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Amendment 4 meetings, decisions
February 15, 2010
During January the Council and Herring Committee met to develop the final measures in Amendment 4. As you know, Amendment 4 was initially where the Council was going to deal with monitoring, groundfish closed areas, river herring, mackerel fishery interactions and ACLs/AMs. But, as you also know, last year the Council decided to split off ACLs and AMs from the rest of the goals, continuing work on ACLs and AMs in Am 4, while pushing everything else into the new Amendment 5. This was due to the requirements of Magnuson regarding the date for implementation of ACLs and AMs. While the Council spent much of last year working on Am 5, for the last 3-4 months, the Council and Council staff have been working on Am 4 exclusively. This culminated with Am 4 public hearings in early January and then the Committee and Council meetings last week.
Am 4 has been defined by Council staff as mostly administrative and this set the tone for the entire process. That is, much of it has to do with updating the FMP to fit in with the new requirements of Magnuson regarding technical aspects to management. This includes ACLs and AMs, as well as outlining issues pertaining to how the specification process is done and how to deal with issues such as overages, among other things. As such, it is difficult to summarize the information here and the best thing to do if you would like to know more about all the details is to view the Am 4 document itself, which can be found on the Council website (see below). One thing I would say is that much of what was being done in Am 4 is setting the stage for future actions. Since the specification process for the next three years was completed before Am 4 was finalized, much of what is in Am 4 will be applied during the next round of specs.
There are some notable changes made by the amendment that would come into place before specs are done again. One example is the addition of reactive AMs in the fishery. In the past, when the Area 1A TAC was exceeded, nothing was done about it. But Am 4 will ensure that if a TAC is exceeded, there will be a ‘payback’. While, due to reporting lags, this will take place in year 2, the fact that it will be done at all is a positive development that will ensure that if area quotas are exceeded, this will come off the next year.
While the amendment formalizes many of the aspects of the management process, one notable example is that discards will be fully accounted for in the future. While there was some current consideration of discards in the past, it was not done in a formal manner and was not required. Am 4, as made clear by council staff, requires for discards to be formally accounted for. A huge part of this is the need for better data on monitoring, as was also made clear by staff. (This was one of many instances where the importance of making sure Am 5 develops an effective monitoring system was stressed.) The last point I would make is that Am 4 puts a lot of stress on the issue of forage. While any decisions regarding how to account for forage will be made during the next specs process, the amendment did include ideas on how to do this.
There were three public hearings held on Am 4- in Fairhaven, Gloucester and Portland. There were numerous issues made, but instead of trying to rehash them all here I will attach the summary of the comments received and you can find all the comments themselves by going to the NEFMC calendar page (link below), clicking on the Discussion Documents link for the meetings last week, then clicking on the Herring Committee report. That will bring you to the page where all the comments can be found.
1/25/10 Herring Committee Meeting:
The Committee met in Portsmouth the day before the Council meeting in order to finalize its recommendations on the amendment. This meeting went as quickly as any meeting I have ever seen regarding herring issues. There was very little discussion and the Committee moved to approve the draft document to forward on to the Council. One midwater trawl rep brought up the issue of forage and Lori clarified that while nothing is set in stone regarding deductions, the Council always has the ability to make such deductions based on Magnuson. She agreed to clarify this in the document.
One important issue that was brought up at the end of the meeting was the timing of the next stock assessment. As you know, a few months ago there were major cuts taken in the herring fishery due to the updated stock assessment. Since then there has been pressure put on by the herring industry to get a new assessment done. But because of the nature of stock assessments, and the workload of the scientists involved, it was made clear that the assessment would not be coming anytime soon.
At the meeting, they discussed a letter from the head of the NEFSC regarding the timing. The letter can be found at the Council site, linked above. As you will see, they are saying there are two possible dates to do the assessment. There are tradeoffs between the two, many of which are important. The Committee discussed this in length, and while making no decisions, they made it clear that while some want the assessment done ASAP, by rushing it you may end up getting an assessment that is no better than the current one.
1/26/10 Council Meeting:
The Council met the next day to finalize the Amendment. Once again, the meeting went both quickly and smoothly, and the Council eventually moved to approve the document as written, with a few clarifications to be made by Lori based on issues raised at the meeting. Lori will be working on finishing the document and once she puts out a final document I will let you all know so you can look at it.
The issue of the stock assessment timing came up again at the end, and the Council had a general discussin about the issue. They said it was probably a good idea to eventually discuss the issue at the Committee level and that there was no way any decisions could be made at the current meeting. Again, Council members made it clear that you risk having an inferior assessment if you rush it, as seen by the NEFSC letter, and so everyone needs to think hard about the issue before rushing into making decisions.
So, the decisions on Am 4 have been made and it will be finished up by the staff and then forwarded to NMFS. Once it is sent to NMFS, work will finally begin again on Am 5 and the important issues in that amendment. Again, it was made clear multiple times during the Am 4 process that the Council and staff think that the monitoring system being developed in Am 5 is critical to the issues being dealt with in Am 4 and management of the herring fishery in general, which was good to see. I will keep you all posted on any developments between now and then. And again, all documents pertaining to Amendment 4 can be found online on the Council site.