The North Pacific Fishery Management Council met in Kodiak June 4-11. Council meetings in fishing communities provide valuable engagement opportunities for both community residents and Council members. Representatives from Alaska Marine Conservation Council attended all meetings, and have developed discussion highlights:
Upon review of a discussion paper examining federal groundfish effort and observer coverage in areas associated with longstanding Tanner crab abundance on the east side of Kodiak Island, the Council voted to take no further action at this time. The areas identified remain a high priority to Kodiak Tanner crab fishermen to better understand the contribution to the Tanner crab stocks in critical crab habitat. Kodiak fishermen were interested in pursuing increased observer coverage in these areas. In 2010 the Council voted to require 100% observer coverage on non-pelagic trawl vessels and 30% observer coverage on pot cod vessels in order to fish in identified statistical areas until the restructured observer program was implemented.
The new observer coverage went into effect in 2013, prior to implementing increased coverage, and thus the increased coverage action was never implemented. Improvements to the observer program have been identified as a high priority and an action to focus coverage in particular areas at this time may hinder a more inclusive approach.
The Council established an ad hoc Community Engagement Committee and will solicit nominations for this committee. The Council adopted a charter that aims to increase participation in the Council process by tribes and rural communities.
The membership of the committee will benefit from rural and tribal representatives and people with necessary expertise in the Council process to accomplish the committee’s goals. The community engagement committee will not replace the Council’s existing community outreach efforts which have very instrumental in the decision-making process but will seek measures to improve communication and understanding between rural communities, tribes and the Council.
Social Science Planning Team
The newly formed Social Science Planning Team (SSPT) met for its first meeting May 8 and 9 and began with reiterating the mission of the group, which is to improve the quality and application of social science data that informs management decision-making and program evaluation. The SSPT will identify data needs, make recommendations regarding research priorities, and advise analysts in efforts to improve analytical frameworks when possible. The SSPT will support the collection and aggregation of social science data in a manner that cuts across Fishery Management Plans and specific management programs within the North Pacific region.
During its two full days of meeting, the SSPT discussed numerous topics including subsistence data, use of existing data in policy analysis, economic data collection of North Pacific fisheries, incorporating qualitative information, moving toward co-production of knowledge and expanding stakeholder engagement. In addition to the current membership of the SSPT the Council recommended that membership expand to include a seat or two to include individuals with expertise in local and traditional knowledge. A call for nominations will be initiated with the intent of further appointments made in October.
During the final day of the meeting in Kodiak the Council responded to public comments in regards to the access challenges into the IFQ halibut/sablefish program and requested that staff develop a discussion to review existing programs that facilitate access opportunities for rural communities and new entrants within limited access fisheries.
The Council requested that the discussion paper include an evaluation of Norway’s Recruitment Quota as a program example along with other global initiatives to provide access that were highlighted in a presentation on the Turning the Tide report earlier in the meeting. The report addresses the growing problem of fisheries’ access in Alaska and provides potential solutions to barriers to entry. The Council requested that the discussion paper consider the efficacy of these programs, including successes and failures in providing fisheries access, the potential functionality of programs within the North Pacific management framework and how these programs may comply with standards under the Magnuson- Stevens Act.
The Council heard from a number of young Kodiak fishermen who own boats, hire crew, seek additional employment to make ends meet, but don’t see a path into the IFQ fishery due primarily to the high cost and risk associated with financing quota.