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NEFMC Meeting Results, Amendment is split
June 25, 2009
As you know, the NEFMC met yesterday in Portland and spent the entire day discussing herring. There were some important decisions made at the meeting and so I wanted to try and fill you all in quickly incase you did not make it.
After a year of work on Amendment 4 to the herring plan, it has become clear that the original time line that was hoped for at the start of the process is going to be impossible to achieve. It was originally hoped that we would be at the point now where final alternatives could be decided upon. That would have required that the proposed alternatives that had been chosen on by the Council this past winter would be fully completed and analyzed and that they could have made the final vote on what to include in the amendment when it went out to public comment.
But unfortunately the document is not nearly that complete. While none of the alternatives have been fully written, nor have any of the programs contained in the alternatives been fully analyzed in terms of cost, a lot of discussion has been seen on Alt 3, which is the alternative based on the work CHOIR submitted.While there are a handful of reasons for this, a big one is that the CHOIR proposal was detailed when we submitted it. I feel that it has benefited from this increased focus and some important additions have been made that make it a stronger alternative. The other two alternatives, though, have been given almost no scrutiny and they are still a ways off from being complete. Part of this delay is in part to the complex work being done in this amendment, but there have certainly been some efforts by some stakeholders to bog the process down. But whatever the reason, the bottom line is that the amendment is not far enough along to make it possible for alternatives to be chose at this time.
Also, the Council staff felt that given the work still needed on this amendment, and because of the statutory deadline for the implementation of Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures (ACLs and AMs), that it will be very hard to finish the full amendment if the Council was trying to do both ACLs/AMs and monitoring in the amendment. While many in the audience and a good number of Council members felt that this is not a problem, there was concern that, because the Herring PDT is spending a the next few months working on Herring Specs for the next 3 years, that the timing would be tough given the legal mandate to get ACLs and AM in.
As a result of this, the Council took the Herring Committee’s recommendation (earlier this month) and voted to split the amendment. Amendment 4 will now be focusing solely on the completion of ACLs and AMs, and Amendment 5 will be the vehicle which will tackle the remaining parts to the original amendment. These are: monitoring, river herring bycatch, issues related to herring catch in the mackerel fishery, and access to groundfish closed areas.
There was a lot of discussion on the move to split and not everyone was happy with this. David Pierce, Dave Preble and a handful of others felt strongly that the split was a bad idea. A handful of members of the public agreed. Since the amendment was initiated almost solely due to the desire to get better monitoring in the herring fishery, they felt this was a bad move. They also were concerned that it will delay a monitoring program improvement for more than the Council staff said it would. The big concern here is that some herring midwater trawl advocated may try and push for an allocation program again in the new amendment.
Because of this concern about further delays to the implementation of a monitoring program, the Council voted to only include the 4 goals mentioned above that were supposed to be in Amendment 4 in Amendment 5. They also made a vote to request that the Herring Committee hold 3 meetings between now and the November Council meeting to work on finalizing alternatives. This motion was made to ensure that the head of steam that has built in developing monitoring programs is not lost when the PDT works on Specs over the summer. It was also made because the Council wants to get a monitoring program done and you can tell most everyone was frustrated by this need to split. They also voted on a timeline that will also hopefully ensure that more delays are seen in the future.
The Council also showed a lot of support for a move to write a letter to request for help (in essence) from the Secretary of Commerce. As some of you may know, the ASMFC voted at its most recent meeting to write a letter to the Secretary asking him to take emergency action to protect river herring stocks. The ASMFC wants better monitoring and they made this major move to request action and this was what really initiated this discussion at the Council meeting yesterday. Multiple Council members-including Council Director Paul Howard- felt (rightly so) that it would be good to ask the Secretary for help on monitoring on other species, too, and not just river herring. I think this is a good thing because the Secretary has a lot of power here (because of the Magnuson Act) and he may be able to step in and help get better monitoring in the time between now and when the Amendment 5 is finally done. This is an interesting situation and I will keep you posted on any developments.
So, again, the Council split the amendment and will try and wrap up Specs and ACLs/AMs by November and will then focus solely on Amendment 5. Between November and now, the Herring Committee will hopefully meet 3 times and will do a lot of work on the alternatives so come November they can hit the ground running on Amendment 5. This split does mean there will be some delay in seeing a new monitoring program, but hopefully it will not be too much longer than initially expected. As mentioned above, the Council made a couple moves to both limit Amendment 5 to only what was supposed to be in 4, and to ensure the alternatives are worked on over the summer, and I do feel there are a lot of people on the Council that want to get monitoring done ASAP.
I will keep you posted on everything that happens.