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Summary from August 24th Herring Committee meeting
September 01, 2009
As you know, this Monday the NEFMC Herring Committee met in Portland, Maine, to continue work on Amendment 5 to the herring plan. The bulk of the meeting was spent on the catch monitoring alternatives.
The meeting began with a discussion of Alternative 2, the alternative based on ideas submitted by the midwater trawl industry, as well as some proposed changes to the Alternative submitted by the midwater trawl representatives (as part of their “streamlined Alternative 2”). A lawyer for the midwater industry was at the mic and took questions from members of the Committee. Some of the changes put forth by the industry really weaken their alternative, especially in regards to the catch monitoring aspect. The first of these changes is to remove the requirement to bring all fish aboard for sampling. The reasoning for this is that it would be unsafe to bring it onboard. The second is to remove the requirement to require that observers be allowed to view whats in the codend before the pump is removed. They say that this is not possible since seiners do not have codends and therefore they cannot have that requirement. While these two reasons were given as explanations for removing these two parts of the alternative, many would question to whether thats really why the changes are being made. Regardless of the reasoning, these two changes will make it very hard for bycatch to be properly accounted for.
Two more modifications to the catch monitoring aspect of the alternative include the words “the the extent practicable” to the language- once when it comes to showing the observer whats in the codend after pumping, and once when it comes to allowing the observer to get a sample of a haul that is going to be dumped. The Committee raised the issue of these changes and how it would weaken the catch monitoring system the midwater industry is proposing. In fact, at one point the midwater industry’s lawyer slipped up and referred to these changes as “loopholes”, bringing chuckles from the Committee and the audience. That is what these changes are- loopholes, as they allow for the vessel to dump without showing the observer or giving the observer a sample when they want to. While this alternative was somewhat weak in terms of catch monitoring to begin with, these changes all mean that it is even less effective now. (I will attach the full alternative 2 document to this email incase people want to see it)
Next, there was a discussion of the “Code of Conduct” submitted by members of the midwater trawl industry under the title the “Pelagic Resource Council”. While there has been some discussion of a possible “Code of Conduct” by the midwater industry, this is the first time something has actually been put on paper. While such a code is a good step for the industry to take, it is by no means a solution to the problems being addressed by this amendment. A code like this does not require anything it just recommends that certain things be done. And eventhough it is not setting out any requirements, the term “to the extent practicable” was seen on multiple occasions in the short code (and the Committee noted this during the discussion). While the industry explained that this is not something they are trying to include in the amendment, the document mentioned in the previous paragraph noted the Code of Conduct and so who knows if they will try and get it in down the road. The worry is that this would be used to draw attention from having a more comprehensive catch monitoring system.
After these two discussions took place, the Committee began discussing the “reorganized” draft of the Draft Discussion Document for the amendment. Basically the Discussion Document is the document that keeps a running tab on all these being discussed and included in the amendment. It is essentially the first rough draft of the amendment. Over the last year or so, Lori Steele has been updating the document and due to the complex nature of the goals of the amendment, the document was getting a little confusing. So, due to this confusion, members of the Committee and Lori did some work on the document and shuffled it around and made it more simple. The Committee voted to go with this new document. While there was some concern by the audience about how this reorganization would take place, the Committee assured them that it would be done in a public manner so that people could see how it is done. The concern is that, in doing the shuffling, some things may get weakened down or even lost altogether. But, again, the Committee assured everyone that people would have a chance to see how the changes are made.
One more important discussion that went on was regarding what permit categories should be included in the catch monitoring system being developed in this amendment. Up until now it was believed that the system would be for the Categories a and B vessels- which covers the midwater trawlers and seiners, who account for over 90% of landings. But at this meeting the committee made moves towards including Category C vessels as well. There was even some discussion about possibly including Category D vessels, which would mean that all herring vessels in the regions would be included in the system. This would increase the number of boats that would be in the system dramatically. People are split on this issue since C and D boats are higher in number yet account for a small percentage of landings. While the Committee seemed inclined towards wanting C and possible D vessels in the system, it is hard to tell at this point who will be included in the system when it is all said and done.
While that is not all that happened at the meeting, those are most of the key points. The Committee made some headway at this meeting but there is still a long way to go. The next meeting is on the 17th of September and it will be dedicated to discussion of catch monitoring alternatives again