Louis Zimm will be replaced by Ms. Corey Ridings, for the 2021-2024 term on the Pacific Council.