Request for nominations for a vacancy on the Salmon Advisory Subpanel representing Washington Charter Operations

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) is seeking qualified candidates to consider for a vacant Washington Charter Boat Operator position on its Salmon Advisory Subpanel (SAS).  The successful candidate will serve out the remainder of the 2019-2021 Council advisory body term. To ensure consideration, nominations should be received at the Council office no later than 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday, August 17, 2020.

The SAS consists of 16 members representing a broad spectrum and geographic distribution of commercial, recreational, tribal, community, conservation, and public concerns and knowledge within the Council management area.  The Council is seeking nominees with knowledge and expertise regarding ocean salmon fishery issues on the Pacific Coast, especially with regard to charter boat operations off the coast of Washington.

Consult Council Operating Procedure 2 for additional information regarding SAS composition and function.

Meeting frequency, travel expenses and stipends

At the present time, the SAS usually meets two to four times per year at Council meetings.  The meetings in March and April are four to five days in length and are focused on adopting regulations the forthcoming salmon fishing season.  The meetings in September and November are generally a one to three day meetings depending on the Council’s agenda.  Additionally, the SAS is occasionally asked to participate in SAS or other advisory body meetings between Council sessions, as needed throughout the year.

Advisory body members who are not Federal employees are reimbursed for travel, meal, and lodging expenses incurred while attending official meetings at the request of the Council as per the Council’s Travel Rules.  Subject to appropriations, limited stipends may also be available to advisory body members who are not employees of a Federal, state, or tribal marine fishery management agency.

Nomination procedures

To submit a nomination and supporting documents, please fill out the Council’s online Advisory Body Nomination Form.  The completed form will provide contact information and a brief summary of the nominee’s qualifications.  The form provides an opportunity to upload supporting documents such as a nomination letter, resume, etc.

Individuals may nominate themselves or be nominated by other individuals or organizations.  The vacant position is for the remainder of the three-year term that began on January 1, 2019 and will end December 31, 2021.  The Council will review the nominations and may fill the position at the September 2020 Council meeting.  To ensure consideration, nominations should be received at the Council office no later than 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday, August 17, 2020.

For additional information on the SAS or the nomination process, please contact Ms. Robin Ehlke or Mr. Mike Burner, Pacific Fishery Management Council, 7700 NE Ambassador Place, Suite 101, Portland, Oregon 97220-1384; telephone:  503-820-2280.

Request for nominations for a Washington vacancy on the Ecosystem Advisory Subpanel

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) is requesting nominations of qualified candidates to fill one Washington at-large position on its Ecosystem Advisory Subpanel (EAS),  The successful candidate will serve out the remainder of the 2019-2021 Council advisory body term. To ensure consideration, nominations should be received at the Council office no later than 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday, August 17, 2020.

The EAS is charged with advising the Council on issues associated with its Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP).  The purpose of the FEP is to enhance the Council’s species-specific management programs with more ecosystem science, broader ecosystem considerations, and management policies that coordinate Council management across its Fishery Management Plans and the California Current Ecosystem.

The EAS consists of nine subpanel members (three each from Washington, Oregon, and California) representing a broad spectrum and geographic distribution of commercial, recreational, community, conservation, and public concerns and knowledge within the Council management area.  The successful candidate should have knowledge and expertise regarding ecosystem and fishery issues on the Pacific Coast, especially regarding the State of Washington.

Consult Council Operating Procedure 2 for additional information regarding EAS composition and function.

Meeting frequency, travel expenses and stipends

At the present time, the EAS meets twice per year, generally in three-day meetings in conjunction with the March and September Council meetings.  In addition, various webinars are scheduled to discuss issues, often in advance of the other three Council meetings, April, June, and November.  EAS members may also be asked to participate in meetings or workshops in support of FEP initiatives, as needed.

Advisory body members who are not Federal employees are reimbursed for travel, meal, and lodging expenses incurred while attending official meetings at the request of the Council as per the Council’s Travel Rules.  Subject to appropriations, limited stipends may also be available to advisory body members who are not employees of a Federal, state, or tribal marine fishery management agency.

Nomination procedures

To submit a nomination and supporting documents, please fill out the Council’s online Advisory Body Nomination Form.  The completed form will provide contact information and a brief summary of the nominee’s qualifications.  The form provides an opportunity to upload supporting documents such as a nomination letter, curriculum vitae, etc.

Individuals may nominate themselves or be nominated by other individuals or organizations.  The vacant positions are for the remainder of the three-year term that began on January 1, 2019 and will end December 31, 2021.  The Council will review the nominations and may fill one or both positions at the September 2020 Council meeting.  To ensure consideration, nominations should be received at the Council office no later than 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday, August 17, 2020.

For additional information on the EAS or the nomination process, please contact Dr. Kit Dahl or Mr. Mike Burner, Pacific Fishery Management Council, 7700 NE Ambassador Place, Suite 101, Portland, Oregon 97220-1384; telephone:  503-820-2280.

West Coast Region Electronic Monitoring (EM) Webinar

PUBLIC NOTICE

For Information Contact: NMFS-SEA-20-21 Justin Kavanaugh: Justin.Kavanaugh@noaa.gov (206) 526-4140 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 13, 2020 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces a webinar on EM program implementation for west coast groundfish. The purpose of this webinar is to review guidance materials for EM service providers, including EM Service Plan Guidelines and the EM Program Manual. 

This webinar will be held on Thursday, July 23 from 3:00pm-5:00pm PDT using the link and access code provided below. 

Additional information can be found online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/electronic- monitoring-program-service-provider-application-and-service-plan 

Please join from your computer, tablet or smartphone. https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/605396341 

You can also dial in using your phone. United States: +1 (646) 749-3112 

Access Code: 605-396-341 

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/605396341 

The Pacific Council re-posted this announcement on behalf of NMFS.

Council says goodbye to Rich Lincoln and hello to Butch Smith

The Council thanks Rich Lincoln for his three terms of service as a Council member, and welcomes Butch Smith in the Washington obligatory seat, effective August 11.

A family on a fishing boat
Butch Smith (left) with his son and grandkids

Butch Smith  is a third-generation salmon and sturgeon fishing guide whose family owns and operates Coho Charters in Ilwaco. He is a longtime advocate for salmon and salmon enhancement on the Columbia River.  Butch has served on the Council’s Salmon Advisory Subpanel as the Washington Charter representative since 2002 and has been its Chair since 2007.  He fills the seat held by Rich Lincoln, who is completing his third term.  Lincoln has over 40 years of experience in fisheries research, management and policy in the North Pacific and working on global fisheries sustainability.  Rich will continue to serve on the Council’s Ad Hoc Climate and Communities Core Team as they help the Council develop scenarios to help plan for the potential effects of climate change on west coast communities.

Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho Workgroup to hold online meeting August 6-7, 2020

This post was generated by and redirects to https://www.pcouncil.org/events/southern-oregon-northern-california-coast-coho-workgroup-to-hold-online-meeting-august-6-7-2020/.

Pacific Council News Summer 2020

An interview with Don Hansen

Smiling man in a Hawaiian shirt
Don Hansen

This is the first of a three-part interview with Don Hansen. Don founded Dana Wharf Sport Fishing and Whale Watching, along with the Festival of the Whale in Dana Point, California. He was involved in the development of the first West Coast fishery management plans under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Don served on the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel from 1981 to 2000, on the Council from 2000 to 2009, and as Council Chair from 2003-2009. He has served as an Inter-American Tropical Tuna commissioner and as the Chairman of MAFAC, the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee.

I started in 1946 down on the pier, pulling a wagon up and down the pier, taking peoples’ fish from the end of the pier to their cars, and I went from there to where I am now – which is not much further. 

We were down in San Clemente Pier then. Dana Point Harbor wasn’t even built. Dana Point Harbor is 50 years old right now. We were on the pier at San Clemente, which is about 10 miles south of Dana Point. When I got to San Clemente there was 575 people in the whole town, and there’s now 100,000, so, yeah, things have changed. Yes they have.     

People that caught fish on the boats, they had a long walk up the pier to the parking lot to their cars, so you’d take your fish, put it in a wagon and haul it all the way up there. They’d give you tips – 10 cents, a quarter – 15 cents, whatever. I didn’t get rich, but I had candy money. It [was] a perfect job for a kid. You couldn’t get in trouble; if you wanted to you just went swimming until the boat came in, because you were right there at the pier. The ocean was right there, you could play around in the ocean all day until the boats came in, and then go do your job. It got to be a little competitive.

[Later] I fished as a deckhand, and then I went from a deckhand up to the captain, and started running boats. I was going to college too. [Eventually] I went back to work for the company running boats, and then when they put the business up for sale, and I was lucky enough to have a customer who loaned me the money to buy the fleet and the business known as San Clemente Sportfishing. I’ve been doing that for the last 60 years.

I got a license from the Coast Guard and ran boats, myself, for oh, 30 years. My kids run the whole operation now. 

The first boat I worked on was the Reel Fun; it was 1952. I was just out of high school, and they were building that boat. I had a real important boat builder job: I was very, very important. They made me get the board stretcher and the sky hook and all those things that don’t exist. “Go get me that board stretcher over there.” “Oh, OK, yeah…” 

So that was that first boat. That was 1952. I still have it!  It still runs every day. And then I built the Sum Fun, 1960, a 65-foot boat. And then the Clemente is also a 65-foot sportfisher, and then 15 years ago, in Hoquiam, Washington, we built the Dana Pride, 95 by 30. It’s a big boat. It’s solid glass. You can take a sledgehammer and hit it and it will bounce back at you. I have three boats that are steel, and three boats that are wood, and the fiberglass boat. And three other fiberglass boats. The whale watch boats are fiberglass. They’re catamarans.

The best thing I ever built was the Dana Pride, because it is exactly the same way it came out of the yard up there. It hasn’t been painted yet. It doesn’t need paint: you just polish it. 

I built a lot of boats and ran a lot of boats.  I ran to San Clemente Island every day all summer long – five hours over, five hours back. It’s 60 miles offshore. We went there and fished albacore for years and years… and the albacore disappeared. We’ve seen one stock after another disappear in the ocean. But they come back! They always come back. I hope this year we see albacore again down here. But the groundfish have pretty well all returned; we could take all the credit at the Council process level, but I think God had a lot to do with that. The conditions change; the ocean changes; stuff like that: things change. But I like to say we did it. The Council did it. Because I never forget when we’re talking about rebuilding cowcod, and I was the chairman, and they told me “it will never rebuild in your lifetime.” Well, it’s rebuilt and I’m still alive. The Council’s done a good job, the science has done a good job. 

We used to catch a lot of fish. We’re not catching fish like we used to in the years gone by, but where are they? I don’t know where they are. The barracuda and big bonita, they go in cycles, and they’re not here right now. But that was fun – everybody’d get their limits of fish, which was more than they needed. 

People release most of their fish now. It’s catch and release, and if they have a good day, they’ll take a couple fish home for dinner, but they don’t hog it like they used to do. They don’t fill their limit. [Back then,] if it was a fifteen fish limit, they’d take 15 fish. Now, they take what they actually need and release most of the rest. 

Now, nobody wants to catch the last fish in our industry, because if we catch the last fish we’re out of business. We didn’t know about barotrauma at that time. Ninety percent of our fish in those old days were not rock cod. It was all surface fish – barracuda, bass, bonita, tuna. Only in wintertime did we fish rockfish.  And we didn’t want to fish a lot of rockfish, and we didn’t have to. But now we have to in the wintertime, because they’ve got us shut down… the state’s got so many restrictions on our fisheries anymore… It’s tough. And it’s tough to charge what you have to charge now to go fishing and come back with nothing. And that’s the sad part. That’s what frustrates me, and the sea lion issue. You take your daughter fishing or your son fishing, and they catch a nice fish and a sea lion comes up and eats it. 

But back to rockfish – sending the [descending] device back down there to release the rockfish, I think it works. The scientists at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center show that they live… they go down fast, and they automatically release at the depth they want them to release at. They swim away. It’s amazing. It works. 

Coastwide enforcement update

A large silver salmon
An illegally-caught Chinook salmon

The Council received an enforcement update in June from NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), West Coast Division. The West Coast Division provides marine enforcement and compliance assistance primarily for California, Oregon, and Washington, but also for a number of inland states. 

OLE has ongoing agreements with all three West Coast states, and considers input from the Council and the public in setting and supporting its priority areas: sustainable fisheries; protected resources (species listed under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act); iIllegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; seafood fraud; wildlife trafficking; and outreach and education. 

Selected enforcement activities:

An Enforcement Officer investigated a commercial fishing vessel for conducting commercial fishing activities without a required Federal observer on board. The owner of the vessel was notified by phone and mail prior to beginning the fishing trips of the requirement, yet he failed to obtain mandatory observer coverage. A Notice of Violation was issued, with a settlement agreement of $11,250.

An investigation into a 2016 collision at sea between a commercial groundfish trawler and a commercial salmon troller revealed negligent conduct in maintaining a proper lookout and wheel watch. At the time of the collision, the trawl vessel was carrying a Federal fisheries observer, and the assigned bridge watch stander was not maintaining a proper wheel watch. While both vessels sustained damage in the at-sea collision, no one on either vessel was injured. A Notice of Violation was issued, with a settlement agreement of $5,175.  

An officer investigated a non-groundfish trawl vessel for failure to operate and maintain a VMS over a four-month period while engaged in non-groundfish trawl fisheries. This resulted in a settlement agreement of $4,500.

Special Agents and Enforcement Officers investigated eleven referrals from the NMFS Sustainable Fisheries Division of groundfish and HMS permit holders that were delinquent in providing 2017 Economic Data Collection (EDC) forms and other required records. The Agents and Officers worked with company representatives to explain the importance of submitting the missing documents within regulatory timeframes. Six of the cases were closed with compliance assistance provided and the five others are being considered for escalated enforcement action, with one resulting in a Summary Settlement for $600. 

A small halibut lying on a table
An undersized commercially-caught halibut

An officer boarded a commercial fishing vessel offloading albacore tuna at a first receiver. The vessel operator failed to complete an HMS logbook and failed to submit logbook pages from four earlier trips during the year. After determining the owner/operator had no prior violations, a written warning was issued. The owner/operator said he would help get the word out to the fleet to comply with logbook regulations.

An officer conducted an investigation into a vessel failing to coordinate with a required observer during fishing trips. Multiple incidents of failing to carry a required observer were documented; compliance assistance was provided, and the case was closed. 

An officer investigated a self-report of a Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) incursion by a trawl vessel. The vessel operator had incorrectly programmed waypoints into his plotter. As soon as he realized his incursion into the RCA, he called the Enforcement Officer and exited the RCA. The Enforcement Officer provided compliance assistance and the case was closed.

An officer investigated alleged observer harassment. The investigation revealed the behavior of the crew toward the observer was unprofessional, but it was determined no harassment had occurred. Compliance assistance was provided and the case was closed.

An individual picked up a baby harbor seal and brought it to his residence due to concerns about not seeing the animal’s mother nearby. The seal was reported to WDFW, which reported it to OLE. Due to the violation of the MMPA, an Enforcement Officer issued a Summary Settlement to the individual for $100.

An Officer received a complaint regarding an individual selling bait so that people could feed a local sea lion at the Santa Monica boardwalk. The Enforcement Officer made contact with the complainant and patrolled the area where the suspect was last seen. Unable to locate the suspect, the Enforcement Officer arranged with Santa Monica Harbor Police to post NOAA-approved signs that would inform the public not to feed the sea lions. The signs were posted and the case was closed with compliance assistance provided.

 An Officer received a complaint that included a link to an Instagram video of an individual jumping into the water off Morro Bay, CA, to disentangle a humpback whale from fishing gear. The video showed the individual jump into the water, climb onto the back of the whale and cut ground line that was wrapped around the animal. The individual was provided compliance assistance, including information on proper reporting, the risk associated with his actions, and the violation committed. The individual was given contact information for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network for future reference. 

An Officer completed an investigation into a recreational vessel operating within 200 yards of transient killer whales in Washington waters. The vessel owner was contacted and admitted to operating the vessel. A Summary Settlement was issued for $300. 

Fisheries disaster relief funding moves forward

On April 15, Congressional representatives Kurt Schraeder, Mike Thompson, Suzanne Bonamici, and Peter DeFazio, and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, wrote to NOAA Fisheries to ask “that your administration work with our partners and constituents in the fisheries industry to give them the flexibility they need to protect both their workers and their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.” See the full letter here.

On May 7 the Secretary of Commerce announced the allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance funding provided by Sec. 12005 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also called the CARES Act, to states, Tribes, and U.S. territories with coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by COVID–19. 

NOAA Fisheries will use these allocations (see below) to make awards to partners including the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC). PSMFC will disburse the funds to address direct or indirect fishery-related losses as well as subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial impacts related to COVID-19. 

Washington was granted $50 million; Oregon $15.9 million; California $18.3 million, and west coast tribes with federally-recognized fishing rights were granted $5 million.  

PSMFC will coordinate with the west coast states and tribes to develop spending plans and distribute the funds.  Information about development of spending plans is available on the following web sites: California, Washington, Oregon, PSMFC. In addition, please see the Council’s COVID-19 web page for more links to COVID resources.

Executive Order speeds up environmental review processes

On June 4th the President signed an Executive Order directing agencies under the Secretaries of Interior, Commerce, and Agriculture to expedite work on, and completion of, all authorized highway and associated infrastructure projects, civil works projects, energy projects, environmental projects, and natural resource projects. 

The order requires expedited permitting timelines and processes for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act/Essential Fish Habitat (ESA/EFH) consultations under emergency authority due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This means either applying prior NEPA and ESA consultations to new projects without new consultations, or entirely exempting projects from these requirements. 

This action could affect the Council’s ability to comment on permitting issues that impact EFH, particularly if a large number of projects impacting EFH are expedited or exempted. 

The timeline for identifying expedited projects is July 4.

Executive Order promotes American seafood, expedites aquaculture projects

On May 7 the President signed an Executive Order (EO) to assist the U.S. commercial fishing and aquaculture industries. 

Among other things, the EO aims to identify and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers that restrict American fishermen and aquaculture producers; combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; avoid duplicative, wasteful or inconclusive permitting processes; facilitate aquaculture projects; and continue to hold imported seafood to the same food safety requirements as domestically produced products.

The EO requires each regional fishery management council to submit a list of actions, by November 2, 2020 that will within one year of the EO, reduce burdens on domestic fishing and increase production within sustainable fisheries. 

The EO also requires the Secretary of Commerce issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing.

The EO mandates major changes to commercial aquaculture regulation, with ambitious goals for expanding domestic seafood production through aquaculture. This includes developing nationwide permits for finfish, seaweed, and multi-species aquaculture, and identifying Aquaculture Opportunity Areas. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must develop and propose the new nationwide permits within 90 days of the date of the Order, or by early August 2020. These nationwide permits could significantly streamline Federal permitting associated with such activities, similar to the nationwide permit previously approved by the Corps for shellfish aquaculture activities.

Within one year of the Order and each year for the following four years, the Secretary must identify at least two geographic areas containing locations suitable for commercial aquaculture and (within two years of identification), complete a programmatic EIS for each. In effect, this will likely allow significant expansion of domestic aquaculture, which currently require extensive environmental review (which often includes comment) before permits are approved.

The EO also instructs Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, in consultation with the Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture, to assess whether to revise the National Aquaculture Development Plan to improve the efficiency and predictability of aquaculture permitting, including whether revisions are required to identify  restrictions to operate in specific areas for specific time periods. Learn more here.

[From sources including the National Law Review, Seafoodnews.com]

NMFS provides west coast whale entanglement summary for 2019

Five gray whales seen from above
Gray whales migrating (NOAA)

In 2019, west coast whale entanglement continued to be higher than what had occurred before 2014, although fewer reports were received than in some of the recent record high years. The data was provided in NMFS’ annual West Coast whale entanglement summary.

Twenty-six whales were confirmed entangled off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California in 2019. As in recent years, humpback whales were the most common species entangled, with 17 separate entanglements. Eight gray whales and one minke whale were entangled, as well as one leatherback sea turtle. 

Of the 17 humpback entanglements, 13 occurred in California, 3 in Washington, and 1 in Mexico (with Oregon crab gear). Seven were entangled in various forms of crab gear, and ten were entangled in an unknown gear type. In six cases, some or all of the gear was removed from the whales. One humpback whale was known to have died as a result.

Of the eight confirmed gray whales entanglements, four occurred in Oregon, three in California, and one in Washington. Two were entangled in gillnets, one in a mooring buoy, and one in commercial Dungeness crab gear. One gray whale managed to free itself from the gear, and another whale had some of its gear removed. In another case, rescuers were unable to remove the gear. One gray whale died as a result.

The minke whale was entangled in unidentified gear and no attempt was made to remove the gear. The leatherback sea turtle was dead when discovered in rock crab gear off southern California.

Habitat report: beaver ponds, corals, and shellfish aquaculture

A rotund brown animal in the water
Beaver (USFWS)

An Oregon win for beavers and salmon

A recent NMFS consultation on beaver, mink, nutria, and river otter management in Oregon found that both lethal and non-lethal removal of beaver would adversely affect essential fish habitat for Pacific salmon due to the loss of beaver ponds and the benefits they provide.

The consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture addressed Magnuson-Stevens Act and Endangered Species Act requirements. NMFS made four conservation recommendations to promote non-lethal management of beaver, monitoring and reporting, improving outreach to landowners, and beaver relocation efforts. 

NMFS found that removal of the other three species would not adversely affect essential fish habitat. See related story from NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center: “Oregon beavers engineer better fish habitat, more fish; after four years, scientists recorded a 175 percent increase in juvenile steelhead.”

Klamath Basin issues

This spring the Bureau of Reclamation increased irrigation water supplies in the Klamath basin and shorted the amount of water sent to the river to avoid a disease outbreak in juvenile salmon. Reclamation increased Klamath Project allocation to 140 thousand acre-feet (TAF) and only provided 15 TAF of the 40 TAF dictated by the Klamath interim operations agreement.

Reclamation was sued by the Yurok Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations over the 2020 Biological Assessment. The parties developed an interim agreement that provided more water for salmon in the mainstem Klamath River under certain hydrologic conditions, which were met this year. Reclamation’s action violated the interim agreement and may violate the NMFS Biological Opinion. 

Based on the current operations plan, the Reclamation should have released a 40 TAF block of water to the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam.  Instead they increased the irrigation project supply from 80 TAF to 140 TAF and decreased the 40 TAF block that was to be released to the river to only 7 TAF. 

After complaints from the tribes, resource agencies, and the technical flow advisory group, Reclamation released another pulse of 8,000 AF for a total of 15,000 AF, which is much less than the agreed-upon 40,000 AF.  The 8,000 AF concession came late, after temperatures had cooled off and disease prevalence was down, instead of when water temperatures and disease prevalence were high.  As a direct impact, nearly all the fish that were in the mainstem Klamath reach below Iron Gate dam during this time of high infection were impacted, which is is expected to be a significant portion of this year’s salmon cohort.

West Coast Deep Sea Coral Initiative Report 

Tom Laidig (SWFSC) and Dr. Liz Clarke (NWFSC) presented to the HC on the West Coast Deep Sea Coral Initiative, which is funded by NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program and partners. 

The Initiative focuses on partnership and collaboration for conducting deep sea surveys in support of mapping and exploration. In 2018 and 2019, more than 30 cruises were conducted off Washington, Oregon, and California in rockfish conservation areas that were closed for many years and will be reopened in 2021 as part of Groundfish Amendment 28. Researchers are collecting baseline data on fish and habitat-forming invertebrates (including corals and sponges) that can be used to assess the effects of reopening the areas to trawl fishing in the coming years. 

Early results show increases of certain Lyssacine sponges on Daisy Bank, and increases of Swiftia pacifica corals on Coquille Bank (both off Oregon), indicating recruitment of these species in the last decade. Current technologies allow for long-term monitoring of selected sites, enabling scientists to distinguish between responses in habitat-forming invertebrates and fish densities and occurrences due to environmental variation and anthropogenic impacts.

Ventura Shellfish Enterprise Project

Ventura Shellfish Enterprise reported to the Habitat Committee (HC) on their plans to grow Mediterranean mussels off the coast of Ventura, CA on a grid of longlines in Federal waters. The project’s preferred alternative would convert 2,000 acres of the Santa Barbara channel to leased commercial aquaculture parcels. Many of the permitting processes have begun. Currently VSE is determining if they can conduct the project in Federal waters. The HC will continue to monitor this project and will keep the Council apprised of any important developments.

Council and advisory body appointments

Butch Smith has been appointed to the Washington obligatory seat on the Council, effective August 11. He replaces Rich Lincoln, who served three terms as a Council member. Brad Pettinger was reappointed his seat on the Council.

The Council elected Marc Gorelnik as Council chair for the 2020-2021 term, replacing Phil Anderson, who has served three years as Chair. Brad Pettinger will serve as Vice-Chair. The new terms will start August 11.

David McGowen was appointed to the vacant Northern Charter Boat Operator position on the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel formerly held by Linda Buell.

Dr. Xi He was appointed to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center position on the Groundfish Management Team formerly held by Dr. Andrew Thompson, and Dr.
Matthew Craig
was appointed to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center position on the Highly Migratory Species Management Team formerly held by James Carretta. These two appointments will become effective following the September 2020 Council meeting.

Chairman Phil Anderson appointed the following additional NMFS Fisheries Science Center representatives to the Ad Hoc Ecosystem Workgroup: Dr. Andrew Thompson, Dr. Elliott Hazen, Dr. Mary Hunsicker, Dr. Andi Stephens, Dr. Jameal Samhouri.

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Call for data and information – Essential Fish Habitat Review for Pacific Coast Highly Migratory Species

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center have initiated a review of essential fish habitat (EFH) provisions in the Pacific Coast Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP).  This call for data and information is intended to support the review.

The HMS FMP, its EFH provisions, and maps can be found on our HMS webpage, under “Key Documents”.  The HMS FMP includes the following species:

  • Sharks: common thresher, shortfin mako, blue
  • Tunas: albacore, bigeye, Pacific bluefin, skipjack, yellowfin
  • Striped marlin
  • Broadbill swordfish
  • Dorado

Fishery management plans are required to identify and describe EFH for each life stage and species, identify and minimize impacts from fishing and non-fishing activities, and identify research needs, among other requirements.  A complete description of EFH provisions to be included in FMPs can be found in the EFH regulatory guidance at 50 CFR§600.815(a).  Information and data should be relevant to:

  • The habitat needs, associations and distribution FMP species listed above
  • Major prey items of species listed above
  • Adverse impacts on EFH from fishing activities and potential minimization measures
  • Adverse impacts on EFH from non-fishing activities and potential minimization measures
  • Research and information needs

Information and data sources can include published scientific literature, unpublished scientific reports, information from interested parties, and previously unavailable or inaccessible data. 

Information relevant to the HMS EFH review should be submitted to Nicole Nasby-Lucas (nicole.nasby-lucas@noaa.gov) no later than Monday July 13th, 2020.  For further information, please contact Kerry Griffin (kerry.griffin@noaa.gov). 

Pacific Council News Summer 2020: Groundfish

Yellowtail rockfish with boot sponges
Yellowtail rockfish with boot sponges (National Ocean Service)

Six exempted fishing permits move forward

The Council has forwarded six 2021-2022 exempted fishing permits (EFP) applications to NMFS. They focus on year-round coastwide midwater rockfish; California Department of Fish and Wildlife recreational cowcod sampling in California; yellowtail rockfish Jig fishing off California; commercial midwater hook-and-line rockfish in the Rockfish Conservation Area off Oregon; Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enhanced yelloweye recreational fishery biological sampling;  and the Monterey regional EFP targeting chilipepper rockfish.

An EFP authorizes a vessel to engage in an activity that is otherwise prohibited in order to collect experimental data. The objectives of EFPs vary, and may include promoting increased utilization of underutilized species, increasing harvest efficiency, exploring ways to reduce effort on depressed stocks, encouraging innovation and efficiency in the fisheries, providing access to stocks while measuring the bycatch, or evaluating proposed management measures.

Two EFPs are noteworthy because they are new this cycle.  The CDFW EFP will investigate cowcod catch in the recreational fishery, reflecting the rebuilt status of cowcod. The EFP will improve scientists’ and managers’ understanding of the species. Additionally, the WDFW EFP will investigate yelloweye rockfish catch in the recreational fishery. This EFP will provide more knowledge about how the recreational fishery impacts the species, and is key to improved understanding of how the species is rebuilding.

Final harvest specifications and management measures adopted for 2021, 2022

In June the Council adopted final 2021 and 2022 harvest specifications for stocks and stock complexes by confirming their April 2020 decision for all stocks except shortbelly rockfish, which will be designated an Ecosystem Component species.  

Concerns over incidental shortbelly bycatch prompted the Council to recommend that if the fishery exceeds 2,000 mt of shortbelly rockfish in a calendar year, the Council will investigate the reasons why the overage occured.  The Council could then consider changing management measures for shortbelly based on the results. The Groundfish Management Team (GMT) will continue to monitor the stock, and inseason catches will be tracked using the species scorecard

The Council adopted its preliminary preferred alternative as the preferred alternative for routine management measures, which include annual catch limit deductions for tribal, research, recreational, exempted fishing permit, and incidental open access fisheries,  as well as set-asides for the at-sea whiting fisheries.  These measures are summarized here and detailed here.

The Council also adopted trip limits for incidentally-caught yellowtail rockfish in salmon troll fisheries both north and south of 40° 10’ N. lat. For the salmon troll fishery north of 40° 10’ N. lat., the Council eliminated the salmon-to-yellowtail ratio requirement and recommended a monthly trip limit of 500 lbs of yellowtail rockfish, with the additional requirement that salmon must be included in the landing. For the salmon troll fishery south of 40° 10’ N. lat, the Council adopted 1 lb. of yellowtail rockfish per 2 lb. of Chinook salmon landed, with a cumulative monthly limit of 200 lbs. of yellowtail rockfish.

The Council adopted the GMT’s recommended harvest guidelines and allocations and established a 50 mt annual catch target for cowcod south of 40° 10’ N. lat. Further, they confirmed the two-year trawl/non-trawl and commercial trip limit for all stocks that were in the preliminary preferred alternative. 

Flatfish gear restrictions within the non-trawl Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) south of 42° N. lat were removed. The Council established a 50 lbs-per-month shortspine thornyhead and 50 lbs.-per-month  longspine thornyhead trip limit north of 34° 27’ N. lat.  The Council also converted widow rockfish, petrale sole, lingcod south of 40° 10’ N. lat, and Slope Rockfish complex (including blackgill rockfish) allocations from Amendment 21 formulas to new two-year allocations. 

The Council adopted the recreational management measures recommended by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the treaty tribal management measures recommended by the tribes.

Additionally, the Council adopted multiple depth adjustments to the non-trawl RCA off California, Oregon, and Washington.

In California, recreational management area depth changes to the RCA were adjusted as follows:

  • Mendocino Groundfish Management Area (Cape Mendocino to Point Arena): Increase the allowable depth during the open season (May through October) from 20 to 30 fathoms.
  • San Francisco Groundfish Management Area (Point Arena to Pigeon Point): Increase the allowable depth during the open season (April through December) from 40 to 50 fathoms.
  • Southern Groundfish Management Area (Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border): Increase the allowable depth during the open season (March through December) from 75 to 100 fathoms.

Also in California, commercial non-trawl RCA depth boundaries were adjusted as follows:

  •  A new management line was created at 38° 57.5′ N. lat. (Point Arena) in order to define RCA boundaries.
  • Between 38° 57.5′ and 34° 27′ N. lat. (Point Arena to Point Conception), the depth of the shoreward RCA boundary was increased from 40 to 50 fathoms. (The shoreward RCA depth between 40° 10′ N. lat. and 38° 57.5′N. lat. will remain unchanged at 40 fathoms.)
  • From 34° 27′ N. lat. (Point Conception) to the U.S.-Mexico border, the depth of the shoreward RCA boundary was increased from 75 fathoms to 100 fathoms.

The Council also recommended moving the shoreward boundary of the non-trawl RCA from 30 fm to 40 fm between 40° 10’ N. lat. and the Oregon/Washington border (46° 16’ N. lat) and to allow only hook and line gear, except for dinglebar and longline, to be used. Dinglebar and longline gear types (as defined at 50 CFR 660.11) cannot be fished in this area and depth range..

Finally, the Council recommended reopening the South Coast and Westport Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Areas off Washington.

 NMFS will next submit a preliminary rule for public review,  and is set to finalize the regulations with a target implementation date of January 1, 2021.

Red rockfish next to a rock
Vermilion rockfish. Flickr/Guppiecat

Groundfish stock assessment finalized for 2021

In June the Council adopted groundfish stock assessments to be conducted in 2021 as follows: full assessments for vermilion and sunset rockfishes (to be assessed as a complex of the two species), Dover sole, and lingcod; data-moderate assessments for spiny dogfish, copper rockfish, quillback rockfish, and squarespot rockfish; an update assessment of sablefish; and catch-only projection updates for arrowtooth flounder, canary rockfish, darkblotched rockfish, and petrale sole. 

Three Stock Assessment Review (STAR) panels will be held next year to review the full assessments, with one panel devoted to vermilion and sunset rockfishes and one panel devoted to lingcod.  A third STAR panel will review the full assessment for Dover sole and the data-moderate assessment for spiny dogfish, which is expected to be complex and in need of a more robust review process.  

The Council also adopted a list of candidate stocks for assessment in 2023 as follows: petrale sole, black rockfish, sablefish, rougheye rockfish, shortbelly rockfish, and redbanded rockfish are candidates for full assessments; yellowtail rockfish north of 40° 10’ N lat. is a candidate for a full or updated assessment; yellowtail rockfish south of 40° 10’ N lat., greenspotted rockfish, and flathead sole may be subject to full or data-moderate assessments; bank rockfish, brown rockfish, starry rockfish, longspine thornyhead, shortspine thornyhead, English sole, rex sole, treefish, olive rockfish, and speckled rockfish are candidates for data-moderate assessments; yelloweye rockfish is a candidate for an updated assessment. (Italicized stocks are higher priority). Advance notice of stock assessment priorities is considered helpful in prioritizing data collection efforts. A final decision on 2023 stock assessment priorities is scheduled for June 2022. 

Council adopts final changes to electronic monitoring regulations

Final changes to West Coast electronic monitoring program regulations were adopted by the Council in June, including a recommendation that implementation of the program be delayed until January 1, 2022.

The Council recommended that National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) extend the existing electronic monitoring exempted fishing permits (EFPs) until the amended regulations take effect, and allow new EFP entrants to continue developing catch handling rules in the bottom trawl fishery.  

The regulatory changes will include increasing the hard drive submission deadline to 72 hours from the beginning of the offload, and requiring that data be removed before reusing hard drives only if end-to-end encryption is not used; removing the limit on switching between observers and electronic monitoring for whiting vessels; removing the requirement for a mothership/catcher vessel endorsement to use electronic monitoring on mothership catcher vessel trips; allowing providers to receive and enter logbook information, rather than submitting it to NMFS; requiring deadlines for service provider reports, logbook data, vessel operator feedback, summary and data compliance reports; aligning data retention requirements with NMFS directives; and making minor corrections to regulations and definitions.

The NMFS and the Council will continue to develop the electronic monitoring program guidelines and provider manual to ensure it is consistent with the revised proposed rule and other directives. Public webinars will be held during the summer and fall of 2021 to discuss their development. Please visit the Council’s electronic monitoring page for more information.

Inseason adjustments

The Council increased bocaccio south of 40° 10’ N. lat.  trip limits  for limited entry fixed gear (LEFG) and open access.  The recommended inseason adjustments would set the bocaccio trip limits for LEFG from 40° 10’ North latitude (N. lat.) to 34° 27’ N. lat at 6,000 lbs per two months; LEFG south of 34° 27’ N. lat. at 6,000 lbs per two months; and the open access trip limits for bocaccio south of 40° 10’ N. lat. at 4,000 lbs per two months. 

Sablefish Management and Trawl Allocation Attainment Committee provides final report to the Council

The Sablefish Management and Trawl Allocation Attainment Committee (SaMTAAC) submitted its final report in June. The committee was created to address under-attainment of non-sablefish trawl allocations and unharvested sablefish quota pounds south of 36° N. latitude.  

The SaMTAAC’s  final report to the Council includes a “no action” alternative and three alternatives that would limit the harvest of northern sablefish by vessels using non-trawl gear in the trawl catch share fishery.  When the Council takes its next action on this issue in September, it will decide whether or not to move the deliberations forward, and, if so, adopt a purpose and need and consider further development of alternatives.

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