NPFMC: Top 12 research priorities through 2028

Top priorities: reducing bycatch, policy impacts on communities over time, discard mortality estimates by gear types. Special Feb. meeting will advance chum caps/closures.

by | June 25, 2024

Filed Under Meetings | NPFMC | Research

Unobserved fishing mortality work group paused due to “data deficiencies,” chum bycatch punted to Feb.

The June meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council was held at Kodiak and made few headlines, likely because no final votes were scheduled on any of the agenda items.

Here are updates on some of the major items of interest to many from the NPFMC June newsletter – [images were not part of the newsletter]

RESEARCH PRIORITIES

The Council adopted research priorities for 2024-2028 as recommended by the SSC, with two minor wording changes. The Council also revised the definition for critical ongoing monitoring to include research focused on incorporating local knowledge, traditional knowledge, and subsistence information into the fishery management process. The research priorities will be sent to the Secretary of Commerce and the (Seattle-based) Alaska Fishery Science Center, and will also be shared with a number of universities and funding entities in order to inspire progress on research in support of its management decisions.

The following list is presented in no priority order. 

Top Twelve list of Council research priorities for 2024-2028

  • Further research to reduce western Alaska salmon bycatch in Bering Sea groundfish fisheries (e.g. research on salmon and drivers of salmon distribution, as well as drivers of groundfish fishery behavior including avoidance of other PSC species).
  • Quantify the magnitude of fishing gear (e.g., pelagic trawl vessels, derelict crab pots, and modified crab pots to reduce bycatch) impacts on crab and their associated benthic habitat and develop fishing gear innovations where needed. 
  • Evaluate direct marine mammal-fishery interactions (including feeding on discards and spatio-temporal trends in bycatch) and potential mitigation measures for marine mammal conservation.
  • Examine the economic, social, and cultural effects of fisheries and fishery management policy on communities over time (including impacts from fishery policy changes and Tribal citizen and Tribal Nation reliance on, participation in, and impacts of federally managed fisheries).
  • Develop actionable ecosystem indicators relevant to single-species stock assessments and ecosystem assessments that address climate change impacts to managed stocks 
  • Continue to acquire basic life history information with an emphasis on improved estimates of size/age at maturity to advance understanding of the mechanisms for how maturity changes over space and through time. 
  • Increased understanding of the spatial distribution, habitat requirements, and movement of crabs relative to life history events and fishing
  • Develop predictive tools and models that evaluate the impact of multiple projected climate scenarios on managed resources to inform management options related to ecosystem production and resilience and adaptation of fishing communities.
  • Retrospective and meta- analysis regarding whether, how, when and why objectives and goals of fishery management plans are or are not achieved over time.
  • Norton Sound Red King Crab case study as a pilot study for the incorporation of Local Knowledge, Traditional Knowledge, and subsistence information in a relatively small scale fishery that is experiencing challenges related to both stock and climate change factors.
  • Improve surveys in untrawlable habitat, particularly for rockfish, Atka mackerel, sculpins, and snow crab. 
  • Improve discard mortality rate estimates for scallops, crab, and groundfish stocks by gear types. 

UNOBSERVED FISHING MORTALITY WORKGROUP

The Council reviewed the Unobserved Fishing Mortality Working Group (UFMWG) report and found that it was comprehensive and responsive to Council-defined objectives. The report identified data gaps, data availability, and prioritized areas of research to better inform unobserved fishing mortality estimations. Additionally, the working group developed a framework to include unobserved fishing mortality estimates into stock assessments.

Currently, there are substantial data deficiencies that preclude any estimation of unobserved fishing mortality.

The Council moved to pause the working group until more research is completed that may be used to inform unobserved fishing mortality estimates. The Council requested updates on ongoing work that would inform unobserved fishing mortality estimates (motion). Research updates will be filtered through the Crab Plan team. 

Chum Salmon Bycatch Scheduling – Special Meeting, February 2025

The Council is scheduled to meet on February 3rd-10th, 2025 to consider new management measures to reduce western Alaska chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

These measures include an overall cap on the number of chum salmon that could be incidentally taken by the fishery, as well as closures of times and areas when western Alaska chum salmon are more likely to be encountered on the pollock fishing grounds.

The February 2025 Council meeting will be held at the Egan Center in Anchorage.

“There’s no way the pollock fleet can sit here and say we will accept these.”
Stephanie Madsen, At-sea Pollock Association, speaking of chum caps, area closures.
INTRAFISH, MARCH 2023

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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