March 2022 Decision Summary Document

March 9-14, 2022 

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

Salmon Management

Review of 2021 Fisheries and Summary of 2022 Stock Forecasts

The Council adopted the stock abundances, overfishing limits, acceptable biological catches, and annual catch limits as presented in the 2022 Preseason Report I, for use in 2022 salmon management.

Adopt 2022 Management Alternatives for Public Review 

The Council adopted for public review three management measure alternatives for the 2022 ocean commercial and recreational salmon fisheries beginning May 16. The Council also adopted three alternatives proposed by the Tribes for 2022 treaty Indian ocean salmon fisheries. The Council is scheduled to adopt final 2022 ocean salmon regulations at its April 2022 Council meeting.  The Oregon and California alternatives included inseason actions that were taken during the Council meeting to modify fisheries occurring prior to May 16, 2022.

Appoint Salmon Hearings Officers

The Council appointed officers and reviewed plans for the 2022 public salmon hearings.  The Council has opted to hold all of the salmon hearings virtually.  The Washington and California hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, March 22nd and the Oregon hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 23.  

Groundfish Management

Pacific Whiting Utilization – Final Action 

The Council adopted the following as final preferred alternatives:

  1. Move the season start date for the primary whiting season start date north of 40 degrees 30 minutes north latitude from May 15th to May 1st.  Move all administrative deadlines associated with the season start date to 45 days prior to May 1. 
  2. Remove the mothership processor obligation from regulation.
  3. Remove the mothership processor cap from regulation.
  4. Allow a vessel to be registered to a mothership and catcher-processor endorsed permit in the same year, with unlimited transfers.

Stock Definitions 

The Council received notice from the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding status determinations of certain stocks of groundfish, and the inability to make status determinations due to a lack of specificity in the groundfish FMP regarding the definition of certain stocks and whether they are in need of conservation and management. In response, the Council decided to pursue development of a fishery management plan amendment, separate from the 2023-2024 harvest specifications and management measures process, that would more clearly define those groundfish stocks and complexes in need of conservation and management. This process is described as Option 1 in a document  provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Limited Entry Fixed Gear catch Share Program Review 

The Council adopted for public review, the draft review of the limited entry fixed gear permit stacking program, including new lists of research and data needs and recommendations.  None of the recommendations were prioritized for immediate work.  Once the Council actions have been incorporated, the draft report will be posted to the Groundfish FMP Amendment 14 web page.  Comments on the public review draft should be provided for the June 2022 Council meeting, at which time the Council is scheduled to take final action.

Fixed Gear Logbooks – Final Action 

The Council clarified their intent regarding the Federal fixed gear logbooks to specify that the logbook requirement would apply to the non-trawl groundfish fleet as opposed to just the fixed gear groundfish fleet.  The Council adopted a preliminary definition for the term “directed open access” to mean that it is an open access vessel that is targeting groundfish. The Council also specified that the non-trawl sectors required to submit logbooks at program implementation would be groundfish directed open access, limited entry fixed gear (LEFG) sablefish, vessels fishing under LEFG trip limits, and vessels using non-trawl gear in the trawl IFQ program (gear switching). The Council noted the logbook requirement may be expanded to other non-trawl fishery sectors in the future. Additionally, the Council requested NMFS work with state agencies to avoid overlap with state programs and to educate stakeholders as to logbook requirements.

Workload and New Management Measure Priorities 

The Council adopted the list of candidate and prioritized management measures as shown in Tables A and B in E.6.a, Supplemental GMT Report 2, March 2022.  The Council removed item B16 (at-sea processing south of 42° N. lat.) from the list of candidate measures and combined LEFG items (permit price reporting, program cost recovery, removal of base permit) and GAP LEFG recommendations (allow slinky pots, allow vessels with stacked sablefish endorsed permits to fish cumulative non-sablefish limits for each permit, and allow a fourth permit per vessel) into one LEFG follow-on package. 

Inseason Adjustments – Final Action

The GMT, GAP, and stakeholders did not request any changes, and as such, the Council did not recommend any inseason adjustments for March.

Initial Stock Assessment Plan and Terms of Reference 

The Council made preliminary decisions on groundfish stock assessment priorities for 2023 and 2025 as follows:

  • Full Assessments in 2023: black rockfish, petrale sole, copper rockfish, quillback rockfish, and yellowtail rockfish or rougheye and blackspotted rockfishes;
  • Data-Moderate Assessments in 2023: longspine thornyhead, shortspine thornyhead, English sole, and rex sole;
  • Catch-Only Projection Updates in 2023: cowcod, spiny dogfish, and yelloweye rockfish; and
  • Full Assessments in 2025: sablefish, yelloweye rockfish, spiny dogfish, and yellowtail rockfish or rougheye and blackspotted rockfishes (whichever is not assessed in 2023).

The Council also requested feedback on: 

  • How will 2023 assessments proceed in line with discussions on stock definitions?
  • How stocks of the same species may be assessed according to conservation need (i.e., do all areas need to be assessed at once)?
  • Presuming nearshore and shelf stocks should be assessed at as fine a scale as the data allows or when areas are combined, how should regional differences in status be evaluated?
  • The feasibility of a research assessment for shortbelly rockfish in 2023, 2025, or out-of-cycle.

The Council also adopted for public review a Terms of Reference (TOR) for the groundfish stock assessment review process (a separate TOR for the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) stock assessment review process will be developed later this year), a TOR for groundfish rebuilding analyses, and a TOR for groundfish and CPS methodology reviews.

Final Council decisions on 2023 assessment priorities and TORs is scheduled for the June meeting in Vancouver, Washington.

Update on 2023-2024 Harvest Specifications and Management Measures

The Council gave guidance to the GMT regarding their questions to facilitate completion of their over-winter analyses of proposed management measures for 2023 and 2024. The Council recommended keeping the mid-water Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs) as part of the analysis. Regarding quillback rockfish and copper rockfish off of California, the Council instructed the GMT to not analyze set-asides for quillback rockfish and copper rockfish off of California, but to continue to develop annual catch targets (ACTs) for these species in the areas from 42° to 40° 10’  N. lat. and  40° 10’ N. lat. to the US/Mexico border. The Council recommended the GMT analyze the use of bycatch reduction areas and block area closures as a potential inseason management measure for Pacific spiny dogfish trawl bycatch minimization. Additionally, the Council agreed to include an amendment to the fishery management plan that would align the definition of block area closures with Federal regulation for consideration in this process. The Council added an option to remove the 50 mt ACT for cowcod south of  40° 10’  N. lat. and instructed the GMT to keep the current non-trawl sector specific yelloweye rockfish ACTs  as part of their analyses.  Regarding the new management measure that would modify management of the non-trawl Rockfish Conservation  Area (NT_RCA), the Council agreed with the GAP’s and EC’s recommendation that all areas within the NT_RCA be subject to the same fishing requirements.  Additionally, the Council recommended for NMFS to revisit their proposed new gear definitions based on input from the EC regarding the enforceability of the gear types in the current NMFS proposal.

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 2022 and early 2023 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 2022 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 150 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.

Ecosystem Management

Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Five-Year Review – Final Action

The Council adopted revisions to its Pacific Coast Fishery Ecosystem Plan and directed the Ad Hoc Ecosystem Workgroup (EWG) to make any necessary final edits. Once editing is complete, the revised document will be published on the Council website.

2021-2022 California Current Ecosystem Status Report and Science Review Topics

The Council endorsed the EAS and EWG requests to regularly engage with the CCIEA team to discuss improvements to the annual Ecosystem Status Report. This would include identifying word and figure limits to replace the current 20 pages limit on the main report, which would make it easier for the CCIEA team to develop automated production methods, reducing report production workload. The Council noted the value of the fisheries participation network diagrams, analysis of spatial interactions between fisheries and other ocean uses (Appendix P), and the development of indicators to track long-term climate change (Appendix E). Finally, the Council endorsed the SSC’s recommendations on review of research in 2022 supporting the development of indicators, as requested by the CCIEA team.

Fishery Ecosystem Plan Initiatives

The Council directed the EWG to further revise the FEP Initiatives Appendix as presented in its report by adding the Climate-Informed Fisheries Management Initiative described by the EAS in its report. Once revisions are made, the revised FEP Initiatives Appendix will be made available for public review in advance of the September Council meeting. The Council noted broad interest Initiatives 2.1 (Ecosystem and Climate Information for Species, Fisheries, and FMPs) and 2.8 (Assess Flexibility in Fisheries Management Process) in the revised appendix among Council advisory bodies and the public and encouraged the EWG to add further detail when making revisions for the public review version of the Appendix. The Council would again review the Appendix at its September meeting with the aim of adopting the revisions and consider moving forward on one or more of the initiatives described in therein.

The Council directed Council staff to add a webpage to the Council website with information on climate and ocean change. Finally, the Council directed the Executive Director to work with the Council Coordinating Committee to develop a mechanism for regional fishery management councils to annually report on actions they are taking to better prepare fisheries for climate change.

Administrative Matters

Marine Planning 

The Council directed staff to develop comment letters on Oregon offshore wind energy Call Areas, the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area Draft Environmental Assessment, NOAA Aquaculture Opportunity Areas, and the United States Coast Guard Port Access Route Study, for transmittal during upcoming or current comment opportunities, as appropriate. The Council also directed that the draft policy documents on ocean development activities (C.2.a, MPC Report 2 and C.2.a, HC Report 1) be combined into a single document, for consideration at the June 2022 Council meeting. The Council also directed that the Ecosystem Workgroup (EWG) policy document (C.2.a, EWG Report 1) remain as a stand-alone document, with further work on it suspended until the Council provides guidance at the June 2022 meeting. 

Fiscal Matters

The Council approved the scheduling of a Budget Committee Meeting for June 2022 and directed staff to prepare a draft policy and rationale for the use of the Council’s deferred spending account that takes into account  financial risks the Council may face due to funding delays and unforeseen expenses.  The Council expressed support for a NMFS West Coast Region Proposal that was recently submitted that would analyze the potential for reducing the costs of the trawl rationalization program and directed staff to work with the Region staff if funding is awarded.

Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures 

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service made changes to their list of Council designees.  

Mr Roy Elicker, Mr David Teuscher, Mr. Tom Sinclair and Dr. Denise Hawkins will be removed from the list, Dr. Benjamin Cross will be added, and Dr. Kyle Hanson, Mr. Roger Root, Mr Michael Clark, and Mr. John Netto will remain.

Additionally, Oregon added Sergeant Heather Van Meter as an alternate Enforcement Consultant.

The Council made the following Advisory Body Appointments:

  • Ms. Lisa Hillier was appointed to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife position on the Coastal Pelagic Species Management Team formerly held by Ms. Lorna Wargo
  • Ms. Lorna Wargo was appointed to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife position on the Groundfish Management Team formerly held by Erika Wayland
  • Ms. Emily Shallow was appointed to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife position on the Salmon Technical Team formerly held by Mr. Craig Foster
  • Ms. Kandice Morgenstern was appointed to the vacant California Department of Fish and Wildlife position on the Salmon Technical Team
  • Mr. David Kasheta was appointed to the vacant Sport Fisheries At-Large position on the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel
  • Mr. Lyf Gildersleeve was appointed to the vacant Processor North of Cape Mendocino position on the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel
  • Mr. Donald Vernon to the vacant Idaho Sport Fisheries position on the Salmon Advisory Subpanel
  • Dr. Matthew Reimer was appointed to a vacant At-Large position on the Scientific and Statistical Committee

The Council intends to discuss remaining vacancies for the 2022-2024 Advisory Body term at the June Council meeting.