Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, and Coast Guard hearing scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, at 8:30 a.m. in room 253 of the Russell Senate Office Building. Members will hear testimony examining the Fishery Conservation and Management Amendments Act of 2004 (S. 2066), a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Senator Snowe will preside. Following is a tentative witness list (not necessarily in order of appearance):
Witness Panel 1
Rear Admiral Dennis Sirois
Good morning Madam Chairwoman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I am Rear Admiral Dennis Sirois, Assistant Commandant for Operations. On behalf of the Commandant, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Coast Guard’s efforts with regards to the Magnuson – Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA). The Coast Guard’s role in the protection of America’s valuable fisheries resources is to deliver domestic and international fisheries enforcement. The Coast Guard is firmly committed to providing at-sea enforcement in support of the MSFCMA. Coast Guard Living Marine Resource Enforcement Working closely with fisheries managers both at home and internationally, the Coast Guard for many years has enforced laws and regulations that prohibit illegal fishing practices. We take this responsibility seriously. Our fisheries law enforcement budget is more than 500 million dollars, or 11% of our operating budget, which is near the same level of spending for Search and Rescue and drug enforcement. We also have updated and revalidated our fisheries law enforcement strategic plan to ensure close alignment with fishing industry stakeholders, other government agencies at the Federal, state, and local levels, and our enforcement partners. As part of our revalidation process, we hosted nine public listening sessions and received constructive feedback from nearly 200 constituents around the country. The updated strategy includes three key objectives: o Prevent illegal incursions of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by foreign fishing vessels; o Ensure compliance with domestic living marine resource laws and regulations within the U.S. EEZ by U.S. fishers; and o Ensure compliance with international agreements for the management of living marine resources. There are four essential cornerstones to provide effective enforcement and ensure the sustainability of our fishery resources well into the future: o Strong regulatory schemes; o Enforcement presence; o Investment in technology; and o Effective partnerships. Strong regulatory schemes begin at home, with the regulations developed by the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils who work diligently to improve and provide for long-term sustainability of U.S. fish stocks While our domestic fisheries are improving, the incentive for irresponsible fishing remains. The situation worldwide is considerably worse. As the rest of the world’s fisheries decline, the rich U.S. EEZ becomes a more enticing target for foreign fishers. To combat this increased threat to our fisheries, we need regulatory regimes that are enforceable and have teeth. If the regime lacks significant penalty, there will be little or no incentive to comply. Fines and/or other penalties will simply be externalities written off as the cost of doing business. In order to enforce strong regulatory schemes, we must have an enforcement presence. Presence can come in the form of enforcement ships and planes and/or unmanned aerial vehicles, and vessel monitoring systems. However, in the final analysis, the deterrence value of having a Coast Guard cutter or aircraft present and visible is significant. Fisheries enforcement is a mission largely conducted by Coast Guard Deepwater assets. The U.S. EEZ is the largest and most productive in the world. It occupies 3.36 million square miles and includes 95,000 miles of coastline. These vast patrol areas, coupled with the long distance from U.S. shores – for example the non-contiguous EEZ in the central Pacific – provide a significant challenge to the Coast Guard’s assets. The improved capabilities the Coast Guard will garner, and the technology we will have available to leverage as a result of the Integrated Deepwater System project, will greatly enhance our ability to enforce fisheries regulations in the U.S. EEZ and beyond. The Coast Guard’s nature as a multi-mission service also contributes to enforcement presence. In May 2004, the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, on an aids to navigation mission, detected an illegal transfer of 600 metric tons of fish between a U.S. fishing vessel and a Panamanian cargo vessel off the coast of Alaska. SPAR seized the Panamanian vessel and catch, and the owner was awarded a $150,000 fine. With such a massive EEZ to patrol, plus certain high threat areas on the high seas, the Coast Guard cannot be everywhere at once. One possible solution is the effective leveraging of existing technology and investment in future technologies, especially surveillance and tracking technologies. The Regional Fisheries Management Councils continue to implement compulsory carriage of Vessel Monitoring Systems, or VMS, in their fishery management plans. This significantly improves the Coast Guard’s ability to efficiently manage resources. Through the use of VMS data we can effectively monitor the movements of fishing vessels in dozens of protected areas from one site and then respond to confirmed incursions. This certainly is a much better use of our resources than having a cutter patrolling in one area while an incursion is happening in a completely different location. VMS is key to the future of fisheries enforcement and it is already paying dividends. There have been a number of enforcement cases decided solely on VMS data, proving the validity of the system, its usefulness as an enforcement tool, and a way to increase presence through technology. Another means of leveraging our resources is with effective partnerships. The Coast Guard enjoys many partnerships: domestic and international, formal and informal. To bolster the enforcement presence in the U.S. EEZ, Coast Guard units routinely participate in joint operations with state and local enforcement partners. We assist NOAA Fisheries in enforcement operations as well. In certain regions we assist NOAA Fisheries with inspections of shoreside facilities. These partnerships proved effective in May 2004, when the Coast Guard ran the multi-agency OPERATION SHELLBACK off the coasts of Florida and Georgia in response to reports of significantly elevated levels of sea turtle strandings. USCG, NOAA and Georgia Department of Natural Resources officers conducted over forty boardings resulting in catch seizures of two shrimp vessels for fishing without turtle excluder devices. In the international realm we currently have bilateral fisheries enforcement agreements with Canada, the People's Republic of China (PRC), and Taiwan. We are in the process of negotiating one with the Russian Federation and we are working on agreements with Mexico and Japan. In the Summer of 2003, the Coast Guard Cutter JARVIS embarked a PRC Bureau of Fisheries officer, pursuant to a US/PRC Memorandum of Agreement. Based on intelligence received from our Maritime Intelligence Fusion Center Pacific, JARVIS intercepted four PRC vessels engaged in large-scale pelagic high seas driftnet (HSDN) fishing, in violation of a 1991 United Nations Moratorium on HSDN fishing. Through our cooperative efforts with the PRC, these four vessels were identified as Chinese; one vessel was directed to port where they were met by PRC Bureau of Fisheries authorities who took direct enforcement action and the other three vessels were turned over by JARVIS to a PRC Bureau of Fisheries enforcement vessel that escorted them to a Chinese port for enforcement action. These cases are some of our best examples of international cooperation in the fisheries arena. In 2004 the PRC Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) dispatched two patrol vessels to patrol the North Pacific High Seas Driftnet threat area for over 45 days. Through the close working relationship we have built with the PRC FLEC over the past several years, we were able to conduct joint operations including USCG HC-130 surveillance support and direct communications with the PRC patrol vessels. These efforts by the PRC demonstrate their clear commitment to the international battle against environmentally damaging High Seas Driftnets. At the request of the PRC FLEC and in an effort to continue close cooperation, we are pursuing arrangements to provide fisheries law enforcement training for over a dozen PRC fisheries law enforcement officers later this year. Magnuson – Stevens Fisheries Management & Conservation Act Reauthorization Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) programs are another tool available to manage fisheries. In general, I can sum up the Coast Guard’s experience with existing IFQ programs as follows. Any quota system that lengthens the fishing season will likely (a) require the Coast Guard to deploy its fisheries enforcement resources more efficiently; and (b) lead to a safer fishery by giving fishermen greater choice as to when to go out. We remain neutral to allocation issues and to specific conservation and management objectives. Our role is to aid fisheries managers in choosing among various management alternatives by providing them expert advice on the operational realities of at-sea law enforcement and vessel safety. Our participation as a non-voting member on Fishery Management Councils is critical and is one of the foundations of effective enforcement. Aside from pure enforcement concerns, the Coast Guard takes Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety (CFVS) issues very seriously and continues to aid the Regional Fisheries Management Councils in balancing competing management demands. Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, and the Coast Guard remains committed to improving safety aboard commercial fishing vessels. To achieve the goal of sustainable fisheries for our future generations, the Coast Guard will work with NOAA and the Department of State to develop safe and enforceable management plans and then to enforce those plans through presence, technology, and partnerships now and well into the future. Thank you for your continued leadership in fisheries management and this opportunity to discuss the re-authorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Ms. Stephanie Madsen
Testimony of Ms. Stephanie Madsen, Chair North Pacific Fishery Management Council To the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, and Coast Guard September 14, 2004 Good morning. My name is Stephanie Madsen, and I am the Chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council based in Anchorage, Alaska. Thank you for the opportunity to offer comments to the Subcommittee on behalf of the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils, regarding reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Before I begin my testimony on the issues related to reauthorization, I would like to make some general comments, and provide an update for the committee on some recent events. First, let me say that the Council Chairs believe strongly that the current system for managing our Nation’s fisheries, as envisioned by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, can and is working effectively. When carried out properly, the Council process has all the ingredients for responsible stewardship of our nation’s marine resources. It is based on science, it is deliberative and transparent, and it is representative of all user groups and the general public. This belief is evidenced in the proceedings from our conference held in November of 2003, "Managing our Nation's Fisheries: Past, Present, and Future". This first-ever conference, sponsored by the eight Regional Councils and NOAA Fisheries, was a tremendous success with over 600 conference participants. The proceedings of the conference report summarize key issues such as governance, rights-based management, habitat, fishing communities, bycatch, and ecosystem management, all of which are areas I will touch on today. It details the histories of each Councils’ management programs, highlights regional successes, and charts a course to address remaining challenges. The Council Chairs believe that the conference proceedings provide valuable information to help frame the discussion for the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Additionally, the eight Regional Councils and NOAA Fisheries are hosting a second national conference to continue the dialogue on future challenges. This conference, scheduled for March 24-26 2005 here in Washington, D.C., is specifically designed to address key issues related to the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization and the report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. A ‘Save the Date’ notice for that conference is attached to my testimony. As noted by our Council’s previous chairman, we are very proud of our record in the North Pacific. Our formula for sustainable fisheries involves strong science and research programs, an effective reporting and inseason management program, a comprehensive observer program, limitations on fishing capacity, precautionary and conservative catch limits, strict limits on bycatch and discards, habitat protection measures, incorporation of ecosystem considerations, and an open public process that involves stakeholders at all levels. I am pleased to report that the Secretary of Commerce, just a month ago, approved the selection of the Preferred Alternative recommended by our Council in the Groundfish Fisheries Final Programmatic Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement 2 (PSEIS). This action reflects over three years of hard work and thousands of pages of analysis by the Council and NOAA Fisheries to develop a comprehensive, cumulative impact analysis of our existing fisheries management program, and chart a course for the future direction of our management policy in the North Pacific. The Preferred Alternative reinforces and enhances the precautionary approach to managing fisheries that has been the hallmark of our management program by adopting a comprehensive set of revised management objectives which will guide our specific actions over the coming decades. Rather than take too much of the Subcommittee’s time on our regional program, I have provided a supplemental folder that contains information on the North Pacific Council’s management philosophy and ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management. Also in this folder is a copy of the testimony that our former chairman gave to this Committee back in 2002, along with previous recommendations of the Regional Fishery Management Council Chairs regarding Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization issues. These include a May 2001 document on general reauthorization issues, and a May 2002 document which is more specific to then-proposed HR 4749, both of which overlap with the issues addressed in S. 2066. There are several issues that have been raised by S. 2066, and other draft legislation, that are very important to the Regional Fishery Management Councils. In addition, the recommendations from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy are also of great interest to the Regional Councils; however, the Councils have not had an opportunity to discuss the Ocean Commission recommendations in any detail. Therefore, I would like to focus my comments on issues that have been raised in the various bills to amend the Magnuson- Stevens Act. My written testimony today highlights sixteen areas of importance to the Councils relative to reauthorization of the Act. 1. Ecosystem-based fishery management - The Councils have long been incorporating ecosystem considerations into our Fishery Management Plans (FMPs), but we remain concerned about requirements for specific ecosystem plans, given our current state of scientific knowledge. We believe a gradual approach is appropriate. We need to have a clear understanding of what “ecosystem-based management” really means, what information is available to implement this approach, how much the necessary science will cost, and what if any guidelines are necessary before the Councils are required to develop explicit ecosystem plans. Identification of information needs, and identification of a fishery or fisheries for a pilot program, appears to be a reasonable start. Guidelines on how to prepare something as complex as ecosystem-based fishery management plans should not have the force of law, or we could find ourselves mired in legal challenges similar to what has occurred under the essential fish habitat guidelines. 2. Individual fishing quota programs – The Council Chairs strongly and unanimously believe that IFQs, dedicated access privileges, or similar limited entry/rationalization programs, must be in their fisheries management ‘tool box’. There may be regional differences of opinion on some of the specifics (for example, most of the Councils are concerned that referendum requirements and expiration dates may impede the development and effectiveness of such programs), but there is general agreement that some guidelines and review processes are necessary. The Council Chairs recommend 3 that the MSA be amended to provide maximum flexibility to the Councils to tailor IFQ programs to specific regional, social, economic, and fishery conditions. Councils should have clear authority to address transferability and ownership issues; include harvesters, processors, and communities in such programs; promote conservation; and include measures necessary to successfully monitor and enforce provisions of such a program. 3. Separation of science and management (or conservation vs allocation) – This issue is of crucial interest to us and included in your packet are very specific comments the Council Chairs provided to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, focusing on the issue of separating science from management. This concept has been raised in various discussions, draft legislation, and in the report from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, particularly with regard to establishment of annual catch limits. The Councils believe that scientific advice is critical to successful management and should be an integral part of the Council process rather than a separate aspect of the overall decisionmaking process. Even the determination of annual catch limits sometimes requires the Council to judge uncertain or conflicting science. This is precisely the decision-making process the Regional Councils were designed to accomplish. Approval of these decisions by the Secretary of Commerce, or disapproval where appropriate, is the final safeguard built into this process. Aside from annual catch limits, virtually all other management actions involve aspects of both conservation and allocation which are often impossible to separate. Again, I urge you to consider the more detailed comments we have provided on this issue. 4. Independent peer review - Some legislation, and the report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, contemplate additional, independent peer reviews of scientific information used in the decision-making process. The Councils believe this issue should be approached with extreme caution. Additional requirements for scientific peer review could result in prohibitive costs and further delays to an already lengthy decision and approval process. The reliance on a strong scientific and statistical committee (SSC) for review of all biological and socio-economic information provides the cornerstone for sound, responsible decisions. Periodic independent review (such as that recently commissioned in the North Pacific relative to fish stock exploitation strategies) may be sufficient to address the concerns underlying the recommendations for independent peer review. Annual peer reviews of stock assessments may be unnecessary for fisheries which already undergo annual review by Plan Team scientists and SSC scientists. 5. Reconciling statutes – The Councils believe strongly that the current mix of statutes which govern the fisheries management process needs to be reconciled, and that the Magnuson-Stevens Act needs to be reaffirmed as the guiding Act in this process. All Council actions must adhere to a number of Acts and Executive Orders including the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The requirements for social and economic analysis, scientific review, and public comment specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Act are substantially the same as under NEPA; however, the timeline and administrative process under the two Acts often conflicts, and NEPA has now become the defining act for processing and review of 4 management actions, largely due to the threat of litigation. These conflicts have led to cumbersome and unnecessarily complex administrative procedures resulting in long delays between the time that decisions are made and regulations are adopted. The letter of the NEPA law in terms of process has created an opportunity for endless litigation that often stymies the ability of the Councils to carry out their stewardship mission in a timely and responsible manner. It is of great importance to all the Councils that Congress assist in resolving the conflicts between these statutes in order to clarify and streamline the regulatory process. We believe this can be done by clarifying the Magnuson-Stevens Act as the predominant statute, and that this can be done without compromise to the underlying conservation intent of NEPA and other relevant statutes. 6. Overfishing/rebuilding - The term ‘depleted’ is an appropriate addition to the definitions section of the Act, as it provides for circumstances in which a species may be at low levels of abundance for reasons unrelated to fishing activity. Eliminating the arbitrary 10-year rebuilding timeframe, and replacing it with a fishing mortality-based strategy could have significant benefits in a multi-species fishery, as timeframes are often influenced by environmental factors beyond the control of the Councils. However, this issue of rebuilding timeframes may be largely resolved through recent revisions being implemented relative to the National Standard 1 guidelines, which would allow a combination of timelines and mortality controls. Controlling fishing mortality is one of the keys to sustainable fisheries, yet there are concerns among some of the Councils with limiting the fishing mortality to 80% of Fmsy within a year of the stock being identified as depleted or approaching a depleted condition, if overfishing was occurring. This formulaic approach could hinder a Council’s ability to develop an optimal rebuilding plan which could both rebuild stocks and minimize economic impacts on fishermen and communities. I would note that in the North Pacific this issue would not raise concern as our tier approach would trigger such limits in any case, even down to 50% of Fmsy. 7. Council appointments – The Councils believe that the current appointment process and mix of authorities embodied in the Act be maintained. The idea of diminishing, or eliminating, the role of Governors in developing lists of Council nominees could greatly compromise the ability of the Council process to reflect regional and local viewpoints. Problems with Governors’ offices who fail to submit lists of nominees, or which submit unbalanced nominations, can be addressed within existing Secretarial authorities. 8. Defining HAPC – The Councils support defining habitat areas of particular concern (HAPC) as discrete subunits of essential fish habitat (EFH) and recommend their designation through some national criteria. Such a provision would allow us to better focus on truly essential fish habitat. 9. Funding – the Councils strongly urge that any new mandates be supported by appropriate funding levels for both NOAA Fisheries and the Regional Councils. 10. Secretarial review process - The Councils request that Sections 304 (a) and (b) be amended so that Secretarial review of the proposed plan amendment, and the attendant regulations, occur simultaneously. The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 (SFA) also 5 deleted the provision allowing disapproval, or partial approval, of an amendment within the first 15 days of transmission. This provision, along with the proposed preliminary evaluation by the Secretary, should be reinstated. We also believe that it may be useful to include a provision allowing for an abbreviated FMP process which would allow the Councils to address problems with the imposition of temporary conservation measures, while a full-blown FMP or amendment can be developed. On a somewhat related issue, the Councils support changing the requirements for meeting notice to allow “any means that will result in wide publicity”. 11. Cooperative research/cooperative enforcement – The Councils support the establishment of a national program of cooperative research to consist of activities among fishing industry, States, and NOAA Fisheries. The Councils also believe that cooperative enforcement agreements, allowing federal authorities to State law enforcement officials whose States are members of interstate commissions, is an efficient and effective way to increase enforcement capabilities. 12. Collection of information – The Councils support the ability of the Secretary to initiate information collection programs, with the exception of eliminating confidentiality after 20 years. The Councils also support the ability to collect economic data, including cost and revenue data, and including economic data from fish processors, as long as appropriate confidentiality requirements are applied. Economic and financial information are necessary to properly conduct the analyses required by the Act and other statutes. 13. Buyback programs/overcapitalization – The Councils believe that fishing capacity reduction programs (buyback programs) should have the concurrence of the relevant Council and/or Governor before being initiated by the Secretary. Any buyback programs should also be designed such that capacity removed cannot shift into another fishery. Defining fisheries as overcapitalized should be done in consultation with the relevant Council(s). 14. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – With the passage of Executive Order 13158, there remains confusion, and concern, on the part of the Councils with respect to authorities for establishment of marine protected areas. The Councils have had authority to establish such areas, and have done so since inception of the Act. The Councils are in the best position to determine when and what areas should be closed for protection of fish stocks and habitat in the EEZ. We believe that Congress should review the MPA issue and possibly develop legislation which clarifies jurisdictional issues and administrative procedures for establishing MPAs. 15. Fishery Research - The Councils support a change to the definition of scientific research to include gear research and recommend a revision to include a range of research activities, including gear research. The Chairs further support a provision allowing the Councils to close meetings for the purpose of reviewing research proposals. Presently, NMFS must convene those meetings at which proposals are reviewed. 6 16. Council Chairs Annual Meeting - The Council Chairs recommend an exemption for the annual Council Chair and Executive Directors meeting from the Federal Advisory Committee Act provisions. The historic practice of allowing the Council Chairs to meet with the intent of providing consensus views on issues such as Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization and other critical issues is very important and should be addressed through an amendment that clearly states such meetings are exempt from FACA. After decades of this practice, the Councils were recently informed that consensus positions could no longer be adopted at these meetings due to FACA constraints. This would thwart our ability to provide collective advice on critical fisheries management issues. In closing, I want to again thank you for the opportunity to provide comment, on behalf of the Regional Councils, on these critical issues. The attachments provided contain additional detail, and in some cases suggested language, on many of these issues. These are certainly not all of the issues, but these are the most prominent issues which have been discussed by all eight Regional Councils. On behalf of the Council Chairs, I reiterate the values we all support -- a fisheries management process that promotes stewardship, streamlines the regulatory process, allows flexibility in managing multispecies fisheries, and adequately funds and expands the existing data collection and monitoring initiatives. I hope these comments are helpful to you, as you move forward with the reauthorization process.
Dr. William Hogarth
Good morning, Madame Chair and members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for inviting me to this hearing on reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). I am Dr. William T. Hogarth, Assistant Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Department of Commerce. Today, I will testify on legislation introduced by Senator Olympia Snowe, S. 2066, the “Fishery Conservation and Management Amendments Act of 2004.” I believe that we have come a long way in the discussion over the last several years on reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Many Congressional hearings have been held; various bills and discussion drafts have been produced on both the Senate and House sides of Congress; and, just recently, the draft of the U.S. Ocean Commission’s report highlighted a number of the associated Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization issues. In my testimony, I will compare and contrast the most important provisions in S. 2066 with the corresponding proposals in the Administration’s Magnuson-Stevens Act bill, which was transmitted to Congress in 2003. I will also discuss a handful of the major issues addressed in S. 2066. THE ADMINISTRATION=S MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT PROPOSALS Last year, after several years of internal deliberation, the Administration transmitted to Congress its proposal on reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. While some of the proposed changes were technical in nature, others addressed issues that we believe will contribute significantly to improved operations of our fishery management programs. Some of the most important of these proposals include the following: · Statutory Definitions: Our proposals clarify the definitions of “overfishing” and “overfished.” · Streamlining the Council Process: We recommend changes that will better enable the Councils to do their jobs. For example, our proposals on notifying the public of Council meetings are more cost effective than the current requirement. · Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs): We propose standards for new IFQs that strike a reasonable balance between the need for improved economic efficiency and the concerns about the social and environmental impacts of IFQs. · Fishing Capacity Reduction Program: Overcapacity is a major concern in many federally managed fisheries. Our proposals modestly streamline the current capacity reduction procedures. · Economic Information: NMFS and the Councils need improved economic and social information to adequately address management objectives. Our proposals provide needed access to processor data and to proprietary and confidential business information. · Fisheries Law Enforcement: We recommend several legislative changes that would improve the ability of our agents to enforce fisheries regulations. I would also like to comment on an important issue that is not in the Administration bill, but I want to bring to your attention—the issue of confidentiality of information. We support the addition of a provision authorizing the release and use of vessel monitoring system (VMS) data collected under the Act to federal agencies for the purpose of national security. S. 2066 AND THE ADMINISTRATION’S MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT BILL S. 2066 addresses a variety of difficult issues. A large portion of S. 2066 is similar to or compatible with the Administration’s Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization proposals. However, there are a few provisions about which we have questions and, in some cases, substantive concerns. These provisions raise issues about how best to manage our Nation=s marine fisheries. I hope that we can continue the discussion on how to legislatively address these matters beyond this hearing today. The six areas where NOAA has concerns with S. 2066 are: (1) rebuilding overfished fisheries, (2) individual fishing quotas, (3) ecosystem approaches to management, (4) fishery habitat issues, (5) fisheries science, and (6) revisions to National Standards 4 and 8. 1. REBUILDING OVERFISHED STOCKS The current statutory time-frame for rebuilding an overfished fishery is “as short as possible” but “not to exceed 10 years, except in cases where the biology of the stock of fish, other environmental conditions, or management measures under an international agreement dictate otherwise.” S. 2066 would remove the 10-year rebuilding requirement and replace it with variable fishing mortality targets. For fisheries subject to overfishing (defined in S. 2066 as “a rate or level of fishing mortality that jeopardizes the capacity of a fishery to produce the maximum sustainable yield on a continuing basis”), rebuilding plans must limit fishing mortality to a rate not greater than the rate expected to produce maximum sustainable yield (MSY). For depleted (overfished) fisheries, (in S. 2066, “when used with respect to a stock of fish, means that the stock is of a size that is below the natural range of fluctuation associated with the production of maximum sustainable yield”) the rate of fishing mortality must be reduced to 80 percent of the rate that would be expected to produce MSY, but no lower. In addition, S. 2066 requires that “fishing restrictions and recovery benefits” be allocated “fairly and equitably among gear sectors and communities in the fishery, taking into account the long-run historical participation in the fishery.” Finally, S. 2066 also amends the Magnuson-Stevens Act to require that fishery management plans “specify a biomass target below which the stock must not be allowed to fall and a threshold below which the fishing mortality must be reduced.” We have no objection to the use of different fishing mortality targets for (1) fisheries subject to overfishing and (2) overfished stocks. In principle, we are not opposed to using fishing mortality-based targets as thresholds in rebuilding plans. Indeed, an ongoing NMFS review of National Standard 1 guidelines has pointed to the need for increased flexibility in determining the pace of rebuilding. On the other hand, the most conservative mortality target in S. 2066 for depleted (overfished) fisheries would be 80 percent of the fishing mortality rate that would be expected to produce MSY. In certain situations, deeper reductions may be called for in order to rebuild within a reasonable timeframe those stocks that are severely depleted. However, this bill seems to mandate reductions in fishing mortality to 80 percent, a target that may not always be appropriate, given the diverse objectives of management measures in recovering fisheries. We have learned that different depleted (overfished) fisheries may require distinct recovery strategies and timetables, depending on the unique biological features of the species, such as growth and natural mortality rates, the causes of the decline, and environmental factors beyond the control of fishery managers. As a result, reductions in fishing mortality that go below 80 percent of MSY may be called for in some circumstances. In other situations, less restrictive cuts to some level between 80 and 100 percent of the MSY rate may be appropriate. In summary, our major concern is that a fixed and nationally applicable reduction to 80 percent of the MSY rate is excessively rigid and places unnecessary constraints on the Regional Fishery Management Councils and NMFS. In addition, we are concerned that the complete elimination of rebuilding time-frames may reduce the sense of urgency in the selection of rebuilding options. Ideally, we would like to see additional flexibility, without sacrificing the discipline currently provided by mandatory rebuilding time-frames. 2. INDIVIDUAL FISHING QUOTAS (IFQs) S. 2066 proposes IFQ standards and other requirements that are significantly more restrictive than those in the Administration=s bill. We have particular concerns regarding the following provisions: · “Use or lose” requirement: S. 2066 provides that “quota shares will be revoked if the owner ceases to substantially participate in the fishery.” The Administration’s IFQ proposal contains no such “use or lose” provision, and we believe that a quota owner should be entitled to elect not to use the quota, depending on the economic conditions in the fishery, without the revocation of the unused quota shares. · Sunsets: S. 2066 limits “fishing quota systems” to 10 years, after which the Council must formally extend them. This limit is a disincentive to participants, because it limits the ability of investors to make business plans beyond the sunset limit, and, therefore, we do not think it is necessary. For example, with a sunset provision in effect, an owner of quota shares in an IFQ program may have a more difficult time getting a commercial loan on favorable terms. For this reason, the Administration’s bill includes no sunset provision. · Petition/referendum: S. 2066 requires approval by 2/3 of eligible voters in a referendum, while the Administration’s bill proposes that 1/3 of fishermen may submit a petition and that an IFQ program must be approved by a “majority” in referendum. NOAA believes that the 2/3 threshold would present an unreasonable barrier to implementation of IFQ programs, and favors a simple majority vote for approval. · IFQ fees and auction: S. 2066 effectively caps fees at 3 percent (the current limit), while the Administration’s bill calls for three categories of IFQ fees (annual administration, initial allocation, and transfer fees) that may total as much as 5 percent. The annual administration fee is designed to cover the additional costs of management and enforcement of the IFQ program; the initial allocation fee covers start-up costs associated with establishing the program, in particular determining initial distribution of quota shares; and the transfer fee covers the administrative costs associated with the lease and/or sale of quota shares. We believe that the improved economic performance of IFQ-managed fisheries justifies the higher fees. Government costs of developing and administering IFQ programs will tend to be higher than the costs associated with other federally managed fisheries, while the participants in IFQ programs should earn greater profits. Therefore, we believe that these participants should pay for some fair share of these additional costs. In addition, S. 2066 does not address the sale of quota shares by means of auctions, while this possibility is included in the Administration’s bill. An IFQ auction should at least be available if a Council chooses this option. · Program review and reports to Congress: S. 2066 requires an independent review of IFQ programs every five years by the National Research Council (NRC). The Administration’s bill provides for “formal and detailed reviews” every five years, but does not stipulate who will conduct these reviews. We believe that the Councils and NMFS are capable of carrying out these program reviews. 3. ECOSYSTEM APPROACHES TO MANAGEMENT S. 2066 amends Section 406 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, adding a new paragraph (f), requiring that each Council=s Scientific and Statistical Committee report to the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) on “prioritized information or research needs to support ecosystem-based management.” S. 2066 also directs that, within 18 months after the passage of the Act, the Secretary, in consultation with the 8 Council Chairs and affected stakeholders, “shall identify at least one fishery or complex of interacting fisheries suitable for the development of a pilot Fishery Ecosystem Plan.” Within another 30 months, the appropriate Council must submit for Secretarial approval a Fishery Ecosystem Plan. NOAA agrees in principle with the concept of ecosystem approaches to fisheries management. S. 2066 is consistent with the recommendations of the NMFS Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management Panel (“Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management: A Report to Congress by the Ecosystem Principles Advisory Panel,” as mandated by the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act; U.S. Department of Commerce, April 1999). S. 2066 is also consistent with the National Research Council’s report on Sustaining Marine Fisheries (1999). Ecosystem approaches to management is not a new idea, and has been gaining increasing attention in recent years. In fact, NOAA is presently working on guidelines for the application of ecosystem principles in fisheries conservation and management. During the current fiscal year, Congress has also provided funding for four regional pilot projects in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, NOAA notes that S. 2066 would contemplate a largely Council-directed process for developing fisheries ecosystem plans. However, ecosystems cover many more oceanic features than just living marine resources. While NOAA certainly recognizes that the Regional Fishery Management Councils need to be essential partners in ecosystem management planning, many other relevant federal, state and other partners are important as well. The Councils need to continue to pursue their statutory role of planning ecosystem approaches to management, and providing for sustainable fisheries and where necessary, rebuilding. NOAA believes, however, that responsibility for ecosystem approaches to management should be located at a broader level within the agency, with coordination from relevant federal, state and other partners. Ecosystem approaches to management require knowledge of the ecosystem gathered by interagency scientific research carried out by NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, and other government agencies. 4. HABITAT ISSUES S. 2066 makes a number of changes to the current requirements relating to essential fish habitat (EFH). First, the bill would amend Section 303(a)(7) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to require FMPs to identify and describe habitat areas of particular concern (HAPC), in addition to identifying and describing EFH. Second, S. 2066 would also amend Sections 305(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to require that the Secretary establish guidelines to assist the Councils in the description and identification of HAPCs. To further this goal, S. 2066 defines a HAPC as follows: “The term ‘habitat area of particular concern’ means those waters and submerged substrate that form a discrete vulnerable subunit of essential fish habitat that is required for a stock to sustain itself and which is designated through a specified set of national criteria which includes, at a minimum, a requirement that designation be based on the best scientific information available regarding habitat-specific density of that fish stock, growth, reproduction, and survival rates of that stock within the designated area.” We recommend a HAPC definition that incorporates language that already exists in our regulations, which considers the ecological importance of the habitat, its sensitivity to human-induced threats, the extent development activities are, or will be, stressing the habitat, and/or the rarity of the habitat. The considerations identified in the regulatory definition are sufficient and provide the Councils the necessary flexibility to identify HAPCs. We are concerned, however, that requirements to limit HAPC identification to areas where we have specific data on the relationship of the habitat to stock productivity may be too restrictive. This level of data is often not available and would be extremely costly to collect. Finally, the bill would further amend Section 303(a)(7) to require that FMPs “give priority to minimizing to the extent practicable adverse effects on HAPCs caused by fishing and identify other actions to encourage the conservation and enhancement of such habitat.” 5. FISHERIES SCIENCE S. 2066 addresses the use of fisheries science, in particular stock assessments, in several ways. First, the bill adds a new title to the Magnuson-Stevens Act establishing a cooperative research and management program, involving “fishing industry participants, the affected States and NMFS.” NOAA supports the cooperative research program contained in S. 2066, but has questions about one of its components, the New England trawl survey. It should be noted that NMFS has taken a number of steps in recent years to support additional and increased cooperation in fisheries research. Second, S. 2066 mandates independent peer review of NMFS data collection procedures, with special emphasis on ensuring data quality in the information collection phase of the stock assessment program. However, this review was effectively done in 2000, when the NRC issued a study on this same topic. Therefore, NOAA sees no special need for this review but has no objection to another NRC review of this issue. Third, the Senate bill would add a new Council function: “to the extent practicable, conduct a peer review of any stock assessment and economic and social analyses” in FMPs and plan amendments. All the Councils and NMFS have established formal and rigorous peer review fora and procedures, including the use of outside reviewers. Therefore, NOAA sees no need for this amendment, but has no objection to it. 6. REVISIONS TO NATIONAL STANDARDS 4 AND 8 S. 2066 changes National Standards 4 and 8 to require that management measures take into account, respectively, “steaming time” and “cumulative impacts.” Both of the proposed changes address the impacts of fishery regulations on fishermen and fishing communities, a matter of major concern. NOAA agrees that management regulations must take into account their social impacts, but has questions about both of these new requirements. (A) National Standard 4: Steaming Time S. 2066 makes a key change to National Standard 4 (NS4), adding the requirement that, when making allocations, management measures “shall take into account the differences in distances to fishing grounds from different ports.” We are not convinced that differences in steaming time are of such widespread significance that this issue merits an amendment to NS4. NS4 addresses fairness in allocations, and, in our view, steaming time is not necessarily an allocation issue. In addition, steaming time is already considered under NS7 (cost minimization) and NS10 (safety at sea), and in the Regulatory Impact Review and Regulatory Flexibility Act impact analyses. Finally, in the event that steaming time is an especially important issue, it is probably best addressed through regulations in that fishery. For all of the above reasons, NOAA does not believe that steaming time should be added to the issues addressed under NS4. (B) National Standard 8: Cumulative and Social Impacts S. 2066 would amend NS8 to require that NMFS and the Councils take into account “the individual and cumulative economic and social impacts of fishery conservation and management measures on ... communities.” The Senate bill also adds “social impacts” to Part B of NS8, with the result that NS8 would require that management measures minimize adverse social impacts (as well as adverse economic impacts) on fishing communities. If the intent is to more fully describe the individual and cumulative impacts of measures, these proposed changes to NS8 are not necessary because they are consistent with current practice, to the extent that these impacts can be quantified. In this connection, NOAA notes that the existing guidelines for conducting social impact assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act require a consideration of cumulative impacts. In our judgment, NMFS and the Councils have made considerable progress in recent years, especially in Alaska and in New England, in factoring in social assessments and addressing social objectives in management measures. LAW ENFORCEMENT Finally, I would like to note another category of proposed amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act that is addressed in detail in the Administration’s reauthorization package, but is absent in S. 2066. I refer to fisheries law enforcement, and in particular the need to improve compliance with regulations through appropriate fines and penalties. As more fisheries fall under federal management and as management measures become more refined and detailed, the Councils and NMFS will have to be able to effectively enforce these measures. This is an important matter, and we would like to see Congress address this issue more forthrightly in Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization. CONCLUSION In conclusion, while we have questions and some differences with certain provisions of S. 2066, we also think that this is a good bill that moves the debate on Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization in a constructive direction. I would like to suggest that we continue to discuss all these issues so that we can more precisely identify each other’s intent and the most appropriate and practical means of achieving those objectives. Thank you, and I would be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. Paul KellyCommissionerU.S Commission on Ocean Policy
Madame Chair and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Paul Kelly, and I am pleased to appear before you today on behalf of the US Commission on Ocean Policy to provide testimony related to S.2066, the Fishery Conservation and Management Act Amendments of 2004, and other issues associated with reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Please note that I am appearing today solely in my capacity as a member of the US Commission on Ocean Policy and that my testimony is based entirely on recommendations from our Preliminary Report which was released for review by the nation’s Governors and the public on April 20, 2004. I would like to note that we expect to release the final report to the President and Congress on September 20, 2004. The US Commission on Ocean Policy developed its detailed report and recommendations through a painstaking and very public deliberative process over a 2 ½ year period that involved the Commission going to every coastal region of this nation. We went beyond what the Oceans Act of 2000 called for and held a total of 16 public meetings, including nine regional meetings, since September 2001. We also conducted 18 site visits to marine laboratories, academic institutions, naval facilities, and private businesses as part of our fact-finding mission, and we heard directly from some 450 witnesses overall, plus numerous members of the public who communicated with us via email and other means. The status of the nation’s fisheries was a topic we heard about at every one of our meetings. It is something that people across the country and from every walk of life are concerned about. As a result, 26 of the 198 recommendations in the preliminary report deal directly with fishery issues, and numerous more would affect fisheries indirectly. No other single issue received this much attention by the Commission. An overarching theme of the Commission's work which appears throughout our report is the necessity for the nation to move toward ecosystem-based management of our coastal and ocean resources. This will require that managers consider the relationships among all ecosystem components, including human and nonhuman species and the environments in which they live. Management areas should be defined based on ecosystem, rather than political, boundaries. A balanced precautionary approach should be adopted that weighs the level of scientific uncertainty and the potential risk of damage before proceeding. Nowhere was the need for an ecosystem-based management approach more evident than with regard to fisheries, where most fisheries continue to be managed on a species-by-species basis, with little consideration of interactions among species, especially non-target species, and the physical environment. Because the Regional Fishery Management Council structure contains so many of the characteristics that the Commission believes are important as a foundation for ecosystem-based management -- such as a regional approach to resource management based on geographically defined units that fit reasonably well with our current understanding of large marine ecosystems; a management process that not only allows but requires local participation and incorporates local knowledge; the regular incorporation of scientific information in the development of fishery management plans; and at least some multi-species fishery management plans that reflect progress in the direction of ecosystem-based management -- the Commission did not focus on wholesale changes to the Councils but chose instead to recommend substantial strengthening of the Councils. Nonetheless, there are a number of issues in the Council process that need to be addressed in Congress’ reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including the necessity to move fisheries management toward an ecosystem framework. These needs for process changes are the focus of my testimony today. In 1976, based in part on the recommendations of the first US ocean commission, the Stratton Commission, Congress approved the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to manage and assert U.S. control over fishery resources within 200 nautical miles of the coast. Eight Regional Fishery Management Councils were created to develop management plans for fisheries in Federal waters. The Act required regional plans to be consistent with broad national guidelines, but otherwise granted considerable flexibility to the Councils. That regional flexibility, while a great strength of the law, also had a downside as some Councils set unsustainable harvest levels, leading to the collapse or near-collapse of several important fisheries. Fundamental weaknesses in Council management processes have led to overexploited stocks and ecosystem degradation in some regions. However, the management practices in other regions, particularly the North Pacific, protected fisheries from overexploitation and served as a model for many of the Commission’s fisheries recommendations. The Commission’s specific fishery recommendations are found in Chapter 19 of our Preliminary Report. These can be grouped into six major areas: (1) strengthening the link between science and management; (2) clarifying jurisdiction and increasing public representation; (3) expanding the use of dedicated access privileges and decreasing overcapitalization; (4) improving enforcement; (5) dealing with bycatch and essential fish habitat; and (6) strengthening international management. Although some of our recommendations could be put in place by the Councils and NOAA administratively, most will require action by the Congress, preferably through amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 1. Strengthening the Links Between Science and Management: Fishery management decisions must be built upon a strong foundation of peer-reviewed scientific information. The Commission deemed changes in this area to be so important that one-third of our fisheries-specific recommendations deal with various facets. These are as follows: (1) Congress should require Councils to rely on their Scientific and Statistical Committees for key scientific advice, particularly the establishment of Allowable Biological Catch which should be solely a scientific decision. In keeping with this stronger role, members of these Scientific and Statistical Committees should meet rigorous scientific and conflict of interest requirements and be compensated for their services. (2) The strengthened Scientific and Statistical Committees should be required to provide the key scientific advice needed by the Councils, including determination of Allowable Biological Catch, based on the best available scientific information. (3) Of particular importance is our recommendation that Congress should require that Councils set harvest limits at or below the levels recommended by the Scientific and Statistical Committees. (4) To ensure appropriate external technical review of the scientific advice provided by the Scientific and Statistical Committees to the Councils, NOAA should develop an enhanced, independent peer-review process for implementation by all Councils. (5) In the event a Council’s Scientific Committee could not determine Allowable Biological Catch within the time frame necessary for Council action, it should become the responsibility of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Regional Science Director to make the scientific determination of Allowable Catch. (6) To ensure that responsible fishery management plans are developed in a timely fashion by the Councils, the National Marine Fisheries Service should be empowered to stop fishing on any affected stock until an appropriate plan is developed, reviewed and approved. (7) To ensure that Councils have the information they require for the development of management plans, NOAA should incorporate Councils’ research, monitoring, data collection and analysis priorities in its annual research plans to the greatest extent practicable. (8) Saltwater recreational fishermen should be required to obtain licenses in order to establish a mechanism for collecting essential in-season data on recreational fishing. Finally, (9) Congress should support an expanded cooperative research program in NOAA that would provide competitive funding for collaborative research projects involving scientists and commercial and recreational fishermen. 2. Clarifying Jurisdiction and Increasing Public Representation: To make the Council process more responsive, the Commission believes that jurisdictional responsibilities of the various Federal and interstate fishery management entities need to be clarified, and the pool of potential members for the Councils needs to be broadened. We made five recommendations in this arena: (1) First, the Commission believes that the management of the nation’s marine fisheries would be improved if Congress required the interstate marine fishery commissions to adhere to the same national standards as in the Magnuson-Stevens Act and established statutory authorities similar to the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act that supports the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to empower the Gulf States and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commissions. (2) To ensure that jurisdictional confusion does not lead to delayed conservation measures, Congress should assign to one Council or interstate commission lead management authority for each fishery that is prosecuted in more than one management body’s jurisdiction. Such assignment of lead authority should be based primarily on which jurisdiction accounts for the largest proportion of catch for that fishery. (3) To ensure that the Councils have balanced representation, particularly as we move toward ecosystem-based management, the governors should be required to submit a broader slate of candidates for each vacancy of an appointed Council seat. The Commission recommends that the Magnuson-Stevens Act be amended to require Governors to nominate at least two representatives each from the commercial fishing industry, the recreational fishing sector, and the general public. (4) In addition, because the Administrator of NOAA is likely to be more knowledgeable about the Councils and the issues confronting them, the Commission recommends that he or she, rather than the Secretary of Commerce, be named the appointing authority for both Council members and members of the Scientific and Statistical Committees. (5) Finally, to ensure that Council members have the necessary knowledge to make decisions affecting fisheries, members should be required to take a training course that encompasses essential information related to fisheries management, the Councils, and federal law. 3. Expanding Use Of Dedicated Access Privileges And Decreasing Overcapitalization: To reverse regulatory situations that tend to create an unsustainable and often dangerous “race for the fish,” fishery managers should be encouraged to explore widespread adoption of dedicated access privileges to promote conservation and help reduce overcapitalization. By “dedicated access privileges,” the Commission means systems that provide for the granting of privileges to catch a specific portion of the total allowable catch to individual fishermen, fishing communities, or other entities. In the Commission’s definition, dedicated access privileges include such things as ITQs, IFQs, community development quotas, area-based quotas, etc. and the privilege granted would be access to the fish rather than the fish themselves. Thus, the Commission recommends that Congress amend the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to affirm that fishery managers are authorized to institute dedicated access privileges, subject to meeting national guidelines to be established by the National Marine Fisheries Service that would include the goals of the program and a referendum of all permitted fishermen. In addition, the Commission identified overcapitalization as being one of the major contributors to overfishing and strongly recommends that Congress should revise the Fisheries Finance Program, the Capital Construction Fund, and other federal programs to ensure that they do not encourage overcapitalization in the nation’s fisheries. 4. Improving Enforcement: Strong enforcement of fishery regulations is essential to ensure the effectiveness of management plans. However, this has become more complicated and more difficult in a post-9-11 world where the US Coast Guard has been tasked with broad homeland security responsibilities that have resulted in diminished resources available for fishery enforcement. The Commission provides four very specific recommendations in this area, dealing principally with the expansion of federal-state enforcement partnerships and the application of modern technology, such as electronic Vessel Monitoring Systems. Specifically, the Commission recommends that: (1) Congress should increase funding for Joint Enforcement Agreements to implement cooperative fisheries enforcement activities between the National Marine Fisheries Service and state marine enforcement agencies and should bring the US Coast Guard into these joint agreements. (2) The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Coast Guard should develop stronger collaborative enforcement ties, including a unified strategic plan for fisheries enforcement and joint training. (3) The National Marine Fisheries Service, working with the Councils, the Coast Guard and other entities, should phase in requirement for the use of Vessel Monitoring Systems with two-way communication capability on all commercial fishing vessels receiving permits under federal fishery management plans. (4) Finally, the Commission believes that the capabilities of the Coast Guard suit it to become the lead agency in managing integration of a fishery vessel monitoring system database into the larger maritime operations database 5. Bycatch And Essential Fish Habitat: The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Councils need to continue to move as rapidly as possible to an ecosystem-based management approach to improve management, reduce conflicts between socio-economic impacts and biological sustainability, and provide a proper forum to address difficult management issues, such as those involving habitat and bycatch in particular. The Commission provides two recommendations here: (1) The designation of essential fish habitat should be changed from a species-by-species to a multispecies approach and, ultimately, to an ecosystem-based approach. The approach should draw upon existing scientific efforts to identify important habitats and locate optimum-sized areas to protect vulnerable life-history stages of commercially and recreationally important species. This endeavor should include well-documented scientific methods, consideration of ecologically valuable species that are not necessarily commercially or recreationally important, and the conduct of an extensive R&D program to refine existing methods and to develop additional and better means to identify habitats critical to sustainability of fishery resources and ecosystems and maintenance of biodiversity. (2) The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Councils should be required to develop regional bycatch reduction plans that address broad ecosystem impacts of bycatch. Implementation of these plans will require the National Marine Fisheries Service to expand current efforts to collect data on bycatch, not only of commercially important species, but on all species captured by commercial and recreational fishermen. The selective use of observers should remain an important component of these efforts, particularly with regard to fisheries that interact with endangered species. 6. Strengthening International Fisheries Management: Because many of the stocks targeted by U.S. fishermen traverse international waters, it will be impossible to conserve some stocks without the aid of other countries. In addition, many endangered species such as sea turtles and whales travel the high seas, and the fishing practices of other nations have major impacts on their populations. To promote international cooperation to conserve living marine resources, the Commission made four specific recommendations: (1) The U.S. should encourage other countries to adopt and enforce existing international agreements dealing with sustainable fisheries practices, in particular the Fish Stocks Agreement and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Compliance Agreement. We further suggest that the US could condition other nations’ access to fishing resources within the US EEZ on their ratification of these agreements. (2) We recommend that Congress fully fund existing US commitments to international fisheries management activities. (3) The US should design a national plan of action that implements the United Nations’ International Plans of Action, including reducing bycatch of endangered species and marine mammals. (4) Finally, the US should encourage other nations to implement the UN’s Code of Conduct For Responsible Fisheries and other Plans of Action. In addition, the United States should continue to press for the inclusion of environmental objectives—particularly those specified in international environmental agreements—as legitimate elements of trade policy. Other Recommendations: In addition to the fisheries specific recommendations discussed above, the Commission has identified numerous additional recommendations that will have a substantial impact on the health of marine fisheries. These include recommendations for controlling and reducing water pollution, monitoring and improving water quality; managing, conserving and protecting critical coastal habitats; preserving coral reefs; developing and managing sustainable, environmentally sensitive aquaculture; controlling invasive species; investing in the integrated ocean observing system to improve forecasts of weather and environmental events affecting humans; enhancing ocean research and exploration; and many other areas that would affect fisheries. I urge that the Subcommittee consider the US Commission on Ocean Policy’s entire report when released, not just those sections specifically dealing with fisheries, as you consider how best to proceed with amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. My statement thus far has focused on the Commission’s recommendations in the area of living marine resource management. However, I would like to place these remarks in the context of the Commission’s broader recommendations. COMMISSION VISION: Our vision for the future of ocean and coastal management acknowledges the complexities of ecosystems and human needs. If we are to make significant progress toward ecosystem-based management of our coastal and ocean resources, which is the centerpiece of our report, we as a nation must make fundamental changes in governance and greatly improve our ocean science and education enterprises. I would like to briefly highlight the Commission’s core recommendations in these three areas. Improving Governance: At the Federal level, eleven of the fifteen existing cabinet-level departments and four independent agencies play important roles in the development of ocean and coastal policy. All of these Federal agencies also interact in various ways with State, territorial, tribal, and local entities. A lack of communication and coordination among the various agency programs at the national level, and among Federal, State and local stakeholders at the regional level, continues to inhibit effective action. A new National Ocean Policy Framework is needed to provide high-level attention and coordinated implementation of an integrated national ocean policy. A first step in enhancing management, and a central part of the new National Ocean Policy Framework, is improved coordination among the many Federal programs. A number of attempts have been made to coordinate on particular topics, such as coral reefs or marine transportation, or within a broad category, such as ocean science and technology. Within the Executive Office of the President, three entities have specific responsibilities relevant to oceans: the Office of Science and Technology Policy that addresses government-wide science and technology issues and includes an ocean subcommittee; the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) that oversees broad Federal environmental efforts and implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act; and the National Security Council’s Policy Coordinating Committee that addresses international issues and also includes a subcommittee on international ocean issues. While all these coordinating bodies are helpful in their designated areas of interest, they do not constitute a high-level interagency mechanism able to deal with all of the interconnected ocean and coastal challenges facing the nation, including not only science and technology, the environment, and international matters, but the many other economic, social, and technical issues that affect the ocean. The value of the ocean to American society also cries out for greater visibility and leaderships. Only the Executive Office of the President can transcend traditional conflicts among departments and agencies, make recommendations for broad Federal agency reorganization, and provide guidance on funding priorities, making it the appropriate venue for coordinating an integrated national ocean policy. The US Commission on Ocean Policy recommends a three-pronged approach to national governance of the oceans. This approach involves creation a National Ocean Council of federal agencies; and a Presidential Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy; and an Office of Ocean Policy in the White House headed by an Assistant to the President; National Ocean Council Congress should establish a National Ocean Council within the Executive Office of the President to provide high-level level attention to ocean and coastal issues, develop and guide the implementation of appropriate national policies, and coordinate the many Federal departments and agencies with ocean and coastal responsibilities. The National Ocean Council, or NOC, should be composed of cabinet secretaries of departments and directors of independent agencies with relevant ocean- and coastal-related responsibilities and should carry out a variety of functions including the following: · developing broad principles and national goals for ocean and coastal governance; · making recommendations to the President on national ocean policy; · coordinating and integrating activities of ocean-related Federal agencies; · identifying statutory and regulatory redundancies or omissions and developing strategies to resolve conflicts, fill gaps, and address new and emerging ocean issues; · developing and supporting partnerships between government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, academia, and the public. Presidential Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy A Presidential Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy, co-chaired by the chair of the National Ocean Council and a non-Federal member, should advise the President on ocean and coastal policy matters and serve as a formal structure for input from non-Federal individuals and organizations. It should be composed of a representative selection of individuals appointed by the President, including governors of coastal states, other appropriate State, territorial, tribal and local government representatives, and individuals from the private sector, research and education communities, nongovernmental organizations, watershed organizations and other non-Federal bodies with ocean interests. The members should be knowledgeable about and experienced in ocean and coastal issues. Office of Ocean Policy and Assistant to the President Although Congress should establish the National Ocean Council and the Presidential Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy in law to ensure their long-term future, the Commission is cognizant of the complex and often lengthy nature of the legislative process. While awaiting congressional action, the President should immediately establish these entities through Executive Order, and should appoint an Assistant to the President to chair the Council. As chair of the NOC and co-chair of the Presidential Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy, the Assistant to the President should lead the coordination of Federal agency actions related to oceans and coasts, make recommendations for Federal agency reorganization as needed to improve ocean and coastal management, resolve interagency policy disputes, and promote regional approaches. The Assistant to the President should also advise OMB and the agencies on appropriate funding levels for important ocean- and coastal-related activities, and prepare a biennial report as mandated by section 5 of the Oceans Act of 2000. Because the National Ocean Council will be responsible for planning and coordination rather than operational duties, the support of a small staff and committees will be required to carry out its functions. An Office of Ocean Policy should support the Assistant to the President, the National Ocean Council, and the Presidential Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy. The Office of Ocean Policy should be composed of a small staff that reports to the Assistant to the President, managed by an executive director responsible for day-to-day activities. Strong links should be maintained among the National Ocean Council, its committees and staff, other parts of the Executive Office of the President, and ocean-related advisory councils and commissions. Science-Based Decisions- Advancing Our Understanding Of The Oceans: One major theme in our report is the need for enhanced science and technology. Improved understanding or our oceans and coasts will allow us to manage marine environments and resources wisely – conserving precious species and habitats while exploring new uses and protecting national security. You are probably aware that the Federal budget for ocean research has suffered in recent decades, despite growing needs. As a proportion of all Federal research spending, ocean science funding has dropped from 7 percent in the 1970s to less than 3.5 percent today. As a result, the federal government is reluctantly turning away about one half of the highly-rated grant proposals it receives. For the U.S. to remain an international leader in ocean research and exploration, and for managers to obtain the information they need to make science-based decisions, the Federal ocean research budget should be restored to historic levels, by doubling it to $1.3 billion per year over the next five years. Ultimately, any increased funding should be allocated based on a research strategy developed by the National Ocean Council in conjunction with Congress and the ocean science community. Research needs are discussed throughout our preliminary report in connection with specific issues areas, including but not limited to: · understanding the links between upstream activities and coastal water quality; · identifying and eradicating invasive species; · elucidating the role of the ocean in climate; · conducting research in support of improved fisheries management, including cooperative fisheries research; · understanding ecosystem dynamics and relationships; · exploring the ocean depths; · clarifying the breeding grounds, migration patterns, and feeding locations of protected species; and · understanding the role of biological diversity in overall human health. Promoting Lifelong Education: Another major theme in our report is the promotion of lifelong education, using coastal and ocean information. In the long run, sensible stewardship of our coasts and oceans will require strong public support. Our preliminary report includes a detailed discussion about the value of boosting ocean knowledge, with recommendations that focus on two important avenues. First, we outline methods for enhancing formal education in schools by integrating ocean themes into the curriculum to promote achievement in math and science, including the social sciences. Second, we recommend partnering with and support for aquariums, science centers, museums, and private laboratories to promote broader public awareness of ocean issues and help build a national ocean stewardship ethic. CONCLUSION: Thank you for holding this hearing and for the continuing high level of interest in and support for our nation’s fisheries by the members of this Subcommittee. I appreciate very much the opportunity to appear before you and to provide you the specific recommendations of the US Commission on Ocean Policy with regard to fisheries and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Some of the issues you are already dealing with in S.2066 are among those mentioned above, and I respectfully request your consideration of all of the Commission’s recommendations as you go about deciding how best to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Commission worked diligently to provide practical, workable recommendations for improvements to the Fishery Council management processes. If enacted, the recommendations made by the US Commission on Ocean Policy will lead to a much stronger fishery management council system that will ultimately result in restored and sustainable fisheries, with substantial continuing economic benefit to individual fishermen, fishing communities and the nation as a whole. Thank you.
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Lee Crockett
Good morning Madame Chair and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Lee Crockett and I am the executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network (Network). The Network is the largest national coalition solely dedicated to promoting the long-term sustainability of marine fish by pressing for changes in the way we manage our oceans. With more that 170 member organizations – including environmental organizations, commercial and recreational fishing associations, aquariums, and marine science groups – the Network uses its distinct voice and the best available science to educate policymakers, the fishing industry, and the public about the need for sound conservation and management practices. Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to present testimony on the “Fishery Conservation and Management Amendments Act of 2004,” S. 2066, and other issues related to the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. As you are aware, the state of our oceans has been the subject of much attention recently following the release in April of the draft report by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. This report follows a review of our living marine resources by the Pew Oceans Commission in June 2003. The Commissions’ recommendations will provide invaluable guidance to Congress on how to reform and improve the management of our ocean resources. Given that, the Network strongly believes that Congress should not reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act without considering and including the Commissions’ recommendations. Before I discuss the Network’s comments on S. 2066, I would like to briefly discuss our views on the U.S. Commission’s fisheries recommendations. U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy The report by the U.S. Commission has confirmed what most of those who study, protect, and live off the ocean – fishermen, conservationists, environmentalists, marine scientists, and concerned citizens – have been stressing for years: Our oceans are in crisis, and bold, immediate action is absolutely necessary to restore their health. This Bush Administration-appointed commission has identified many of the problems that plague our nation’s oceans and recognized that fundamental reform of our national ocean policy is necessary to correct them. The U.S. Commission’s report confirms the findings of an equally sobering report issued by the Pew Oceans Commission in June 2003 and should erase all doubt that the science is conclusive – our oceans are at their breaking point. If we want to turn back the tide, the U.S. Commission’s report must be the catalyst for changing the course on how we manage our oceans’ resources. This point cannot be stressed enough. The situation is dire, but it is by no means hopeless. Most scientists, advocates, and fishing interests agree that with a reformed national ocean policy, we can strike a long-term balance that simultaneously protects fish, the oceans, and the interests of people who depend on the oceans for their recreation and their livelihood. Ensuring sustainability is important for local economies and consumers nationwide – either through the seafood we eat or the medications and products we buy, there is virtually no one living in the world that doesn’t benefit from the continued health of our oceans in some way. Implementing the U.S. Commission’s key reforms to protect ocean wildlife and the marine environment is the first step toward realizing that balance. The Network lauds the U.S. Commission’s call for moving toward ecosystem-based management, improving the science upon which management decisions are based, broadening representation on regional fisheries management councils to include the general public, and establishing national guidelines for fishing quota programs. Despite the many positive recommendations in the U.S. Commission’s report, there are areas that can be improved. The Network would like to see more specific recommendations from the U.S. Commission to promote ecosystem-based management, stronger guidelines to separate scientific recommendations from political and economic influences, a more thorough critique of dedicated access privileges (such as individual fishing quota programs), specific policies to improve habitat protection, and a greater emphasis on the need for fisheries observers to collect data on the catching and killing of non-target ocean wildlife. On balance, however, we applaud the U.S. Commission for identifying the crisis with our oceans, for recommending enhanced conservation measures, for calling for significant management reform, and for making the protection of our oceans a non-partisan issue that all sides can support. These are critical steps in protecting the valuable resources of our nation’s oceans. S. 2066 Given the depth and strength of the U.S. Commission’s recommendations, we strongly recommend that Congress delay reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act until this Committee has had an opportunity to develop legislation to implement the fisheries recommendations in the U.S. Commission and Pew Commission reports. In our view, the Commissions’ recommendations must serve as the basis for any reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. However, if you choose to go forward with S. 2066, I would like to highlight several sections of the bill that we find particularly troubling. Below is an explanation of our major concerns and suggested alternative language. I’ve attached the Network’s detailed comments to my testimony. The bill defines depleted, a new term, as a stock that is below the range of natural fluctuation of a healthy, stable fish population. Based on past experience, we are concerned that range of natural fluctuation will be used as an excuse to never identify a stock as depleted because fishermen will argue that low stock size is the result of nature not man. In addition, we note that the term depleted is used in the Marine Mammal Protection Act and its use in the Magnuson-Stevens Act with a different meaning may cause confusion. We suggest that overfished or depleted be defined as “a population with a size below the long-term average abundance associated with the production of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) or a size, age, or gender structure that hinders the production of MSY.” S. 2066 proposes to eliminate the 10-year rebuilding requirement and replace it with a requirement to generally limit fishing mortality to levels that would produce MSY (except in cases where international agreements dictate otherwise), and to maintain fishing mortality at levels below 80% of that which would produce MSY for fish stocks that are depleted (except in cases where international agreements dictate otherwise). As discussed earlier, the proposed definition of depleted will mean that few if any fish stocks would be identified as depleted and subject to rebuilding requirements. It also requires fishing restrictions and benefits to be distributed equitably among sectors and communities, while taking into consideration long-term participation in the fishery. This section requires that all fishery management plans contain biomass limits below which a stock should not be allowed to fall, and a threshold below which the fishing mortality rate would be reduced. In general, utilizing constant mortality rates in rebuilding plans is more precautionary than allowing constant catch rates, because with mortality rates the amount of fish caught remains proportional to the size of the population, i.e., the mortality will rise and fall with the size of the population. However, according the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) technical guidelines, most healthy stocks should be fished at 75% of the fishing mortality that would produce MSY. Therefore, this change will set fishing mortality for depleted stocks at a higher level than NMFS’ technical guidance recommends for healthy stocks. Although a constant mortality rate is a conservative and useful rebuilding tool, using a single mortality rate across all depleted stocks is not appropriate. Fish populations have varied life histories, and a single rate defined in statute will not work for all depleted stocks. Because a single mortality rate cannot be applied to all fish stocks, a deadline must also be mandated. Therefore, setting rebuilding fishing mortality rates as described above would significantly weaken existing law by allowing rebuilding for many species to be stretched out. In addition, the language of this section would provide NMFS with a deadline of January 1, 2008 to promulgate regulations to implement this change. If this passes, it is unclear what will happen between now and 2008. Even in 2008, the requirement is only for promulgation of regulations, and the implementation of fishing mortality restrictions may only come much later. In addition, allowing international agreements to override the requirements of this section could lead to continued overfishing. While the proposal of a constant fishing mortality rate for rebuilding plans is positive, the vast differences among fish life histories forces us to oppose this section and strongly recommend retaining the 10-year rebuilding requirement in existing law. Section 26 of the bill adds a requirement to describe habitat areas of particular concern (HAPC). In addition, it gives priority to minimizing adverse impacts of fishing on HAPCs. Finally, it adds HAPCs to the requirement to consult on federal actions that may adversely impact EFH. The fishermen and environmentalists that comprise the Network support this proposal as a reasonable way to focus habitat protection efforts. However, the bill defines HAPCs as discrete vulnerable subunits of essential fish habitat (EFH) that are required for a stock to sustain itself, and focuses protection efforts on HAPCs. This definition sets a vague and high threshold for identification (i.e., habitat necessary for the stock to sustain itself) and information about this is unavailable for most habitats. Therefore, few, if any, HAPCs would be designated. We recommend that you use the NMFS regulatory definition for HAPC: a discrete subset of EFH that meets one of the following criteria: 1) ecologically important; 2) sensitive to human induced degradation; 3) stressed by development; or 4) rare. Observers We note that several sections of the bill are designed to improve the information available for management by creating a national cooperative research program, and developing improved data collection and peer review procedures. In general, we support these provisions. However, we note that one of the most effective methods of gathering fisheries information, fisheries observers, is not addressed. Current funding levels will only provide observers for 43 fisheries and adequate coverage for only 29 of those. Last year Congress took a strong positive step to improve the management of America’s fish populations when it increased the overall fisheries observer budget by almost $11 million. Observers are an essential fish management tool because they provide critical data on the amount and type of ocean wildlife killed due to fishing. Unfortunately, the proposed FY 2005 budget would decrease this funding by $2.3 million and the House has reduced that request by another $2.5million. A nationwide observer program for all federal fisheries would cost approximately $118 million. A smart investment toward the sustainability of our nation’s fisheries would be to fully fund a national observer program. To help accomplish this, we suggest authorizing a national fisheries observer program for all fisheries, including an authorization for sufficient funding to implement the program. Vessel Monitoring Systems Section 27 of the bill establishes a system for states to enter into cooperative enforcement agreements with the Secretary of Commerce. We support this section, but again note that a very effective enforcement tool, vessel monitoring systems (VMS), is not included in the bill. The Administration requested $9.3 million for VMS for FY 2005, but the House level funded the program at $4 million. As stated in my testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee, increasing funding for VMS to $12 million would allow for the establishment and implementation of VMS programs, as well as placing VMS transponders on many of the estimated 10,000 vessels in the U.S. commercial fishing fleet. VMS programs enhance data collection and safety at sea. VMS is also beneficial to regulators because it will allow officials to know when a fishing vessel is violating closed areas or is fishing beyond the end of a regulated fishing season. We suggest specifically authorizing funding for VMS programs. Individual Fishing Quotas We are pleased that S. 2066 contains individual fishing quotas (IFQ) standards. As you know, the Network is very concerned about the potential negative outcomes of individual fishing quota programs. Achievement of stronger conservation measures, better management of our marine resources, and fair economic opportunities for everyone involved depends on how well we regulate IFQ programs. Proponents of IFQ programs suggest that these systems promote safety and better conservation measures. Many fishermen and conservationists, however, are concerned that poorly regulated programs will negatively impact fishing communities and harm efforts to conserve fish populations. The Network issued a peer-reviewed white paper entitled Individual Fishing Quotas: Environmental, Public Trust, and Socioeconomic Impacts on March 19, 2004 that described the environmental and economic impacts of poorly regulated IFQ programs. Specifically, the report revealed that IFQs privatize publicly-owned fishery resources, often increase bycatch (the catching and killing of non-target ocean wildlife) because fishermen discard less economically valuable fish, and consolidate quota into the hands of a few large fishing businesses, thus excluding smaller fishermen and hurting fishing communities. We provided all Commerce Committee members with a copy of our report on April 1, 2004. Additional support for IFQ standards can be found in the draft report of the U.S. Commission, which recommended that fishery managers explore the use of dedicated access privileges, such as IFQs. But, recognizing both the potential and risks inherent in these programs, the U.S. Commission recommended the development of national guidelines to help ensure that these programs promote both economic fairness and enhanced conservation. They recommended that the national guidelines should require dedicated access programs to: · Specify the biological, social, and economic goals of the plan; recipient groups designated for the initial quota shares; and data collection protocols. · Provide for periodic reviews of the plan to determine progress in meeting goals. · Assign quota shares for a limited period of time to reduce confusion concerning public ownership of living marine resources, allow managers flexibility to manage fisheries adaptively, and provide stability to fishermen for investment decisions. · Mandate fees for exclusive access based on a percentage of quota shares held. These user fees should be used to support ecosystem-based management. Fee waivers, reductions or phase-in schedules should be allowed until a fishery is declared recovered or fishermen’s profits increase. · Include measures, such as community-based quota shares or quota share ownership caps, to lessen the potential harm to fishing communities during the transition to dedicated access privileges. · Hold a referendum among all permitted commercial fishermen after adequate public discussion and close consultation with all affected stakeholders, to ensure acceptance of a dedicated access plan prior to final Regional Fishery Management Council approval. We are pleased to note that the standards contained in S. 2066 generally meet the USCOP’s recommendations. However, the Network believes that this language needs to be more explicit to ensure that conservation is enhanced and fishermen and fishing communities are protected. To accomplish this, several changes are necessary, including: 1. A specific requirement to promote the conservation of ocean fish by providing additional and substantial conservation benefits to the fishery. 2. Limiting the duration of IFQ programs and quota shares to 7 years. 3. Requiring a fair and equitable initial allocation of quota shares. 4. A requirement that IFQ programs and shares must be reviewed at least once every 7 years and renewed only if they are meeting or exceeding the conservation requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. 5. A specific definition of and prohibition against excessive consolidation of quota shares. We strongly urge you to move legislation that establishes IFQ standards. As you know, there are IFQ programs under development in Alaska, the Pacific Coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico. Given that, it is absolutely critical that Congress adopt national standards this year. If this requires that you move a separate IFQ standards bill, we urge you to do so. Council Reform Finally, both Commissions have recommended fundamental changes in the composition, operation, and role of the regional fishery management councils. We support these long overdue reforms to the council system. The regional councils were established when the Magnuson Act was originally enacted in 1976. The challenges facing our fisheries were much different then. We were concerned with phasing out foreign fishing and promoting the U.S. industry. Who better than fishermen to decide how to catch more fish? The challenge for the 21st Century, as clearly documented by both Commissions, is to mange increasingly scarce fish resources. As both Commissions have recommended, we must reform the council system to make better use of scientific information to meet this challenge. To accomplish this, the Network has been working for several months to develop legislative language to implement the fisheries management council reform recommendations of the Pew Commission and the U.S. Commission. Congressmen Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced the Fisheries Management Reform Act of 2004, H.R. 4706, on June 24th to implement the Commissions’ proposed regional fishery management council reforms. These reforms fall into three categories: Broaden the Representation on Fishery Management Councils Current law requires that the Secretary of Commerce ensures a fair and balanced appointment of the representatives of the commercial and recreational fisheries under the jurisdiction of the council. Since 1985, this requirement has resulted in 80 – 90 percent of appointed council members representing fishing interests. The Network believes that there should be equal representation between commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, and the public. To address this problem, we recommend amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act to: · Require governors to nominate representatives of the public to serve on councils and consult with the representatives of conservation groups when developing candidate lists for the councils. · Require the Secretary of Commerce to ensure balanced representation between representatives of the public that do not derive any income from fishing, representatives of commercial fishing, and representatives of recreational fishing, when making council appointments. These reforms are supported by the recommendations of the U.S. Commission and the Stanford Fisheries Policy Project. Significantly Reduce Financial Conflicts of Interest Current law exempts council members from the conflict of interest standards that apply to all other regulatory bodies of the federal government. Instead, regulations implementing the Magnuson-Stevens Act require council members to recuse themselves from a council action if they own or represent more than 10% of a fishing gear type or sector. Even if a council member is found to have voted on a matter in violation of this standard, the vote cannot be reconsidered. A recent study by the Stanford Fisheries Policy Project, entitled Taking Stock of the Regional Fishery Management Councils, found that 60 percent of the appointed council members had a direct financial interest in the fisheries they managed. To address this problem, we recommend amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act to: · Prevent council members from participating in any council deliberation or vote on any matter that would affect a financial interest the council member has disclosed. · Invalidate any council action where a council member has voted on a matter he or she should have recused him or herself from, and their vote decided the council action. These reforms are supported by the recommendations of the Stanford Fisheries Policy Project. Separate Conservation and Allocation Decisions In many fisheries, councils must significantly limit the number of fish caught to ensure long-term sustainability, while at the same time allocating fish among groups of fishermen. Because of the political difficulty and economic consequences of reducing quotas, councils often increase quotas contrary to scientific recommendations to unsustainably high levels to make their job easier. To address this problem, we recommend amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act to: · Require the Secretary of Commerce to make decisions about ecologically safe levels of exploitation and habitat protection measures. These conservation decisions should be based on recommendations from independent regional science and technical teams. · Limit the regional fishery management councils to allocating the catch and other conservation measures provided by the Secretary among user groups. The councils may set higher conservation measures than those set by the Secretary, but may not exceed the Secretary’s limits. These reforms are supported by the recommendations of the U.S. Commission, the Pew Commission, and the Stanford Fisheries Policy Project. As I said earlier, legislation to implement these changes was introduced in the House on June 24th. We strongly encourage you to not move any Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill unless these reforms are included. Conclusion Thank you again for providing the Network with an opportunity to testify on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. We strongly urge you to include the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission to reform the composition and operation of the regional fisheries management councils in any legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act. In addition, we urge you to move legislation establishing IFQ standards, with our suggested strengthening amendments, separately if you are unable to move S. 2066. We must not let another Congress go by without the establishment of IFQ standards. Thank you. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Dr. Madeleine Hall-Arber
Good morning, Senator Snowe and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Madeleine Hall-Arber. I am an anthropologist with MIT Sea Grant Program specializing in the impacts on fishing communities of regulatory change in fisheries management. I would like to thank you for inviting me to testify today on the Fishery Conservation and Management Amendments Act of 2004 (S.2066) and other issues related to the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. I anticipate that S.2066 could go a long way toward helping the regional Management Councils and National Marine Fisheries Service adjust their policies and regulations to achieve a more balanced approach to management, an approach that will better reflect the intentions of Congress in their development of the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA). As an anthropologist, I am naturally most interested in seeking ways for the system of management to assure the sustainability and diversity of the fishing industry and fishing communities— as well as the fish stocks. Although SFA’s National Standard 8 was developed to draw attention to fishing communities, subsequent interpretations of the National Standards assume a hierarchy that diminishes the import of the effects of regulations on communities. In other words, National Standard 8, being eighth in line, does not have sufficient weight to create a balance when considered with the other national standards. Apart from this prioritization, another on-going constraint on achieving management that does properly weigh impacts on fishing communities is a lack of consistently collected, long-term data focused on social and cultural factors. This deficiency has made it difficult to evaluate the incremental impacts of proposed regulations and nearly impossible to analyze the cumulative impacts. Several of the changes proposed by S. 2066 compel the inclusion of specific data sets in fishery management plans. For example, Sec. 9 amends Section 303(a)(5) (16 U.S.C. 1853(a)(5) by inserting “ . . .revenues . . . . . . costs, . . . expenditures, etc.” and Section 10 goes on to require the submission of economic data. I support these changes since economic data are essential for evaluating social impacts. However, additional information about the industry participants and fishing communities is necessary to understand both the short-term and long-term impacts of regulatory change. In some cases, social data are necessary to expose economic impacts of regulatory change that may be masked by traditional analysis of the economic data. For example, we have learned that in some New England ports, economic data has suggested that past regulatory actions had relatively little economic impact when in fact the structural changes the regulations caused in the communities had a tremendous impact on the distribution of economic benefits with consequential social and business impacts. In fact, I believe that the information S.2066 requires for the development of individual fishing quotas (Sec. 11) should be moved to Sec. 9, and thus mandated as fishery management plan requirements regardless of whether or not individual quotas are being considered. Present participation in the fishery; historical fishing practices and dependence on the fishery; the economics of the fishery; conservation requirements; capability of the vessels to switch to other fisheries; the cultural and social framework relevant to the fishery and any affected fishing community; and other relevant consideration should be evaluated for every management plan. Without such detail, it is difficult to fairly and equitably evaluate the plans to “distribute the public resource.” I applaud the efforts to address the negative aspects of fishing quotas by limiting concentration of quota share; allocating a portion (and financing) for entry-level fishermen, small vessel owners, skippers, crew members and communities; and allocating shares among the various categories of vessels and gear types. Over the years that I have been studying the region’s fishing industry, I have been impressed by the value to the region of the diversity extant in the fleet. Unfortunately, the cumulative impact of groundfish regulations since Amendment 7, along with constraints on fishing alternative species (e.g., all the license, quota, gear and area limitations) has diminished this diversity. Focused initiatives may be needed to salvage what remains. The importance of using community- or area-based approaches and strategies for fisheries management cannot be stressed enough. The Cooperative Research and Management (Title 5) program (Section 501) could provide major support for the research that would be necessary for such management. However, just as the existing National Standards implicitly rank impacts on fishing communities as a lower priority than the previous seven standards, so too do Council’s ranking of research priorities, at least in the Northeast. Consequently, I would suggest that the amendment specify that some portion of the funds be allocated to collaborative social science research. In the last few years I have been working closely with David Bergeron of Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership and Bonnie McCay of Rutgers University on a collaborative project that has established community panels in six fishing ports in the Northeast. Our goal has been to help the communities themselves identify what issues and concerns are most important and what solutions are possible. A key element identified by all the panels is the neglected consideration of the cumulative impacts of regulatory changes in FMPs. The addition to National Standard 8 of an explicit consideration of cumulative impacts (Sec. 25) on communities is welcomed. Among other tasks, we have worked with the community panels to elicit priorities for government funding (when emergency funds were allocated for groundfish fishermen after the Interim Rule was implemented) and comments on Amendment 13 to the Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. Currently, the panels are developing reports that detail the infrastructure essential for the maintenance of a viable industry and evaluate their community’s infrastructure. Already, initial drafts are being consulted by local officials for harbor planning. In the fall, we intend to bring together representatives from all six panels to facilitate identification of common needs and approaches. We have found that the collaboration improves the science. Our experiences working with the community panels have further strengthened our support for collaborative research in the social as well as biological sciences. Given the potential impacts of a fishing quota system on the communities and participants in the fishing industry who are not permit holders, I wonder if a referendum among eligible permit holders is sufficient. Certainly, any referendum should be preceded by educational outreach efforts that provide information about the proposed quota system and elicit comments from a broad range of community members. Likewise, if a capacity reduction program is initiated, the potential for widespread impacts makes a broad educational outreach effort imperative. It does make sense to consider steaming time (Sec. 15) to more equitably account for geographic differences; however, not only should the distances to the fishing grounds from the different States be considered, but also the effect of closed areas on the distances between all the ports and their fishing grounds. Furthermore, any account of such differences that was taken in the past should be included in the analysis for equitable allocation of days-at-sea or other regulations. As the Councils and Agency attempt to move towards ecosystem management, I urge both to keep in mind the human activity both at sea and on land that affects fishery ecosystems. In the long run, coastal zone management may prove as significant as limiting fishing to the sustainability of our fish stocks. Implicit in the required evaluation of social and cultural impacts of regulations on fishing communities is a consideration of distributive impacts. In other words, who benefits, who suffers and what are the consequences? Perhaps like cumulative impacts, this should be made explicit in the FMP requirements. Though I am most familiar with fishing communities of the Northeast, the impacts of regulations for both commercial and recreational fisheries affect communities in every region. Judging from professional meetings and correspondence with colleagues elsewhere, all face similar constraints in the lack of data and a perception that social science is too “soft.” However, our work in the Northeast has revealed that when a broad-based, collaborative approach is supported, resulting insights can lead to improvements in both science and management. Finally, I wish to thank you, Senator Snowe, and the Committee members, for your efforts to achieve an equitable balance between support for our fishing industry and protection of our natural resources for future generations. I appreciate the opportunity to draw attention to the human dimensions that can make or break this tenuous equilibrium.
Dr. Terry Quinn
Fishery Conservation and Management Amendments Act of 2004 (S. 2066) Written testimony of Professors Jeremy S. Collie, Terrance J. Quinn II, and David Fluharty September 14, 2004 CREDENTIALS: Dr. Collie is a Professor of Oceanography at the Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island. From 1988-1992, he worked as Assistant Professor of Fisheries at the University of Alaska. His teaching and research specialty is population dynamics of marine fish. Dr. Collie’s involvement with fisheries management includes serving on plan development teams of the North Pacific and New England Fishery Management Councils. From 1996-2001, he served on the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council, which set fishing regulations in state waters. Dr. Quinn is a Professor of Fish Population Dynamics at the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and lives in Juneau. An expert in fishery modeling and statistics, he is the author of over 100 scientific publications in major journals and proceedings. He is co-author with Dr. R.B. Deriso of Quantitative Fish Dynamics, one of the few books available in the field of fish population dynamics. He has served on 5 committees of the Ocean Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, including 2 as chair or co-chair. He has served on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for almost 20 years and is Associate Editor for the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Almost 20 students have received graduate degrees under his shepherding, and he is active in teaching quantitative courses at the graduate level. Dr. Fluharty is Wakefield Professor of Ocean and Fishery Sciences at the School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle. His teaching and research focuses on management and policy for marine resources and the environment. From 1994-2003 Dr. Fluharty was a voting-member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. During this time he served as Chair of the Ecosystem Principles Advisory Panel in its work to implement the Sustainable Fisheries Act 1996 mandate for a report to Congress on ecosystem-based fishery management. In addition, Dr. Fluharty served on the National Research Council study committee on the evaluation and design and monitoring of marine reserves and protected areas in the United States. He serves as associate editor of Coastal Management Journal. His students are making increasingly important contributions to the management of marine resources at local, state and national levels as well as abroad. The goal of our testimony is to assist in the development of improved measures for management of fisheries in the U.S. with a focus on issues of scientific importance. Our testimony focuses on Sections 3, 11, 14, 15, 22, 23, 24, 26, and 28. SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS. The term ‘depleted’ when used with respect to a fish stock is an improvement over the term ‘overfished.’ This substitution should clear up some of the confusion resulting from the definitions in the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act. However, there is still ambiguity in what is considered ‘the natural range of fluctuation.’ The intent of this definition is that a stock be recognized as depleted when it is of a size below that capable of producing maximum sustainable yield in a reasonable amount of time. Is a stock depleted if it is reduced in size by natural fluctuations? Or should a stock be considered depleted when it is reduced below a threshold size regardless of how it got there? This definition needs to be perfected, and we suggest: “The term ‘depleted’, when used with respect to a stock (or stock complex) of fish, means that the stock is of a size that jeopardizes its long-term capacity to produce MSY.” This definition is consistent with previous ones used by Congress and NMFS, imbeds the concept of risk resulting from a stock being at a low level, and implicitly requires the consideration of natural variability and density-dependent effects of stock size. SEC. 11. INDIVIDUAL FISHING QUOTAS. IFQs are desirable from a biological conservation point of view, although recent research (Brandon 2004) shows that the conservation gains are relatively small in already well-managed fisheries. Prescribing the set of participants and the total quota greatly facilitates in-season management and the attainment of quotas. Vesting the participants with quota share promotes long-term conservation of the resource and ensures that benefits of rebuilding programs will be shared among current participants. Most of the socio-economic concerns about IFQs can be addressed in a well-designed program. Care must be exercised to avoid burdening IFQ programs with provisions that are very difficult to implement on a continuing basis or which create unrealistic expectations, e.g., facilitating new entry into already fully developed fisheries. Similarly, some provisions that would reserve access to proximate users may be in conflict with the overall strictures to not discriminate against residents of other states and not to use solely economic rationales for allocation decisions. A cap on the fee level that can be charged should be set for IFQ programs in order to avoid the unintended consequences of 1) encouraging the expansion of fishery management costs to levels that a fishery could not afford, or 2) charging a fishery more than the costs of management. While some arguments exist for requiring referendum resulting in a super-majority of eligible permit holders in order to submit an IFQ proposal to the Secretary of Commerce, it may unnecessarily burden the design of such arrangements and block implementation. It is well known that within most fisheries, a relatively small number of fishing permit holders take a majority of the fish. If there exists, as frequently happens, a large number of small share holders who anticipate that they can increase their landings above the equitable share they have earned historically, this group [a majority of permit holders but a minority in fishing effect] can block the fishery management benefits that a properly designed IFQ program is intended to produce. Thus, it would seem appropriate for the Councils to develop IFQ programs through their normal public participation processes using the guidelines advanced in S. 2066. An advisory referendum could be taken and submitted along with the proposed IFQ program. Existing IFQ programs (e.g., halibut, sablefish) and experience from other nations (e.g., New Zealand and Iceland) will help to guide the design of effective and equitable IFQ programs. The provisions of this section provide sufficient checks and balances. IFQs are particularly suited for fisheries with fairly homogenous fleets that target on single species. IFQs can work in other fisheries but are clearly not the answer in all fisheries. SEC.14. REBUILDING DEPLETED FISHERIES. Fish stocks may be depleted by causes other than fishing; conversely fishing on a depleted stock may need to be reduced even when fishing was not the cause of the depletion. Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is still a useful reference level, despite past critiques (Larkin 1977). The main criticism of MSY was that this constant level of yield could not be harvested year-after-year from a fishery subject to natural variability. However, the rate of fishing, FMSY, and the biomass level, BMSY, are useful reference points. One advantage of these reference points is that they are readily calculated from most fish stock assessment models, or else there are suitable proxies based on spawning biomass per recruit analyses or other life history parameters. In general, reference rates (e.g., FMSY) of fishing mortality are known with more certainty than reference levels of biomass (e.g., BMSY). Taking the New England and North Pacific fish stocks as an example, the rates of fishing mortality to ensure stock rebuilding are well known, but the levels to which the stocks will rebuild are uncertain. It is therefore appropriate to specify rebuilding on the basis of limit fishing mortality rates. For most depleted stocks an upper limit of 80% of FMSY should allow rebuilding. It should be borne in mind that these are limit reference points, and that target fishing mortality rates may be lower than these limits. There is a finite risk that a depleted stock, even when managed according to these limit fishing mortality rates, will not rebuild in a 10-year time frame. In such cases, further reductions in fishing mortality may be required. Section 14(a) eliminates the previous requirement that rebuilding be accomplished within a 10 year period, except when biology and or environment dictate otherwise. The advantages of eliminating the 10-year period include: (1) This time period is arbitrary. (2) This time period has led to controversy and delays in creating rebuilding plans. (3) It is practically impossible to predict the biomass of the stock 10 years from now. (4) Focusing on a time far from now distracts from the situation at the current time. The disadvantages of eliminating the 10-year period include: (1) Councils can produce rebuilding plans that have little chance of rebuilding the stock in a reasonable time period. (2) Whether the rebuilding plan is internally consistent with the inherent dynamics of the stock is no longer important. (3) Fishing mortality limits in themselves may be insufficient to provide rebuilding. (4) Revised National Standard Guidelines are being promulgated by NMFS to provide extra flexibility in developing reasonable rebuilding schedules. Therefore it may be premature to eliminate the 10-year rebuilding plan, until experience is gained under the revised National Standard Guidelines. Section 14(a) does not require action to limit fishing mortality to FMSY (or lower) until Jan 1, 2008. We see no reason to delay such action anymore than 1 year after passage of the bill. The Councils have had ample opportunity to control fishing mortality on their stocks, since NMFS promulgated National Standard Guidelines to limit fishing mortality in 1990. There is no excuse for overfishing in any US fishery. One key provision of Section 14(a) is that fishing mortality should be no greater than FMSY. This provision is consistent with precautionary management principles as explained above. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council established FMSY as a default in 1988 and as a limit in 1990 (Goodman et al. 2002), so it would not be affected by this provision. The generally successful result obtained by the NPFMC under this approach might serve well in other regions. Another key provision of Section 14(a) is that fishing mortality should be no greater than 80% of FMSY when a stock is depleted. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council established a biomass-based policy in 1990, in which fishing mortality decreases linearly as biomass decreases below BMSY (Goodman et al. 2002). Currently, 50% of BMSY is a frequently-used default for overfished (depleted), which means that the NPFMC decreases fishing mortality to at least 50% of FMSY, which is much more stringent than the 80% provision. Theoretically, fishing a depleted stock at FMSY, 80% of FMSY, or 50% of FMSY will eventually rebuild the stock to the BMSY level. Lower fishing mortality will make the rebuilding quicker and surer, unless environmental and biological factors intervene to extinguish the rebuilding. We suspect that the 80% value will be criticized as being arbitrary. An alternative could be to specify a fishing mortality limit in which the probability of rebuilding to BMSY is at least 50% within one to two generation times. One weakness of the current provisions in S2066 is that there is no change in the fishing mortality limit until the depletion level is reached or approached. We encourage alternative rebuilding plans that have continuous adjustment as the biomass level decreases – a “slow down and slow up” approach to quota setting. Specifically, more effective harvesting results when fishing mortality is reduced at lower biomass levels, as is done by the North Pacific and Pacific Fishery Management Councils. Councils should have some flexibility to develop rebuilding schedules in which fishing mortality is adjusted to provide the proper rebuilding, but not if their alternative is inferior to a constant fishing mortality limit. Therefore, we suggest adding language such as “The above notwithstanding, the Councils and Secretary may consider alternative rebuilding schedules that do not meet these limits, as long as it is shown that rebuilding will occur at least as fast to the BMSY level.” Finally, some exception to these limits is needed for some stocks in multispecies fisheries. At present there is confusion whether all species caught would be subject to these requirements. It is simply not possible to do this for incidental species and rare species. Perhaps the Councils and Secretary should engage in a public process to list which species (core or target species) would be governed by overfishing criteria. If this “exception” is not in place, then a Council might have to drop species from its plan and hence give them less protection than they have at present. For example, the NPFMC has multispecies groundfish plans in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea that contain many species. Some of these species, such as rockfish, are only caught incidentally, may be at the limit of their distribution, and are difficult to assess. By being in an FMP, these species do currently receive much attention. NPFMC as would other Councils may have to remove such species from the FMP if they had fishing mortality limits, because these limits could prevent the prosecution of all other fisheries. Realistically, protection for these data-poor species can only come from time-area restrictions, marine protected areas, bycatch limits, directed fishing definitions, and focused research. Perhaps some general approaches will be formulated under the pilot program for fishery ecosystem plans in section 28 of this bill. Section 14(c) requires that any FMP must contain a biomass limit below which the stock should not be allowed to fall and a threshold below which fishing mortality rate must be reduced. Unfortunately there are many data-poor stocks for which it is impossible to estimate an appropriate biomass level. Even for data-rich stocks, in which biomass is well estimated, it may be very difficult to define an unambiguous biomass level that constitutes danger to the stock. Similarly, there are some stocks for which fishing mortality cannot be determined and consequently a fishing mortality threshold could not be determined. Perhaps the phrase “to the extent practicable” should be added to this section. The provision in Sec. 14(a)(4)(A)(i) provides an exception for international fisheries to the overall impetus to promote rebuilding strategies. Presumably, this language may be necessary to avoid tying the hands of U.S. negotiators in international discussions. If so, this exemption may be conditioned by Congress to encourage negotiators to employ the fundamental approach of Sec. 14 in international fora. Only when U.S. negotiators fail by dint of scientific argument and conservation leadership to obtain this result would the exception be instituted. This appears to be U.S. practice, but Congressional endorsement may strengthen the U.S. hand in negotiations. SEC. 15. This section on steaming time might be read to allow discrimination among residents of different states based on distance from where the fishery occurs and would, thus, violate the intent of the MSFCMA. The effect of this provision should be examined carefully in light of its application to the eight fishery management regions. For the Alaska region, the implications are not well studied, however, it could unintentionally complicate fishery management if vessels based on the West Coast in Washington or Oregon were to request special consideration for steaming time. SEC. 22. COOPERATIVE RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT. Cooperative research programs utilize fishermen’s extensive first-hand knowledge, use fishing boats as research platforms, and help to establish working relationships between fishermen and scientists. However, cooperative research programs do not substitute for the scientific research necessary to support ecosystem-based fishery management and conservation. This type of research requires oceanographic and fisheries research vessels with state-of-the-art equipment and higher endurance and station-keeping ability than most fishing vessels can provide. To the extent that cooperative research programs do not meet the same standards of peer review of proposals and publication as the federal scientific research agencies, the results may not provide the ‘best scientific information available’ that this Act requires to form the basis of management decisions. Cooperative research programs should not come at the expense of the National Marine Fisheries Service baseline research programs. The intent may be to supplement existing research programs, but by earmarking appropriations for cooperative research programs while at the same time level-funding or reducing base funding, the net result may be a degradation of scientific research in support of fisheries conservation and management. In particular, cooperative trawl research between NMFS and the fishing industry cannot substitute for the NMFS groundfish survey, which is the backbone of stock assessment for the Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery. Fishing industry trawl research is useful for species with distributions outside the groundfish survey strata (e.g., monkfish). However, the relative abundance of most of the multispecies groundfish complex is well measured by the groundfish survey. Adequate funding of the groundfish survey in New England and the other regions should remain a high priority. SEC.23. PEER REVIEW OF DATA COLLECTION; SEC. 24. ADVISORY COMMITTEE REFORM AND PEER REVIEW. One of the most important means for validating scientific data collection and research is the process of peer review. In the Council arena, the quality of the science is highly important to the integrity of the process, because National Standard 2 requires the use of the best scientific information available. The ultimate question is what level of peer review is needed? In most cases, there is already internal peer review, and the SSC and other scientific advisory bodies perform routine external peer review. Full-scale external peer review is expensive and time consuming. Thus, only in serious scientific disputes of major importance should additional external peer review be invoked. An additional reason for this is that the number of scientists who can provide substantial peer review is limited, and as such, a requirement for extensive peer review in all situations could totally swamp the fisheries science community and be unachievable. Seldom, in our experience, has there been a major scientific mistake made resulting in overharvesting. The overall quality of fisheries science in the U.S. context is among the best in the world. However, fisheries management in the U.S. is replete with serious mistakes have been made by ignoring scientific inputs which are at odds with economic and social desires. The failure to use and be constrained by scientific understanding should not be confused with a need for peer review. Peer review should not be used as an excuse for delaying implementation of potentially distasteful measures. Scheduling of scientific advisory committee meetings should allow proper internal and SSC review to be formally reported to the Councils prior to Councils taking action. The quality of the science, in our view, is less of a problem than ensuring that the scientific advice is heeded. The requirement for peer review should be consistent with the recently released National Academy of Sciences report (2004) on Defining Best Scientific Information Available, and Councils should develop and publish formal peer review policies on their websites. Too often, scientific advisory panels receive too much material to review in much too short a time period. Formal peer review policies should provide sufficient time for review, which would obviously depend on the complexity of the issue and the analysis. SEC. 26. ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT. The existing EFH definitions have been criticized on the grounds that they are too extensive and that they are defined on the basis of “where the fish are” instead of by independent habitat characteristics. These shortcomings are partly due to the abbreviated timetable that the councils were given to define EFH and a lack of resources to perform necessary research. Rather than abandoning EFH, as some have advocated, there is an opportunity to refine and strengthen the EFH definitions. These refinements can be achieved by basing EFH on known fish-habitat relationships, and by specifying a smaller percentage of the spatial distribution of each fish species as EFH (e.g., DeLong and Collie 2004). The EFH definitions are especially important for commenting on, and regulating non-fishery impacts on fish habitat. Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) are an underutilized fishery management tool. The inclusion of HAPC in this amendment follows a recommendation of the National Research Council committee on the Effects of Bottom Fishing on Seafloor Habitat: “The term HAPC should be clearly and narrowly defined with establishment of specific guidelines for regulating fishing activities. The effectiveness of the designations should be reviewed periodically. HAPC forms a subset of EFH based on the ecological value of the area, its susceptibility to perturbation, and whether it is rare or currently stressed. However, current policy does not require additional protection for HAPC. Because of the demonstrated importance of HAPC in the life cycles of exploited fish populations, HAPC sites should receive priority in fishery management plans (NRC 2002, p. 69). HAPCs will likely constitute a small percentage of the fishing grounds, but they are the best tools for protecting sensitive habitats. SEC. 28. ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH PRIORITIES. There is a broad mandate for ecosystem-based fisheries management, but some confusion about what it means and how it can be made operational (Link 2002). In developing pilot Fishery Ecosystem Plans, incremental approaches will be more pragmatic than plans that are based on emergent ecosystem properties. Ecosystem-based fisheries management does not require abandoning the existing single-species fishery management plans (Quinn and Collie, in press). Instead it means adding other dimensions or layers of ecosystem considerations. The ecosystem considerations that are most important to fisheries management include: · Minimization of bycatch by means of selective fishing gears, cooperative programs to avoid areas with high bycatch rates, and innovative programs to utilize regulatory discards while discouraging targeting of bycatch species. · Protection of complex benthic habitats that enhance fish production. · Accounting for predator-prey interactions when setting fishing mortality rates and biological reference points (e.g., conditioning quotas for prey species on the level of predation mortality). · Identifying harvest strategies that are robust to environmentally induced regime shifts. To the extent that existing fishery management plans already account for bycatch and other environmental factors, the councils are already incorporating ecosystem considerations. These considerations need to be expanded, quantified, and formalized. Some argue that ecosystem-based fisheries management will overly complicate an already complex management framework. A counter argument is that most of the ecosystem considerations reinforce existing single-species fishery management plans. In most cases, the goals of fish conservation and ecosystem conservation are compatible and reinforce each other. In some cases, there are trade-offs between fishing and ecosystem conservation that need to be addressed in Fishery Ecosystem Plans. REFERENCES Brandon, H. 2004. Theoretical and Actual Biological Effects of Share-based Management Programs: Three Case Studies from the North Pacific. Master’s Thesis. School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle. DeLong, A.K. and J.S. Collie. 2004. Defining essential fish habitat: a model-based approach. Rhode Island Sea Grant, Narragansett, R.I. Goodman, D., M. Mangel, G. Parkes, T. Quinn, V. Restrepo, T. Smith, and K. Stokes (with G. Thompson’s assistance). 2002. Scientific review of the harvest strategy currently used in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fishery management plans. North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Anchorage AK. http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/misc_pub/f40review1102.pdf Larkin, P.A. 1977. An epitaph for the concept of maximum sustained yield. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 106(1):1-11. Link, J.S. 2002. What does ecosystem-based fisheries management mean? Fisheries 27(4):18-21. National Research Council (NRC). 2004. Improving the Use of the “Best Available Scientific Information” Standard in Fisheries Management. Washington, D.C. National Research Council (NRC). 2002. Effects of trawling and dredging on seafloor habitat. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Quinn, T.J., II, and J.S. Collie. in press. Sustainability in single-species population models. Royal Society of London, Philosophical Transactions.