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Amendment 5 Update
February 14, 2011
It has been a little while since we updated everyone on the status of the development of Amednment 5 and so here is where things are at:
As you know, this amendment process has been underway for quite some time now. While the Council decided to prioritize herring as far back as November of 2007 (for work during 2008), the process really began in April of 2008 when the Herring AP met to discuss the new amendment and the potential issues it would cover, followed by a Committee meeting later that spring. The scoping process for what was then called Amendment 4 took place during the summer of 2008, with more Council and Committee work continuing into the Fall and Winter. While starting as a general amendment to address catch monitoring, eventually the Council decided to include the issues of river herring bycatch, midwater trawl access to groundfish closed areas, and interactions with mackerel fishery as priorities in the amendment. Eventually (in 2009) the Council decided that it needed to split the amendment in order to deal with the 2010-2012 Specifications and the implementation of ACLs and AMs in the fishery. From that point on Amendment 4 was devoted solely to the ACL/AM issue and the rest of the priorities were now called Amendment 5.
Other than during that period of time when the Council, staff and PDT took time off from Amendment 5 to work on the Specs and Amendment 4, the bulk of the last three years has been focused on putting together a draft amendment that tackles the numerous priorities outlined early on in the development process. What has seemed like countless meetings have occurred and a lot of work has been done by all those involved- including the development of complex alternatives by CHOIR and other stakeholders- to get the draft to the point where it was at the end of January.
At its meeting on the 26th of January, the Council decided to attempt to bring the amendment process into the next stage of development: the writing of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In order to do that, the Council needed to make some important decisions regarding what would go into the draft and therefore would move forward as potential options that could eventually become management alternatives in a final amendment. While far from making final decisions on what the amendment will eventually look like, this was nevertheless an important meeting because there was potential for important options to be removed or changed and there would have been no real way of getting them back in.
At the meeting the Council decided to go through the draft document and decide which issues would stay, go, or be altered. As anyone who has taken a look at the draft that has been produced after years of work could imagine, this was neither a quick nor easy task for the Council. After beginning discussion mid-morning, the Council worked until roughly 9:00pm before breaking for the night and continuing work early the next morning. There were far too many issues discussed to mention them all here and so if you would like to find out more, go to the Council’s “Current Actions” page on their website and then click on the “Council Motions: link for the January 25-27 meeting. The Council “Current Actions” page can be found: Here
You can look through to see what came up and what specific decisions were made.
In general, the meeting was a success as the Council decided to leave in the document almost all of important options that had been included up until that point. For example, measures to include higher levels of observer coverage, catch weighing, and tools to address the dumping issue were all left in. All of the options left in will now be analyzed and the Council will eventually make two more rounds of decisions on what they will be supporting.
The Council did decide to remove some sections, such as the section that addressed the development of a new federal portside sampling program. Most people had come to the conclusion that this section was unnecessary anyways because the states are already doing it and also because monitoring at sea is critical and any time and money spent developing a new portside program would take away from the time and money that could be dedicated to at sea monitoring. Importantly, the Council did include Option 5.4 which will address the issue of verifying self-reported landings.
The Council also decided to try and clarify some of the issues that still needed a lot of work. For example, there was a great deal of time devoted to the discussion of who exactly the new porgrams would cover. Should only the big Category A and B boats be covered by the new program, or should it cover everyone who has a herring permit of any kind? In the end, they decided to task the PDT with the analsyis of multiple options that could address all permits, only the biggest permits, or some mix of both. There are plenty of other issues like this that will need a lot more work in the months ahead.
The Council could have spent about a week discussing all of the issues and may still not have finished. In the end they decided that it was important to try and wrap up the current stage of the process and move forward to the development of the EIS. In doing so, they fully acknowledged that there are still holes and issues that need to be addressed. At first, this will primarily be done by the Council staff and the herring PDT. They will begin work on the draft immediately (probably already started) and will continue to work on it throughout the spring and summer. Council staff hopes to give an update to the Council at the June meeting, at which point the Council may decide to tackle some of the bigger outstanding issues, or possibly decide to try and hold another Committee meeting to address those issues if need be.
If everything goes smoothly, the staff hopes to be able to have a draft by the September meeting. If that happens the Council would then work towards the selection of preferred alternatives and the approval of the document that would go out to the public for hearings. While this is the schedule that the Council is hoping for there is always a chance that things could change a bit given the amount of work that needs to be done. We will keep you updated on anything the happens over the coming months and everyone needs to be ready to speak up during the public comment period whenever it ends up happening.
All in all, a lot of work has been done and everyone can rest assured that the document as it stands now leaves plenty of good options that will go forward in the draft EIS. Thanks to all those that have been involved in one way or another, and stay tuned because there is more work ahead.