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9/16 SSC Meeting, 9/17 NEFMC Herring Committee Meeting, 9/23 NEFMC Meeting
October 05, 2009
There have been a bunch of important herring meetings lately, with a lot of important developments. Below are short summaries of these meetings.– 9/16 Science and Statistical Committee Meeting, Warwick RI
As has been mentioned on here once or twice in the past month, there have been some major developments regarding the science pertaining to Atlantic herring stocks. Since herring is a shared resource between Canada and the US, much of the major stock assessment work is done by scientists from both countries under what is called the Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee, or TRAC. The TRAC met this summer to do an update on the stock assessment. The results showed that the herring resource is not as healthy as had been believed. Due to what the TRAC calls a “signifcant retrospective pattern”, it appears that Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB0 has been greatly overestimated in recent years, at a range of 14-56%, averaging slightly above 40%. What this means is that the models have been overestimating the size of the stock. The TRAC also noted that recruitment is down below the historic levels and that overall biomass has dropped by almost 200,000mt to 650,700mt. Instead of rehashing everything that the TRAC said, here is a link to the TRAC report:
The SSC met on the 16th and discussed these findings. The SSC is responsible for setting the Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) and the Overfishing limit (OFL) for all NEFMC-managed fisheries and so they had to take the TRAC data and decide how to use it. For reference, the OFL is the product of the fishing mortality rate that will produce MSY and the current biomass, and ABC is the amount of fish that can be taken by the herring fishery. The SSC, while noting that there is a lot uncertainty around the numbers, endorsed the TRAC assessment as a basis for projection of the ABC and OFL. Now, since National Standard 1 states that OFL should be below ABC, and that the “buffer” between them should account for scientific uncertainty, the SSC used the figure developed by the TRAC of 40% (which again was the average figure) to develop the buffer. As a result, this means that the ABC, as recommended by the SSC, is 90,000mt. I will attach the SSC report to this email incase anyone wants to read more about their decision and how they got to it.
The bottom line is that the quotas are going to be dropping significantly in the coming years as that 90,000mt figure is not the final figure. The Canadian catch, averaging just over 16,000mt a year, is subtracted to end up with a total quota of 73,700 mt for the entire herring fishery. As many of you may remember, just a few years ago there were landings of close to 90,000mt in Area 1A alone. The Council will have to set the area quotas and so nobody knows for sure what the final numbers will be, but it is possible that the Area 1A quota will be as low as 25,000mt or less. While it is impossible to say what has caused this drop, many people are thinking back to the damage that was done by the midwater boats in this region a few years back. It is unfortunate what those boats did because these cuts are going to hurt the seiners and the lobstermen who rely on herring as well.– 9/17 Herring Committee Meeting, Warwick RI
The Committee met the day after the SSC and the goal was to continue work on the catch monitoring alternatives in Amendment 5. As you all know, this process has been going on for over a year now and while going slower than many had hoped, the process is moving ahead. The main issue discussed at the 9/17 meeting was the new “streamlined” discussion document that was produced by a couple members of the Committee. While Lori Steele is usually in charge of all things relating to herring amendments, she has not had the time needed to really focus on producing an effective document. The restructuring basically split up all the alternatives and jumbled them into new sections grouped by subject. In other words, while the prior alternatives were complete packages, now you have sections on “shoreside monitoring” and “at sea monitoring”, etc. While the intentions appear to be good, many are worried about the new structure. For example, the monitoring system outlined in the prior Alternative 3 was put together as a package. When you separate out the components as has been done in the new draft you run the risk of separating things that were really meant to be kept together. While the new document is moving ahead, there is a lot of work to be done and it should be interesting to see how things turn out.
The Committee is not going to work on the monitoring issues again until February, as it will be working on developing Specifications (area quotas, etc) in the next couple meetings. But the committee made clear that when the Specs are done they hope that Lori will be able to devote all her time to the document so that it can get to where it needs to be. Lori is very good at putting together amednment documents and so it really is essential that she be able to put all her time into developing this one. I think its safe to say that most people hoped that the process would be further ahead than it is now. Some of this is due to the staff issues, and some of it is due to the complex nature of the actions being developed in the amendment. But part of the problem is that some have been made it their main goal to delay the process, which is unfortunate. That said, I think the Committee is getting frustrated about the time this taking (finally) and so hopefully when discussions resume in a couple months a lot of good progress can be made quickly.– 9/23 NEFMC Meeting
The Council met for three days last week in Plymouth, MA, and while herring was not on the agenda, it was brought up on Wednesday morning during the TRAC/SSC reports. While the SSC numbers are final, a couple members of the Council grilled Pat Sullivan (who gave the SSC report) about the recommendations. The majority of questioning came from David Pierce. The main points he and others were making pertained to the “buffer” between OFL and ABC. As mentioned above, the SSC decided to go with 40%, which was rounded up from 37%. There was a range of percentages though and Pierce and others were questioning Sullivan about why they chose 40% and whether or not they could go lower. Pierce then made a motion requesting that the SSC take another look at the numbers and see if they could go with a lower buffer. After a lot of discussion, this motion was passed on an 8-7 vote. While Sullivan pointed out that this was not likely going to change anything, he said the SSC would look at it again since the Council was requesting them to do so. Most people seem to think that nothing will change but we will keep you all posted on any developments.
There are more meetings in the near future, and we will keep you posted on what happens at these meetings.