In September the Council received a request for comments from Representative Rob Bishop regarding HR 1979 (the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act) and HR 2236 (the Forage Fish Conservation Act.) The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, introduced by Ted Lieu and Diane Feinstein of California, would extend current California state regulations regarding driftnets to all Federal waters within five years. Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce would be required to conduct a transition program to phase out large-scale driftnet fishing and to promote the adoption of alternative fishing practices.
The Forage Fish Conservation Act, introduced by Debbie Dingell of Michigan, would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to require Scientific and Statistical Committees to provide scientific advice on maintaining a sufficient abundance of forage fish populations; adds forage fish populations and distribution as a research priority; calls for Councils to develop lists of unmanaged forage fish species and prohibit development of new fisheries (as the Pacific Council has done); and requires Councils to reduce annual catch limits for forage fish fisheries according to the dietary needs of fish species and other marine wildlife.
The Council also received a request from Senator Maria Cantwell for comments on S 2346, Senator Wicker’s bill “to improve the Fishery Resource Disaster Relief program of the National Marine Fisheries Service.” The letters are on the Council’s legislative correspondence page.
The Council appointed Bob Dooley and Virgil Moore to the Legislative Committee. Brian Hooper was appointed to the vacant NFMS seat on the Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup, and Erica Crust was appointed to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife seat on the Groundfish Management Team formerly held by Jessi Doerpinghaus.
The Council adopted a final Council Operating Procedure (COP) 22, describing a process to conduct essential fish habitat reviews. The new COP 22 applies to all Council fishery management plans, and establishes a tiered approach, with the expectation that the Council will develop a more detailed approach for each individual EFH review when initiating the reviews.
The Council was informed that Dr. Rishi Sharma and Dr. Aaron Berger have resigned their at-large seats on the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). The Council directed staff to solicit nominations for these two seats between now and the November meeting, with a specific request for nominees with expertise in groundfish stock assessment or highly migratory species. The Council also anticipates that long-time SSC member Dr. David Sampson will be retiring at the end of the year. The Council anticipates working with Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to fill the Oregon SSC seat he will be vacating.