September 2022 Decision Summary Document

September 9-14, 2022 

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

Salmon Management

 Methodology Review – Final Topic Selection and Update on Model Improvements

The Council determined that the five priority candidate items identified at the April 2022 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 tentatively scheduled  to occur October 12-13, 2022 in preparation for the November 2022 Council meeting.  The topics slated for review are: 

1. Technical review of the updates associated with ‘Round 7.1.1’ of the Fishery Regulation Assessment Model (FRAM) base period as they relate to modeled abundances of Chinook salmon stocks used in determining the southern resident killer whale (SRKW) Chinook salmon abundance threshold.

2. Technical review of the updates to Chinook salmon ocean distribution models that derive from two publications (Shelton et al. 2019, 2021) and are used to apportion the modeled abundance of Chinook salmon stocks among ocean regions.

3. Discussion of whether the Sacramento Index forecast should be expressed as a mean or median.

4. Review of the basis behind the Sacramento River fall Chinook conservation objective.

5. Fisheries Regulation Assessment Model (FRAM) technical detail documentation.

For Items 1 and 2, the Council directed the STT to provide an updated value for the  SRKW Chinook salmon abundance threshold given the updated information currently available.

Pacific Halibut Management

2023 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 only for the Puget Sound subarea.  No changes were proposed for the North Coast, South Coast, and Columbia River Subareas.

Puget Sound Subarea

Option 1: Revise the CSP language to allow season openings up to five days per week during April, May, and June and up to seven days per week if sufficient quota remains to allow additional openings in August and September. 

Option 2: Revise the CSP language to allow season openings up to seven days per week during April, May, and June and up to seven days per week if sufficient quota remains to allow additional openings in August and September.

ODFW proposed one change for all Oregon ocean waters and three changes for the Central Oregon subarea.

Oregon Coastal Waters:

Option:  Allow all-depth halibut fishing and longleader gear fishing on the same trip with Pacific cod, sablefish, and other flatfish. 

Central Oregon subarea (options may be combined):

Opening Date Option:  If the Central Oregon Coast Subarea Spring All-Depth allocation is greater than 100,000 pounds, the season will open May 1. 

Days open per week: If the Central Oregon Coast Subarea Spring All-Depth allocation is greater than 100,000 pounds, the season may open up to seven days per week during months when the bottomfish fishery is not depth-restricted.

Daily Bag Limit Option:  If the Central Oregon Coast Subarea allocation (all-depth and nearshore combined) is 200,000 pounds or greater, the daily bag limit may be increased to two fish per day, based on consultation between ODFW, NMFS, International Pacific Halibut Commission, and Pacific Council with the intent of taking the entire subarea allocation by September 30.

Commercial-Directed Fishing Regulations for 2023

The Council adopted for public review a status quo season structure for 2023 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.

The Council also discussed scheduling a three-meeting process beginning in June 2023 to address inconsistencies in Federal regulations and additional management measures identified in the Enforcement Consultants Report.   This three-meeting process may also include the opportunity to consider any major changes to the Catch Sharing Plan.  

Habitat Issues

Current Habitat Issues

The Council considered habitat matters summarized in the Habitat Committee (HC) Supplemental Report 1, including a proposed letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the United States Bureau of Reclamation, and the California State Water Resources Control Board, recommending changes to the temperature standards for Central Valley Chinook salmon. The letter expresses concerns that the current temperature-dependent egg mortality thresholds are too high  to avoid excessive mortality during in-river egg incubation. The letter recommends adoption of a 53.5oF daily average temperature standard rather than the current 55oF.  The Council directed staff to make minor revisions and deliver the letter.  

Groundfish Management

Workload and New Management Measure Update

The Council reviewed the list of measures previously prioritized and the list of proposed groundfish management measures, as shown in Table A and Table B (respectively) in GMT Supplemental Report 2. The Council did not add to the list nor prioritize any new measures. The Council directed the Groundfish Management Team (GMT) to review and propose revisions to the proposed management measure list for the March 2023 meeting when the Council is expected to establish priorities.  

The Council directed the GMT to perform a preliminary analysis, including a workload assessment, of proposed management measure B15: Limited Entry Fixed Gear Review Follow-On Actions. The Council affirmed their intent to keep B13: Prohibition of a Directed Shortbelly Rockfish Fishery on the proposed management measure list. The Council considered but did not include a proposed management measure to allow at-sea processing of Pacific Whiting south of 42° N. lat. The Council indicated they may consider an exempted fishing permit to collect data necessary to inform such changes at a future meeting. 

The Council also reviewed proposed revisions to Council Operating Procedure (COP) 19: Protocol for Consideration of Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP) in Groundfish Fisheries.  The Council directed staff to undertake a comprehensive review of the COP in coordination with the GMT, Groundfish Advisory Subpanel (GAP), and other stakeholders, as appropriate. The Council will consider these revisions at a later date.

Electronic Monitoring Update

The Council received an update from the Chair of the Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Policy and Technical Advisory Committees (GEMPAC/TAC) regarding work being conducted by members of the GEMPAC/TAC and potential changes to the West Coast Electronic Monitoring (EM) Program that may reduce costs associated with the program.  The GEMPAC/TAC will meet in late October to discuss ongoing work and scope the need for a regulatory amendment package that would adjust EM program regulations that are scheduled to be effective January 1, 2024. The Council scheduled an EM agenda item for the November Council meeting.

Methodology Review – Preliminary Fishery Impact Model Topics and Final Assessment Methodologies

The Council selected a review of a revised sablefish trip limit model as a proposed methodology review topic as recommended by the Groundfish Management Team and endorsed by the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC).  Final selection of 2023 methodology review topics is scheduled to occur at the November 2022 Council meeting in Garden Grove, California. 

The Council also adopted the SSC endorsement of best practices for modeling hook-and-line survey data in stock assessments as well as use of the Species Distribution Model in Template Model Builder. 

Stock Definitions Update

The Council received a briefing on proposed priorities, a decision-making schedule, and other considerations for Amendment 31 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), which seeks to define groundfish stocks, including their area delineations, in the FMP.  The Council also discussed the need to closely coordinate stock definitions for stocks to be assessed in 2023 with the final decision on the 2023 stock assessment plan under Agenda Item G.7, the implications of which were outlined by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

The Council adopted a purpose and need for Amendment 31, prioritized those stocks assessed in 2021 and selected for assessment in 2023, and tasked Council staff to develop a white paper for the November 2022 Council meeting in consultation with the SSC, NMFS Science Center staff, NMFS West Coast Region staff, and state agencies to synthesize the state of the knowledge for priority stocks and the management implications of the different prioritized stock definitions.  The Council is scheduled to further consider Amendment 31 and decide a preliminary preferred alternative for stock definitions for those stocks to be assessed in 2023 at the November 2022 Council meeting in Garden Grove, California. 

Non-Trawl Area Management

The Council revised and finalized this action’s purpose and need statement, and adopted the following final range of alternatives as preliminary preferred alternatives for public review.

The Council adopted a purpose and need statement that would provide access to some areas that are currently closed by the non-trawl Rockfish Conservation Area (NT_RCA) while also implementing measures to address adverse impacts to essential fish habitat (EFH) and mitigate bycatch of groundfish, protected, and prohibited species. Such modifications would apply to the groundfish and non-tribal directed commercial halibut fisheries.

Alternative 1: Allow non-trawl fishery vessels (directed open access (OA), limited entry fixed gear, and individual fishing quota (IFQ) gear switchers) to use legal non-bottom contact hook-and-line gear in the Non-Trawl Rockfish Conservation Area between 46° 16’ N. latitude (the Oregon/Washington border) and the border of Mexico with the following additions and modifications:

  1. Limited Entry Fixed Gear (LEFG) vessels targeting groundfish in the NT_RCA using approved hook-and-line gear may fish up to LEFG trip limits (Suboption 1, G.6 Attachment 1).
  1. Only those vessels using vertical stationary jig gear may use natural bait.
  2. Add analysis of an option where the vertical stationary jig gear be suspended no less than 30 feet from the bottom.

Alternative 2: Adjust the seaward boundary of the NT_RCA to 75 fathoms off between 46° 16’ N. latitude and 34° 27’ N. latitude for both commercial groundfish and non-tribal directed halibut fishing activity with the following suboptions:

  1. Create a non-trawl bottom contact Essential Fish Habitat Conservation Area (EFHCA) in bottom trawl EFHCAs that would otherwise be reopened under this action for Nehalem Bank and Bandon High Spot;
  2. Create a non-trawl bottom contact EFHCA over the entire bottom trawl EFHCA for Garibaldi Reef North, Garibaldi Reef South, and Arago Reef;
  3. Develop a yelloweye rockfish conservation area (YRCA) for commercial non-trawl groundfish and non tribal directed halibut bottom contact gear in the area west of the Heceta Bank EFHCA which would be active when this action is implemented;
  4. Develop YRCAs for commercial non-trawl groundfish and non-tribal directed halibut bottom contact gear as presented in G.6 Attachment 1, Alternative 2, Suboption 3 which could be implemented in biennial management measures or inseason action.

Alternative 3: Repeal the Cowcod Conservation Areas (CCA) for Commercial and Recreational Groundfish Fisheries, and include the following:

  1. Proposed new NT_RCA lines around islands and banks for management within the current boundaries of the CCA;
  2. Eight proposed closed areas that prohibit fishing for groundfish: a) Hidden Reef, b) West of Santa Barbara Island c) Potato Bank, d) 107/118 Bank, e) Cherry Bank, f) Seamount 109, g) Northeast Bank, and h) the 43-Fathom Spot.  
    1. The following restrictions would be applied in the proposed closed areas:
      1. Allow continuous transit through the proposed closed areas with groundfish onboard provided gear is stowed (commercial) or not deployed (recreational).
      2. Maintain the ability to fish for non-groundfish species in these closed areas without groundfish aboard the vessel.

Alternative 4: Develop Block Area Closures for commercial non-trawl fisheries (directed OA, LEFG, and IFQ gear switching).

The Council removed an alternative from further analysis that would have moved portions of the seaward boundary of the NT_RCA off Washington for pot gear only.  The Council is expected to take final action in March 2023.

Stock Assessment Check-In and Plan – Final Action

The Council received an update from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center regarding upcoming stock assessments, and adopted the final list of 2023 groundfish stock assessments and the stock assessment review panel schedule. This is shown in Table 1 of Agenda Item G.7, Attachment 1, with the exception of a cowcod catch-only update given the Groundfish Management Team’s (GMT’s) recommendation that this was not needed.  The Council also adopted a preliminary list of 2025 groundfish stock assessment recommended by the GMT in Table 2 of their report.

Trawl Catch Share Program – Cost Project

The Council is initiating a study of industry and NMFS costs as they relate to the design of the current trawl catch share program, including both shoreside and at-sea components.  The study will also solicit and summarize industry concerns and compare trawl catch share program costs to other catch share programs with similar design or scope.  The results of the study are expected to provide a basis for Council evaluation of whether there are program changes that could reduce costs while adequately meeting management objectives.

Trawl Catch Share Program and Inter-Sector Allocation Review – Planning

The Council will begin its trawl catch share program and intersector allocation review process by developing and updating analytical documents that summarize the effects of its trawl catch share program and related intersector allocations. At its November 2022 meeting, the Council will decide on the timeline and location of trawl program and inter-sector allocation review hearings, which are tentatively planned for next spring.  In June, the Council will use the updated analytical documents and hearings as one basis for determining the scope of the reviews, and determine steps to take in moving through and finalizing the review process.

Inseason Adjustments – Final Action

The Council adopted the inseason recommendations as detailed in the GMT’s report, to be implemented by NMFS as soon as possible. In brief, these recommendations are as follows:

Sablefish North of 36° N. lat.

  • Limited Entry Fixed Gear (LEFG): increase trip limits to 4,500 lbs./week not to exceed 9,000 lbs./2 months
  • Open Access (OA): increase trip limits to 600 lbs./day, 4,000lbs. /week not to exceed 8,000 lbs./2 months

Canary Rockfish North of 40° 10′ N. lat.

  • LEFG: increase bi-monthly trip limits to 4,000 lbs. / 2 months
  • OA:  increase bi-monthly trip limits to 2,000 lbs. / 2 months

Canary Rockfish South of 40° 10′ N. lat.

  • LEFG: increase bi-monthly trip limits to 4,000 lbs. / 2 months
  • OA:  increase bi-monthly trip limits to 2,000 lbs. / 2 months

Lingcod North of 42° N. lat.

  • LEFG increase bi-monthly trip limits to 5,000 lbs. / 2 months
  • OA increase monthly trip limits to 2,500  lbs. / month

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (Agenda Item G.10.a, ODFW Supplemental Report 1) informed the Council it is considering changing the daily recreational fishery bag limit in the longleader gear fishery beginning in 2023 and is beginning stakeholder discussions.

Ecosystem Management

Fishery Ecosystem Plan Initiatives Appendix and New Initiative

The Council:

Western Regional Action Plan

The Council directed staff to transmit the Council’s recommendations on the Western Regional Action Plan (WRAP) to NMFS. This includes the following recommendations found in advisory body reports and public comments presented at the Council’s September meeting:

  • Include the scientific work needed to support what is now characterized as potential Initiative 2.2 (Science Policy and Planning for Understanding the Effects of Oceanographic Conditions and Recruitment on Council-Managed Finfish Species) in the September 2022 draft Fishery Ecosystem Plan appendix (Agenda Item H.1.a, EWG Report 1).
  • List, either in the updated WRAP or on a website specific to the task, the management strategy evaluations (MSEs) completed to date on West Coast species or fisheries, with links to papers published from that work. 
  • Consider how the WRAP can be used as a public informational document, especially to help gather the capacity and assemble the resources needed to carry on the work.
  • Explore how fishing vessels may be used to gather climate and ecosystem related data.
  • Report back to the Council on how funding the NMFS Climate, Ecosystem, and Fisheries Initiative could further the Council’s work under its Fishery Ecosystem Plan
  • Report back to the Council on long-term research priorities, beyond the three to five year timeline of the WRAP.
  • Report back to the Council on how the results of climate informed MSEs could help further the Council’s work under its FEP initiatives.

 Highly Migratory Species Management

International Management Activities

Based on input from its Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel (HMSAS), the Council made the following recommendations for U.S. positions at the October WCPFC Northern Committee meeting:

  • Voice the expectation that other countries will consult with their stakeholders and be prepared to adopt proposals on elements of a precautionary and comprehensive long-term Pacific bluefin harvest strategy in 2023, particularly management objectives, performance indicators, reference points, and harvest control rules.
  •  Adopt a clear work plan for the International Scientific Committee (ISC) that prioritizes development of elements of the Pacific bluefin tuna management strategy evaluation (MSE) in 2023.  This should be an opportunity to proactively address, and correct, the current inequity of the Western Pacific Ocean/Eastern Pacific Ocean and U.S./Mexico allocations.
  • Ensure that any North Pacific albacore harvest strategy adopted by the Northern Committee mirrors the harvest strategy in IATTC Resolution C-22-04. Specifically, consideration of harvest control rules should occur in 2023.

The Council also requested that NMFS provide information to and solicit informal input from U.S. stakeholders regarding MSE development that will be discussed at the upcoming November ISC Pacific Bluefin Working Group technical meeting on MSE development and provide an update on the U.S. contribution to MSE analyst capacity at the November Council meeting. 

Finally, NMFS should organize a workshop or workshops in early 2023 to engage stakeholders on harvest control rules that should be incorporated into the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission North Pacific albacore harvest strategy.

Exempted Fishing Permits

The Council reviewed the six exempted fishing permit (EFP) applications submitted for review at the September meeting and recommended NMFS issue EFPs to Gregory Harold (Attachment 1) for standard deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) and to Kris Honings (Attachment 2) to test standard DSBG with up to 10 pieces of gear at night. Fishing under these EFPs would occur in Federal waters only. The Council deferred a recommendation on the remaining four applications until a later date when more information would be available, as discussed below.

The Council directed its HMS Management Team to report back to the Council at a future meeting with information to inform the development of criteria for EFPs to test modified DSBG configurations, and specifically increases in the number of pieces of gear simultaneously deployed from the current limit of 10. The Council also asked NMFS to provide information on how any criteria established by the Council for future EFPs of this sort would influence the nature of any Endangered Species Act consultation process NMFS may need to undertake.

Swordfish Management and Monitoring Plan

The Council discussed the goals outlined in the draft  Swordfish Management and Monitoring Plan (SMMP) and the actions in  Supplemental NMFS Report 1, including existing and new exempted fishing permits (EFP), potential EFP metrics, the forthcoming Federal regulations for the deepset buoy gear fishery, and potential future fisheries. The Council recommended that the HMSMT and HMSAS scope the goals and objectives for a future swordfish workshop at their fall meetings. It’s intended that outcomes of the workshop would guide future Council discussions regarding the draft SMMP and HMS FMP. Further consideration of this workshop is scheduled for the June 2023 Council meeting.

Administrative Matters

Research and Data Needs

The Council was briefed on the development of the new Research and Data Needs database.  They adopted the proposed format of the database and approved a process for soliciting and posting new projects to the database as recommended by the Scientific and Statistical Committee.  The Council and its advisors are scheduled to start prioritizing new and existing research and data needs projects using the database next year.

Equity and Environmental Justice

The Council received a presentation on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Equity and Environmental Justice Strategy and will be writing a letter in support.  Council staff will be working with NMFS staff on regional plans to implement the policy with respect to Council policies and processes.  

Council Meeting and Process Efficiencies

The Council reviewed the staff white paper on Council effectiveness and efficiencies. This paper provides a review of Council operations and provides several considerations that may assist in creating a more efficient process and improved decision-making capabilities, while noting the Council is already an exceptionally well-functioning institution. The Council discussed the range of recommendations contained in the advisory body reports and public comments and directed staff to further explore the tradeoffs associated with meeting formats (e.g., in person, hybrid, and remote). The evaluation will include criteria that could be used to guide the selection of meeting format along with considerations for improving communications, team functions, and public accessibility.  The Council is scheduled to revisit the Council Meeting and Process Efficiencies topic at the April and June 2023 Council meetings. 

Marine Planning

The Council approved the draft offshore wind guidance document for use as an inward-facing tool to help support the Council, Staff, and Advisory Bodies with response and consideration of future offshore wind energy development activity. The Council directed the Marine Planning Committee to discuss the Pacific Port Access Route Study during its September 30 meeting, in anticipation of a Quick Response letter process.  The Council also directed the Marine Planning Committee to engage in the suitability modeling being developed by the National Ocean Service to inform wind energy area identification in Call Areas off Oregon.

Fiscal Matters

The Council approved the request to have a special October 2022 Budget Committee meeting in addition to the regularly scheduled November 2022 Budget Committee meeting. The purpose of the special October 2022 meeting is to consider options for 2023 budget setting.

Membership Appointments and Council Operating Procedures (COP)

The Council made the following Advisory Body appointments:

  • Mr. Alan Lovewell was appointed to the California At-large position on the Ecosystem Advisory Panel formerly held by Ms. Melissa Mahoney.
  • Mr. Leonard Krug was appointed to the vacant Sport Fishing position on the Habitat Committee.
  • Dr. Tommy Moore was appointed to a vacant At-Large position on the Scientific and Statistical Committee.
  • Ms. Laura Ingulsrud was appointed to the National Marine Sanctuary position on the Habitat Committee formerly held by Dr. Lisa Wooninck.
  • Ms. Grace Easterbrook was appointed to the vacant California Department of Fish and Wildlife position on the Model Evaluation Workgroup.
  • Dr. Richard Zabel was appointed to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center position on the Salmon Technical Team formerly held by Ms. Mindy Rowse.

Additionally, the Council approved modifications to COP 23 to clarify procedures for reviewing coastal pelagic species exempted fishing permits (EFPs).  The Council also directed staff to complete a holistic review of all EFP processes and timelines as well as to conduct a housekeeping exercise across all COPs to make them consistent with current practices.