March 4-5, 8-11, 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.
Reintroduction of Salmon Above Grand Coulee Dam
The Council agreed to send a letter of general support to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation for investigating the concept of reintroducing salmon to the upper Columbia Basin through a feasibility study that uses a science-based phased approach.
Review of 2020 Fisheries and Summary of 2021 Stock Forecasts
The Council adopted the stock abundances, overfishing limits, acceptable biological catches, and annual catch limits as presented in the 2021 Preseason Report I, for use in 2021 salmon management.
Adopt 2021 Management Alternatives for Public Review
The Council adopted for public review three management measure alternatives for the 2021 ocean commercial and recreational salmon fisheries beginning May 16. The Council also adopted six alternatives proposed by the Tribes for 2021 treaty Indian ocean salmon Fisheries. The Council is scheduled to adopt final 2021 ocean salmon regulations at its April 6-9 & 12-15 meeting held via webinar. The Oregon and California alternatives included inseason actions that were taken during the Council meeting to modify fisheries occurring prior to May 16, 2021.
The Council also scheduled one public hearing for each coastal state to discuss the salmon alternatives. The hearings will occur online and are scheduled for evenings of Tuesday, March 23 (Washington and California), and Wednesday March 24 (Oregon).
Pacific Halibut Management
Incidental Catch Recommendations: Options for Salmon Troll and Final Action on Recommendations for Fixed Gear Sablefish Fisheries
The Council adopted three alternatives for incidental halibut retention in the 2021 and early 2022 Salmon troll fishery, consistent with the Salmon Advisory Subpanel report. Each alternative included a landing and possession limit of one halibut for every two Chinook, plus one additional halibut in excess of the possession/landing ratio. The possession/landing limit per trip ranged from 25 to 35 halibut among the three options. The Council is scheduled to adopt a final alternative at its April meeting.
The Council’s final recommendation for the 2021 incidental halibut catch restrictions in the fixed gear fishery north of Point Chehalis from April 1 through October 31 was to set the limit at 225 pounds of dressed weight halibut for every 1,000 pounds dressed weight of sablefish, plus 2 additional halibut in excess of the ratio, which was consistent with the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel report.
Workload and New Management Measure Priorities
The Council added three new items to the list of unprioritized groundfish management measures as shown in Table B of GMT Report 1. The new items are:
- Prohibition on directed fishing for shortbelly rockfish
- Lingcod trip limit adjustments N of 40° 10’ N. latitude in the salmon troll fishery
- Cowcod Conservation Area (CCA) Modification
A public proposal for a prohibition on directed fishing for shortbelly rockfish will be considered for inclusion in the 2023-2024 groundfish harvest specifications and management measure process. The lingcod trip limit measure proposed by the Salmon Advisory Subpanel and as described in Supplemental GMT Report 2, will be scoped in April by the Groundfish Management Team (GMT) to determine if the proposal can be completed through routine inseason action. The CCA area modification proposes to repeal the CCAs and decouples the CCA area modification issue from the non-trawl rockfish conservation area modification scoping process scheduled for April 2021. The Council considered, but did not add to Table B, reactivation of an Ad Hoc Cost Recovery Committee. The Council also directed staff and the GMT to make corrections to the list of unprioritized actions to better clarify the measures in that table.
The Council maintained mothership utilization and non-trawl rockfish conservation area/Emley-Platt exempted fishing permit regulation items as priorities.
The Council also added an item to the March agenda and prioritized its development at this meeting: Emergency Rule to Consider Changing Seasonal Processing Limitations in the At-Sea Whiting Fishery (see G.6 below).
Pacific Whiting Utilization in the Mothership Sector
The Council adopted a final purpose and need statement proposed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as the following range of alternatives for analysis and public review:
1. Whiting Season Start Date (for all whiting sectors)
- Status Quo: May 15
- Alternative 1: May 1, annual cooperative applications and Salmon Mitigation Plans due 45 days prior to the season start date.
2. Mothership Processor Obligation
- Status Quo: Mothership processor obligation made by November 30 through mothership catcher vessel endorsed limited entry permit renewal.
- Alternative 1: Remove mothership processor obligation from regulation.
3. Mothership Processor Cap
- Status Quo: 45%
- Alternative 1: 65%
- Alternative 2: 85%
- Alternative 3: Remove mothership processor cap from regulation.
4. Mothership Processor & Catcher-Processor Permit Transfer
- Status Quo: A vessel cannot be registered to a mothership permit and a catcher-processor permit in the same calendar year
- Alternative 1: A vessel can be registered to a mothership permit and a catcher-processor permit in the same calendar year.
i. Sub-option A: A vessel can switch between the mothership sector and catcher-processor sector up to two times during the calendar year through permit transfer.
ii. Sub-option B: A vessel can switch between the mothership sector and catcher-processor sector up to four times during the calendar year through permit transfer.
iii. Sub-option C: Unlimited transfers.
Inseason Adjustments – Final Action
The Council reviewed the status and projections for 2021 fisheries but did not recommend inseason adjustments.
Electronic Monitoring Program Update
The Council recommended no modifications to the draft electronic monitoring program guidelines and provider manual. The Council has tentatively scheduled an update on electronic monitoring implementation for its June 2021 meeting.
Emergency Rule to Consider Changing Seasonal Processing Limitations in the At-Sea Whiting Fishery
The Council modified the March agenda to allow consideration of an emergency action to allow an at-sea Pacific whiting processing platform to operate as both a mothership and a catcher-processor in the same calendar year during the 2021 Pacific whiting fishery. This action was taken at the request of industry representatives and the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel to prevent fishery disruption if a mothership processor decides to abandon that sector this year to mitigate their risk associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Such a disruption would otherwise leave catcher vessels in the mothership sector without a processing platform, potentially stranding their whiting quota, which would result in significant economic impacts. Allowing a catcher-processor vessel to temporarily operate as an at-sea processor in the mothership sector mitigates the impacts associated with the current processing limitations in these two sectors.
Highly Migratory Species Management
Review of Essential Fish Habitat – Phase 2
The Council adopted the Phase 2 Action Plan for developing potential revisions to highly migratory species (HMS) essential fish habitat provisions as part of a Fishery Management Plan amendment process. The Council directed the HMS Management Team (HMSMT), Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) West Coast Region, and Council staff to consider the recommendations of the HMSMT, in further development of the amendment process.
Deep-Set Buoy Gear Permit Clarifications
Based on questions and proposed interpretations in NMFS Reports 1 and 2, the Council adopted the following clarifications to its proposed measures for authorizing deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) adopted in September 2019:
- Confirmed that a DSBG limited entry permit may be held by a person as defined 50 CFR 660.702, which includes corporations, partnerships, or other entities, but in all cases permit transfers are prohibited except for a one-time transfer to a family member upon the death of an individual permit holder. In cases where an entity holds a permit, transfers by means of changes in the ownership of the entity will be prohibited.
- Clarified that for the purpose of limited entry DSBG permit qualification, “EFP holder” means vessel operators on board when DSBG was used or individuals identified as having managed the exempted fishing permit (EFP) including owners of vessels to which the EFP was assigned.
- Supported the NMFS recommendation for a single qualification period but included Tier 8 (see description below). Ranking within tiers would be based on total swordfish landings for Tiers 1-5 and on a first come, first served basis for the remaining tiers.
The Council modified the DSBG limited entry permit qualification tiers so that they read as follows:
- EFP holders, with at least 10 documented calendar days of DSBG fishing effort by December 31, 2018. Documentation shall consist of a West Coast Observer Program record indicating either:
- the EFP holder as vessel captain for that fishing day; or
- fishing effort for that day conducted on a vessel owned by or under the EFP managed by that individual.
- California Drift Gillnet (DGN) Shark and Swordfish permit holders who made at least one large mesh DGN swordfish landing between the 2013-2014 and 2017-2018 fishing seasons and surrender their state or federal DGN permit as part of a DGN permit trade-in or buy-back program.
- EFP holders approved by the Council prior to April 1, 2021 who conducted at least 10 calendar days of DSBG fishing effort or with 10 days of DSBG effort on their vessel or by vessels they manage under the EFP by the effective date of the Final Rule authorizing DSBG. Documentation shall consist of a NMFS West Coast Observer Program record or a properly submitted NMFS DSBG logbook indicating either:
- the EFP holder as vessel captain for that fishing day; or
- fishing effort for that day was conducted on a vessel owned by or under the EFP managed by that individual.
- California General Swordfish permit holders who possessed a permit during the 2018-2019 fishing season and made at least one swordfish landing using harpoon gear between the 2013-2014 and 2017-2018 fishing seasons.
- California DGN Shark and Swordfish permit holders who have made at least one large-mesh DGN swordfish landing between the 2013-2014 and 2017-2018 fishing seasons and who did not surrender their state or federal DGN permit as part of a trade-in or buy- back program.
- California DGN Shark and Swordfish permit holders who have not made a swordfish landing with large-mesh DGN gear since March 31, 2013 and who surrender their state or federal DGN permit as part of a permit trade-in or buy-back program.
- State or Federal DGN Limited Entry (LE) permit holders who have not made a swordfish landing with DGN gear since March 31, 2013 and did not surrender their DGN LE permit as part of a state or Federal DGN permit trade-in or buy-back program.
- Any individual with documented commercial swordfish fishing experience between January 1, 1986 and the effective date of the final rule on a first come first served basis. The basis for documenting commercial swordfish fishing experience attributable to the applicant will be possession of a valid commercial fishing license on that date and either:
- A valid California Department of Fish and Wildlife fish landing receipt identifying the individual as the fisherman of record; or
- A valid state or federal logbook where swordfish were taken and identifying the individual as captain or crew on that day; or
- A signed affidavit from a vessel owner or captain identifying the individual as vessel captain or crew on the day that swordfish were taken.
- Any individual on a first come first served basis.
Biennial Harvest Specifications and Management Measures
The Council approved the maximum fishing mortality threshold proxy and the second proxy proposed for minimum stock size threshold in Option 3 of NMFS Report 1 as applicable to status determinations for Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) yellowfin and bigeye tuna stocks based on the probabilistic framework in the 2020 benchmark assessments for those stocks as prepared by Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission scientific staff. Resulting status determination criteria indicate EPO yellowfin are likely not overfished or subject to overfishing, and EPO bigeye are likely not overfished or subject to overfishing.
California Current Ecosystem and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Report and Science Review Topics
The Council endorsed Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) review of two ecosystem research topics: Threshold relationships between environmental drivers and performance of salmon preseason abundance forecasts and year-class strength and distribution of post-settled groundfish. The SSC Ecosystem Subcommittee will meet in conjunction with the September 2021 Council meeting to review the research, and the SSC will report to the Council on its recommendations in March 2022.
Climate and Communities Initiative Workshop Report
The Council adopted the Report on Regional Workshops focusing on the Implications of Climate Change for West Coast Fisheries and Fishing Communities and directed the Ad Hoc Climate and Communities Core Team to prepare a brief summary and synthesis report to the Council for its September 2021 meeting. The summary report should include consideration of the priority actions in the Report on Regional Workshops and recommendations on future related activities, which may be in the form of Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Initiatives. The Core Team will also conduct a workshop to brief Council advisory bodies on its synthesis report before the September 2021 Council meeting.
The Council also directed staff to draft a letter responding to NMFS’ call for information on climate-resilient fisheries per Section 206(c) in Executive Order 14008 Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (see Legislative Matters below).
Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Five-Year Review
The Council directed the Ad Hoc Ecosystem Workgroup (EWG) to prepare a final draft of the revised FEP for review by the Council at its September 2021 meeting. The EWG should also provide a complete draft of the stand-alone document, Guidance Document on Offshore Non-Fishing Activities. In doing so, the EWG should consider recommendations made by the Council and contained in advisory body reports for this agenda item and, as appropriate, note how those recommendations were addressed.
The Council directed the EWG to develop concepts for an “ecosystem-level performance report,” which would be a periodic reporting mechanism to track progress towards the goals and objectives listed in Chapter 1 of the revised FEP. These concepts could then form the basis for a candidate initiative that the Council would undertake at a future date.
Marine Planning Update
Representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presented information on Aquaculture Opportunity Areas, and representatives from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) presented information on planning for offshore wind development. The Council expressed concerns about how data is being used, about ensuring accurate fisheries-related information, and discussed ways to engage with agency partners and address marine planning issues. The Council Executive Director and staff will continue regular communication with relevant agencies and other organizations and will ensure that Council advisory bodies are provided updated information regarding marine planning issues.
The Council approved the letter from the Council Coordinating Committee (CCC) on Executive Order (EO) 14008 section 216(a) detailing how the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and its implementation by the Regional Fishery Management Councils conserves and protects fishery and other living marine resources. The Council directed staff to draft a letter to the Secretary of the Interior for the April Briefing Book with additional examples from the Pacific Council. The Council also directed staff to draft a letter to NMFS focusing on Section 216(c) of the EO and describing Pacific Council actions that can help fisheries and protected resources be more resilient to climate change. Finally, the Council directed the Legislative Committee to meet at the April 2021 Council meeting.
Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures
The National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) has informed the Council that Sean Stanley, the Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the West Coast Division will be replacing Mr. Killary as OLE’s alternate Enforcement Consultant. West Coast Division Assistant Director Greg Busch will remain as OLE’s primary Enforcement Consultant.
Dr. Michele Zwartjes was appointed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife position on the Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup formerly held by Ms. Robin Bown.