In June the Council has received a request from Senator Maria Cantwell for comment on HR 2236, the Forage Fish Conservation Act. The Council responded with a letter emphasizing the actions that the Council has already taken to protect forage fish species. HR 2236 would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to require Scientific and Statistical Committees to provide scientific advice on maintaining a sufficient abundance of forage fish populations; add forage fish populations and distribution as a research priority; require Councils to develop lists of unmanaged forage fish species and prohibit development of new fisheries; and require Councils to reduce annual catch limits for forage fish fisheries according to the dietary needs of fish species and other marine wildlife. The Council has already take several of these steps.
Kelly Ames (NMFS) provided an overview of the Modern Fish Act, which became law on December 31, 2018. The Act aims to “expand recreational fishing opportunities through enhanced marine fishery conservation and management.” It defines management measures for recreational fisheries, creates recreational registry and data collection programs, and requires several new reports and studies. Specifically, Councils may “use fishery management measures in a recreational fishery… such as extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities.” The reports required of the Pacific Council and NMFS West Coast Region relate to cooperative data collection, the Marine Recreational Information Program, and state recreational data collection. The Act also reaffirms existing requirements under the MSA related to overfishing.
In other legislative news, Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Seth Moulton (D-WA) have introduced a bill that would amend the MSA to provide fisheries disaster relief for commercial fishery failures that are due to increases in duties on any United States seafood or fish products; and on June 27, the Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act, introduced by Jeff Merkley (D-OR), passed the House. This Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to assess and improve sanitation and safety conditions at Bureau of Indian Affairs facilities that were constructed to provide affected Columbia River Treaty tribes access to traditional fishing grounds.
The Council re-elected Phil Anderson as Council Chair and Marc Gorelnik as Council Vice-Chair for the 2019-2020 term. In addition, Jessica Watson was appointed to the vacant Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife positions on the Highly Migratory Species Management Team and the ad hoc Ecosystem Workgroup, Bob Dooley was appointed to the Council Coordination Committee’s Council Member Ongoing Development Subcommittee, and Christa Svensson will shadow U.S. Commissioner Dorothy Lowman, the Council’s representative to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, as a means of building understanding and international working relationships.
Allocation review procedures adopted
The Council adopted as final Council Operating Procedure 27, which specifies the triggers the Council will use to determine when intersector allocations should be reviewed.
The Council will consider either public interest or the passage of a specific time period as a potential trigger to determine whether an allocation should be reviewed. Once a trigger is met, and the Council identifies a schedule and resources for the review, the next step would be a preliminary evaluation of whether a change to the allocation should be considered. If so, the next step would be to develop alternatives and a complete analysis for Council consideration.