September 2021 Decision Document

September 9-11, 13-15 2021 

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 or the Council newsletter.

Groundfish Management 

Stock Assessment Methodology Review

The Council adopted proposed stock assessment methodology reviews for 1) the sdmTMB framework for standardizing indices, 2) a hydro-acoustic/visual survey of semi-pelagic nearshore rockfish off Oregon, and 3) three workshop topics recommended by the SSC.  These reviews and workshops will be scheduled for next year.

Pacific Whiting Utilization in the At-Sea Sectors

The Council adopted the following range of alternatives and preliminary preferred alternatives (in bold):

  1. Whiting Season Start Date (for all whiting sectors, north of 40° 30’ N. lat.)
    1. Status Quo: May 15
    2. Alternative 1: May 1, with annual cooperative applications and Salmon Mitigation Plans due 45 days prior to the season start date (PPA)
  1. Mothership Processor Obligation
    1. Status Quo: Mothership processor obligation made by November 30 through mothership catcher vessel endorsed limited entry permit renewal
    2. Alternative 1: Remove mothership processor obligation from regulation (PPA)
  1. Mothership Processor Cap
    1. Status Quo: 45%
    2. Alternative 1: 65%
    3. Alternative 2: 85%
    4. Alternative 3: Remove mothership processor cap from regulation (PPA)
  1. Mothership Processor & Catcher/Processor Permit Transfer
    1. Status Quo: A vessel cannot be registered to a mothership permit and a catcher/processor permit in the same calendar year
    2. Alternative 1: A vessel can be registered to a mothership permit and a catcher/processor permit in the same calendar year (PPA)
      1. Sub-option A: A vessel can switch between the mothership sector and catcher/processor sector up to two times during the calendar year through permit transfer
      2. Sub-option B: A vessel can switch between the mothership sector and catcher/processor sector up to four times during the calendar year through permit transfer
      3. Sub-option C: Unlimited transfers (PPA) 

Electronic Monitoring — Final Action

The Council recommended National Marine Fisheries Service delay implementation of the groundfish electronic monitoring program for all trip types for at least two years, thereby establishing a start date for the use of electronic monitoring on fishing trips to be no earlier than January 1, 2024. In addition, the Council recommends extending the use of existing electronic monitoring Exempted Fishing Permits through 2023.

Sablefish Gear Switching 

The Council passed two motions that established three alternatives: Status quo (no action) and two action alternatives.  One action alternative would create gear-specific quota shares (trawl-only and any-gear quota), and the second would establish gear-switching endorsements that would be placed on vessel limited entry permits.  Vessels with permits that have gear-switching endorsements would be able to do more gear-switching than vessels without such endorsements.  The Council is tentatively scheduled to receive a preliminary analysis on these alternatives at its March 2022 meeting, at which time there will be an opportunity to provide further guidance on the alternatives and development of the analysis.

Adopt Stock Assessments

The Council adopted new stock assessments, stock category designations, and catch-only projections recommended by the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) as follows:

The SSC also informed the Council the yelloweye rockfish catch report indicates rebuilding progress has been adequate. These assessments and catch-only projections will inform management for fisheries in 2023 and beyond. 

The Council further tasked the SSC to provide advice in November on how to determine appropriate stock delineations for copper, quillback, and vermilion/sunset rockfish given new assessments for these species. 

Inseason Adjustments — Final Action

The Council adopted the following inseason changes to the limited entry fixed gear (LEFG) and open access (OA) daily trip limits (DTL) for sablefish, and LEFG/OA  trip limits for lingcod:  

Sablefish DTL North of 36° N. lat. :

LEFG North of 36° N. lat. DTL Sablefish

  • 4,500 lbs./week not to exceed 9,000 lbs./2 months

OA North of 36° N. lat. DTL Sablefish

  • 600 lbs. daily, or 1 landing per week up to 3,000 lbs., not to exceed 6,000 lbs./2 months

Lingcod trip limits North of 42° N. lat 

LEFG North of 42° N. lat. Lingcod

  • 5,000 lbs./ 2 months

OA North of 42° N. lat. Lingcod

  • 2,500 lbs./ month

For the projected impacts on yelloweye rockfish mortality in the 2021 Pacific halibut fishery the Council adopted 2.66 mt, which is the average of years with observer data (2017-2020).

The Council recommended these changes to be implemented as soon as possible, recognizing the emergency rule for a season extension of the 2021 limited entry fixed gear primary sablefish fishery (under Agenda Item C.9, below) would take precedence. 

Initial Harvest Specifications and Management Measure Actions for 2023-2024 

The Council conditionally adopted the 2023-2024 OFLs, stock categories, and P* values for West Coast groundfish stocks and stock complexes, except for spiny dogfish, California copper rockfish, California quillback rockfish, and California squarespot rockfish.  The Council will confirm or update these values after receiving results of the SSC’s review of all values in November 2021.

In addition, the Council requested projections associated with the alternative harvest control rules for sablefish, lingcod, dogfish, Oregon black rockfish, vermillion/sunset rockfish, California copper rockfish, and quillback rockfish prior to the November Council meeting to inform adoption of a range of alternative harvest control rules at that time.

The Council also adopted the preliminary range of management measures for 2023 and 2024 recommended by the Groundfish Management Team for public review.  The Council is soliciting input from the public for its consideration in November on the priorities for these management measures, recognzing the workload associated with analyzing impacts of the full range may be beyond the capacity of available staff resources.

Emergency Action to Consider a Season Extension for the 2021 Limited Entry Fixed Gear Primary Sablefish Fishery – Final Action

The Council modified its September 2021 agenda to consider emergency action for an extension of the primary sablefish fishery to allow limited entry fixed gear primary sablefish vessels to access the remainder of their allocations in the West Coast limited entry fixed gear fishery after many vessels, which also participate in the Alaska fixed gear sablefish fishery, encountered unforeseen fishery delays and restrictions due to COVID-19 issues. The Council recommended National Marine Fisheries Service implement emergency rulemaking to amend the groundfish regulations to temporarily allow an extension of the 2021 primary sablefish fishery end date from October 31, 2021 to December 31, 2021. The Council also recommended continuing the incidental Pacific halibut allowance for this fishery north of Point Chehalis, Washington through noon local time December 7, 2021.  The current landing limit is 225 pounds (dressed weight) of Pacific halibut per 1,000 pounds of sablefish (dressed weight) with up to two additional Pacific halibut in excess of the ratio.

Highly Migratory Species Management

Exempted Fishing Permits

The Council recommended that the National Marine Fisheries Service issue a single exempted fishing permit (EFP) covering the activities proposed in the applications submitted by Mr. John Bateman and Mr. Austen Brown. When issuing the EFP, associated Terms and Conditions should incorporate the protective measures described in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Report, but with a maximum of 150 hooks per set (rather than the 75 hooks stated in the report), and the Enforcement Consultant Report, which were submitted under this agenda item.

The Council did not take action on the portion of the application submitted by Mr. Nathan Perez for fishing in selected areas in California state waters. A Federal EFP is not applicable for activities in state waters; however, the Council did recommend reissuance of his existing EFP for activities in Federal waters.

Salmon Management

Methodology Review — Final Topic Selection

The Council determined that the four priority candidate items identified at the April 2021 Council meeting will be ready for review by the Scientific and Statistical Committee Salmon Subcommittee and the Salmon Technical Team. The Salmon Methodology Review is expected to occur in October in preparation for the November 2021 Council meeting.  The topics slated for review are:  

1) Complete the documentation of the Chinook Fishery Regulation Assessment Model (FRAM) program, including algorithms and the User Manual.

2) Evaluate post-season metrics of FRAM model performance.

3) Provide documentation of the abundance forecast approach used for Willapa Bay natural coho.

4) Review the Oregon Production Index Hatchery coho forecast methodology.

Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho Endangered Species Act Consultation

The Council provided guidance to the ad hoc Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast (SONCC) Coho Workgroup.  The Council asked the Workgroup to include in the Risk Assessment report additional information on:

  1. The coho Fishery Regulation Assessment Model (FRAM) and how it is used in both pre- and post-season settings to project or estimate impacts on SONCC coho salmon with brief descriptions of the base period coded-wire tag (CWT) data used to inform the model for Rogue-Klamath coho salmon, and how non-retention impacts are determined.
  2. Potential constraints the Harvest Control Rules (HCRs) under consideration may impose on specific ocean fisheries. This additional content should illustrate the specific months and sectors by region that the FRAM coho model projects are consistently costly in terms of impacts to SONCC coho salmon. 
  1. How the HCRs might be used in a planning setting, including preseason implementation alternatives that rely on (a) preseason projections of ocean and freshwater impacts for the forthcoming season only, and (b) a multi-year running-average approach that considers the combination of preseason projections and postseason estimates.

Pacific Halibut Management 

2022 Catch Sharing Plan and Annual Regulations

The Council adopted for public review proposed 2022 Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) and annual regulations changes.  The adopted proposals are consistent with those found in the reports from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife did not propose any changes for 2022.  

WDFW proposed changes

  1. All Washington subareas:  Work with National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) to identify potential changes to the CSP to streamline NMFS regulatory process to allow for continued flexibility in inseason management.
  2. Puget Sound Subarea: Revise the CSP language to allow season openings up to four or five days per week.
  3. Coastal subareas (Columbia River, North Coast, and South Coast): In addition to status quo, analyze the following season structure under the following three options – open the coastal subarea on the first Thursday in May, two days per week for the specified period or until the combined coastal subarea allocation is taken. Each subarea would be open one weekday and one weekend day. The weekday would be the same in all areas (e.g., Thursday) the weekend day could be different based on area preference (e.g., Sunday in the south coast and Saturday in the north coast).

Option a: Open four weeks

Option b: Open five weeks

Option c: Open six weeks

If coastal subarea allocation remains after the initial weeks as described in Options a, b, and c, the balance will be distributed to the three coastal subareas consistent with status quo allocations. Additional fishing days will follow the ‘Thursday plus one weekend day’ model.

ODFW proposed changes

  1. Central Oregon Coast and Columbia River Subareas:  Allow Groundfish Retention on All All-Depth Dates 
    1. Status quo: During periods when the groundfish fishery is depth restricted, only sablefish, Pacific cod, and other flatfish species or longleader gear species are allowed with all-depth halibut. 
    2. Alternative 1: All groundfish (within bottomfish bag limits) would be allowed with halibut; this would include lingcod, greenlings, rockfish species, etc.
  2. Central Oregon Coast subarea:  All-depth open days (Alternatives may be combined) 
    1. Status quo: The Central Oregon Coast Subarea Spring and Summer All-Depth season is open Thursdays through Saturdays.
    2. Alternative 1: If the Central Oregon Coast Subarea Spring All-Depth allocation is greater than 100,000 pounds, the season may open seven days per week starting the 2nd Thursday in May through May 31; then open every Thursday through Saturday, except weeks can be skipped to avoid adverse tides.
    3. Alternative 2: If after the first summer all-depth opening (first Thursday-Saturday in August), it is estimated that there will be 60,000 pounds or more remaining on the Central Oregon Coast combined nearshore and all-depth quotas remaining, the fishery may open seven days per week beginning the Tuesday after Labor Day.
  3.  Central Oregon Coast subarea: Daily Bag Limit
    1. Status quo: The bag limit can be increased to two fish after Labor Day.
    2. Alternative 1: At the conclusion of the spring all-depth season, the International Pacific Halibut Commission, NMFS, Pacific Fishery Management Council, and ODFW will consult to determine whether increasing the bag limit to two fish is warranted with the intent of taking the subarea quota by September 30.

Commercial-Directed Fishery Regulations for 2022

The Council adopted for public review a status quo season structure for 2022 described as: 

A series of three-day openings, beginning at 8 a.m. on the fourth Tuesday in June and ending at 6 p.m. on the Thursday of that week. Additional three-day openings would occur every other week, Tuesday through Thursday, until the directed fishery allocation is obtained.

Ecosystem Management

Fishery Ecosystem Plan Five-Year Review

The Council directed the ad hoc Ecosystem Workgroup (EWG) to address comments on the draft revised Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) provided in advisory body reports under this agenda item. A final revised draft should be made available for an extended public review period in advance of the March 2022 Council meeting. The Council intends to adopt the revised FEP at that meeting, concluding the review process. In doing so, additional initiatives may be incorporated into FEP Appendix A, which describes potential future FEP initiatives for Council consideration.

Climate and Communities Initiative

The Council agreed that the EWG should resume primary responsibility for work on the Climate and Communities Initiative. It directed the EWG to compile a list of potential tasks flowing from the results of the Initiative. In compiling the list, the EWG will consider the activities identified in the Climate and Communities Core Team Report, and other advisory body reports and public comment submitted under this agenda item. Activities should be grouped according to whether they are part of the ongoing work of the Council under its Fishery Management Plans, a potential future FEP initiative, or other Council-relevant activities that don’t fall within the first two categories. The EWG should prioritize the list of activities and assess the likely workload associated with each.

The Council intends to review this list at its March 2022 meeting and decide which activity or activities to undertake in the near term.

Habitat Issues

Current Habitat Issues

The Council directed the Habitat Committee (HC) to draft a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management commenting on a programmatic environmental impact statement for decommissioning West Coast ocean oil rigs for the deadline of September 30, 2021.  The Council will use its quick response process to approve the letter. The Council also directed the HC to track the Nordic Aquafarms Environmental Impact Review process and to prepare a letter in response to this process for the November Council meeting in the event the document is released in time for comment approval at that meeting. In addition, Council asked the HC to be prepared to draft a letter on Klamath River dam removal when the draft Environmental Impact Statement is released in February or when it becomes available.

Administrative Matters

Marine Planning 

The Council approved sending comment letters to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the Morro Bay Extensions and the Humboldt Wind Energy Area, and a letter to the California State Lands Commission on two pilot projects proposed in state waters off Vandenberg Air Force Base. The letters express concern about potential impacts to fisheries, habitat, and coastal economies, from commercial offshore wind farms.  The Council also asked the Marine Planning Committee to develop comments for a potential letter to BOEM on future offshore wind planning off Oregon. The Council intends to continue work on marine planning during its November 2021 meeting where it is anticipated the Council will receive updates on recent developments and plan for future engagement.

Legislative Matters 

The Council directed staff to finalize a letter responding to Representative Huffman’s request for comment on H.R. 4690, Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, and to submit the letter by the deadline of September 30 using the quick response approval process.

Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology

The Council adopted for public review the following range of alternatives for possible changes to the Council’s fishery management plans (FMP):

  1. No action
  2. Modify FMP language to meet the SBRM requirements per the following:
    1. Highly Migratory Species FMP revisions presented in HMSMT Report 1
    2. Coastal Pelagic Species FMP revisions presented in CPSMT Report 1.
    3. Salmon FMP revisions presented STT Report 1.

Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures 

The Council Chair made the following appointments for representatives to other forums: Mr. Phil Anderson reappointed to the U.S. Section of the Joint Management Committee of the U.S.-Canada Pacific Hake/Whiting Agreement, and Ms. Corey Ridings to the Pacific Offshore Cetacean Take Reduction Team.

The Council appointed Mr. Phillip Dionne to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife position on the Highly Migratory Species Management Team formerly held by Mr. Derek Dapp, appointed Ms. Liz Hellmers to replace Mr. Travis Buck as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife representative to the ad hoc Ecosystem Workgroup, and appointed Mr. Steve Joner to the Tribal seat on the ad hoc Marine Planning Committee.

The Council reviewed proposed changes to the Council Operating Procedures (COPs) and adopted the following changes.

  • Regarding the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel composition:
    • Relabel the two Commercial At-Large seats as Commercial Fisheries North and South of Point Conception.
    • Add a Private Recreational North of Pt. Conception position and relabel the existing Private Recreational position as South of Pt. Conception.
    • Change the At-Large position to a Deep-Set Buoy Gear Position.
  • Regarding the Groundfish Endangered Species Workgroup composition, add a Fishing Industry Representative position.
  • Revise COP 4 to allow At-Large Scientific and Statistical Committee members to request an alternate.
  • Revise COPs 2, 5, 7, and 8 to remove language referring to “majority and minority” reports but continue to require Advisory Body Chairs to report areas of consensus and differences.

The Council will soon be soliciting nominations for the 2022-2024 advisory body term including all Advisory Subpanel positions, non-agency positions on the Habitat Committee, and at-large positions on the Scientific and Statistical Committee.  The Council is scheduled to fill these positions at its November meeting.

The Council decommissioned the ad hoc Climate Scenarios Investigation Workgroup, the ad hoc Climate and Communities Core Team, and the ad hoc Southern Resident Killer Whale Workgroup because these groups have completed their work.