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Summary of June Herring Committee Meeting
June 11, 2009
As many of you know, last week (Thursday/Friday), the NEFMC Herring Committee met in Portland, Maine, to continue working on Herring Amendment 4. This Amendment has been underway for well over a year now- and was actually initiated in November of 2007- and in that time quite a bit of work has been done. As I have explained before, there are currently 4 alternatives in the document: one that was developed by Council staff, one that was developed by CHOIR, one that was developed by the midwater trawl industry, and one that was submitted by MA DMF. While initially the Council was hoping to be able to move forward alternatives at this point in time, after a long year the process is not far enough along and so that was not possible. This has led to some possible changes in the time-line that I will explain below.
The Committee meeting was full of reports: from the Plan Development Team (PDT), the Herring Advisory Panel (AP) and the Enforcement Committee. These bodies all met in the previous months in order to discuss the amendment and offer insight on the amendment process.
There was also some discussion of the results of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) meeting. Finally, a presentation was done on the ‘EVTR’ system, or the Electronic Vessel Trip Report system, which is a new system being tested in other fisheries. While this system has been included in the midwater trawl industry alternative, the report left some to doubt how useful it would be in the midwater trawl fisheries. According to the presentation, this equipment has not been tested in midwater trawl fisheries, it is not tamper-proof, and it is still in the testing phase. There are also legal issues that may get in the way of its possible use. While it may be possible in the future, there will be a lot of work required for that to happen.
Finally, the Committee spent a good deal of time discussing the issue of Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) and Accountability Measures (Ams). As some of you may know, these are new legal requirements under the revised Magnuson Act. While there are a lot of complex issues involved in the ACL/AM discussion, the big discussion at this meeting had to do with the issue of overages. If you go over your quota, what happens? Some feel that paybacks are needed in case of quota overages. Some do not. In our opinion, if you go over you should have a payback so that the quota is take off to account for the overage. The Committee struggled with this issue and it will be up to the full Council to decide.
There were two important events on day 2. The first was the Committee decision to include additions to Alternative 3- the Alternative we developed. After our discussions at meetings and with industry, we found that there were some important changes needed in order to make the alternative stronger.
The second big event on Day 2 was the move by the Committee to spilt the Amendment. As mentioned above, the time-line for this amendment initially set out that we would already have finalized the alternatives by this point in time. But after working for the last year, the process has taken longer than expected. This summer, the Council staff- the ones developing the amendment- have to work on the Specification (specs) process, which is the process of setting TACs and other settings for the fishery. They believe this process will take at least the whole summer. So they believe that the amendment will basically not be worked on for the next 3-4 months. On top of this, you have the legal deadline for setting up ACLs and AMs. Some feel that because of the deadline, and the delay caused by the Specs process, that if you continue trying to do a monitoring program in Amendment 4, that you will make it so that you dont have the ACLs and AMs in place in time for the legal deadline. In other words, monitoring is taking so long that it really needs to be pushed back so that we can the other stuff done first.
This worries some people because what this really means is that we will not see a good monitoring system in the herring fishery for longer than first expected. Others feel that if you dont split you will not be able to have a good monitoring system developed because it will be rushed. But one issue that everyone can agree on is that if you do split the amendment, that you need to make sure that Amendment 5 is narrow in scope- that is, that it only addresses the parts of Amendment 4 that are not going to be done in time, and that new work is not added. For example, some worry that if the Amendment is split that the midwater industry will try to push for allocation again.This was not only disliked by most in the herring industry, but it would also be tremendously time consuming. Luckily, the Committee voted that if the amendment is split, that Amendment 5 would only address the issues that were supposed to be done in Amendment 4. While some are unhappy with the idea of the split, everyone agrees that if the split happens that the scope for Amendment 5 has to be narrowed. What this means is that if the Council decides to take the Committee recommendation and they split the amendments, the monitoring program will be delayed by as much as a year (or possibly more). It remains to be seen what will happen, since all of this needs to be decided upon by the full Council at its meeting in a couple weeks. (As an aside, some have highlighted that a split in order to allow for ACLs/AMs to go through does not make sense because they feel you cannot have ACLs and AMs without a proper monitoring program. This will likely receive discussion at the Council meeting.)
While there was supposed to be discussion of all 4 alternatives, once again, the discussion was focused almost entirely on Alternative 3. For one reason or another, this Alternative has received much more thought an discussion than the other 3 alternatives. This is likely due in large part to the highly developed nature of the proposal when we submitted it. Unfortunately, until the Committee and the Council as a whole works on the other alternatives, the Amendment will not go anywhere. We are all hoping that they quickly start work on these other alternatives to get them to the detail level that Alternative 3 is at so that the amendment can move forward.
Anyways, I could go on and on, a lot happened at this meeting, but those are the biggest points. It is important to remember that the full Council will be discussing all of this at its meeting on June 23rd, at the Holiday Inn By The Bay, in Portland, Maine. The whole day is dedicated to herring. I hope that some of you will show up for this important meeting.
Lastly, while I have tried to nail the big issues at this meeting, I hope that those of you who were there will respond with any issues that I may have missed.