Highly migratory species advisory bodies to review options on deep-set buoy gear limited entry program
NMFS briefed the Council on elements of its final preferred alternative for the deep-set buoy gear limited entry program that require clarification, including the qualification criteria for a limited entry permit. The highly migratory species advisory bodies will review options to revise these elements, and the Council will next consider these changes in March 2021.
Council weighs in on Pacific bluefin tuna management
At its November 30-December 4 meeting, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) adopted a new measure that sets a 425 metric ton Pacific bluefin tuna catch limit for the U.S. in 2021. This is a one-year rollover of the current two-year measure. Because the IATTC meeting was conducted online, a more extensive revision of Pacific bluefin catch limits was deferred until 2021 with the hope it can be conducted in person.
In a related action, the Council recommended modifications to the domestic trip limit system for Pacific bluefin tuna fisheries for 2021. The current pre-trip notification requirement would be eliminated, while the requirement that electronic fish tickets be submitted within 24-hours of the landing would be retained.
The Council recommended an initial trip limit of 20 mt. During the first quarter (January 1 – March 31), the catch limit would be reduced to 15 mt when annual landings reached 250 mt. The trip limit would then be reduced to 2 mt when annual landings reached 325 mt.
During the second quarter (April 1 – June 30), the catch limit would be reduced to 15 mt when annual landings reached 275 mt. The trip limit would then be reduced to 2 mt when annual landings reached 350 mt.
During the third quarter (July 1 – September 30), the catch limit would be reduced to 15 mt when annual landings reached 300 mt. The trip limit would then be reduced to 2 mt when annual landings reached 375 mt.
During the fourth quarter (October 1 – December 31), the catch limit would be reduced to 15 mt when annual landings reached 325 mt. The trip limit would then be reduced to 2 mt when annual landings reached 375 mt.
NMFS will now begin the process to publish regulations implementing these trip limits.
Council briefed on status determination criteria for highly migratory stocks
Every two years, the Council reviews the benchmarks (“status determination criteria”) that NMFS uses to determine whether HMS stocks are subject to overfishing or are overfished.
This year, the IATTC scientific staff used a new approach in their latest stock assessments for eastern Pacific Ocean yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which presented challenges for NMFS. The assessments use a probability-based framework, which show stock status in terms of the likelihood that the stock is subject to overfishing or overfished. NMFS must translate these results into discrete status determination criteria benchmarks. As a result, the Scientific and Statistical Committee will work with NMFS and IATTC staff on this task. The results will be reported to the Council in March 2021. Over the longer term, the SSC may recommend standardized methods for identifying stock determination criteria for international stock assessments that use a probabilistic framework.
NMFS reports on hard caps for large-mesh drift gillnet fishery
In November, NMFS reported on hard cap regulations for the California large-mesh drift gillnet fishery. NMFS explained its process for reviewing the Council’s original proposal, described how the Council could modify these regulations to lessen their economic impact, and summarized public comment NMFS received on the regulations before they were issued.
The Council tasked the HMS advisory bodies with developing options for clarifying the purpose and need statement for the Council’s hard caps action, and developing alternative approaches to address NMFS’ concerns about negative economic impacts. Any alternatives must still meet the Council’s goal of encouraging fishing behavior that minimizes bycatch. This topic is set for Council discussion in June 2021.