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Resource Ecology and
Fisheries Management (REFM) Division

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SCIENCES PROGRAM: Regulatory Analysis of North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program Regulations

After the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) took final action on proposed regulatory changes to the Observer Program, AFSC economists revised the regulatory analysis.  The NPFMC recommended: 1) extending the Observer Program regulations through 31 December 2007; 2) changing the observer certification and decertification process to ensure that it is compliant with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA); 3) changing the observer certification criteria and standards of behavior to clarify and strengthen these regulations; 4) replacing the observer provider (contractor) certification and decertification process with an APA compliant permitting process similar to that used for other NMFS Alaska Region permits; 5) changing the duties and responsibilities of observer providers in order to eliminate ambiguities and to strengthen the regulations governing the relationship between NMFS and the observer providers; and 6) increasing the ability of NMFS to interact effectively with observers, fishermen, and processing plant employees by granting to NMFS the authority to place NMFS staff and other qualified persons aboard groundfish and halibut vessels and at groundfish plants.

Cooperative Agreement with PSMFC

A cooperative agreement with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) was developed.  Economic and social analyses of Federal management actions and policies are required to meet the stewardship responsibilities of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  They are also required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, Executive Order 12866, and other federal laws. The primary objective of this cooperative agreement is to provide economic and sociocultural information that will assist NMFS and the NPFMC in conducting the required analyses.  This objective will be met by the successful completions of projects that will collect economic and sociocultural data relevant for the conservation and management of living marine resources and develop models to use that data both to monitor changes in economic and sociocultural indicators and to estimate the economic and sociocultural impacts of alternative management measures.  This cooperative agreement will allow NMFS and PSMFC to continue to work collaboratively to improve substantially the economic and sociocultural information that is available to support the conservation and management of living marine resources off Alaska.  The following 11 projects will be completed under this cooperative agreement:

1. Input price data collection
2. Cost, earnings, and employment data collection program
3. Data verification
4. Electronic economic data logbook pilot study
5. Development of supply and demand models for groundfish
6. Improvement of regional economic models
7. Logbook enhancement and data entry
8. Economic value of sport halibut fishing in Alaska
9. Alaska halibut charter boat economics survey 2003
10. Nonconsumptive value of Steller sea lion protection measures
11. Sociocultural data collection and research.

Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization

In June, the NPFMC identified its preferred alternative.  The NPFMC described that alternative as a voluntary three pie cooperative, designed to recognize the prior economic interests and importance of the partnership between harvesters, processors, and communities. The alternative includes mandatory reporting requirements for economic data.  Specifically, the NPFMC’s motion states that:

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service shall have the authority to implement a mandatory data collection program of cost, revenue, ownership, and employment data upon members of the Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands (BSAI) crab fishing industry harvesting or processing fish under the Council’s authority.  Data collected under this authority will be maintained in a confidential manner and may not be released to any party other than staffs of federal and state agencies directly involved in the management of the fisheries under the Council’s authority and their contractors.

A mandatory data collection program shall be developed and implemented as part of the crab rationalization program and continued through the life of the program.  Cost, revenue, ownership and employment data will be collected on a periodic basis (based on scientific requirements) to provide the information necessary to study the impacts of the crab rationalization program as well as collecting data that could be used to analyze the economic and social impacts of future FMP amendments on industry, regions, and localities. This data collection effort is also required to fulfill the Council problem statement requiring a crab rationalization program that would achieve “equity between the harvesting and processing sectors” and to monitor the “…economic stability for harvesters, processors and coastal communities.”  Both statutory and regulatory language shall be developed to ensure the confidentiality of these data.

Any mandatory data collection program shall include a comprehensive discussion of the enforcement of such a program, including enforcement actions that would be taken if inaccuracies in the data are found.  The intent of this action would be to ensure that accurate data are collected without being overly burdensome on industry for unintended errors.

AFSC economists had the lead in developing the descriptions of the data requirements that were reviewed by the NPFMC in June.  They will be involved in a cooperative effort to develop the required data collection programs.  Our partners in this effort will include members of an industry working group. Later this summer, the NPFMC will submit a report to Congress that addresses the legislative actions that will be required to implement its preferred alternative, including the economic data reporting requirements.

By Joe Terry.

Training, Briefing, and Debriefing Statistics

During the second quarter of 2002, 139 observers were trained, briefed, and equipped for deployment to fishing and processing vessels and shoreside plants in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands.  They sampled aboard 179 fishing and processing vessels and at 16 shoreside processing plants.  These observers were trained or briefed in various locations.  The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Observer Training Center  trained three first-time observers and briefed another 71 observers with prior experience.  The AFSC Observer Program in Seattle trained 14 first-time observers and briefed another 36 observers who had prior experience.  Fifteen observers were excused from briefing because they had just completed a cruise successfully and were returning immediately to the field.  The second quarter 2002 observer workforce thus comprised 12% new observers and 88% experienced observers.

The Observer Program conducted a total of 202 debriefings during the second quarter of 2002.  Seventy debriefings were held in Anchorage, one in Kodiak, and another 131 in Seattle.

Changes to Observer Program Regulations

At its April 2002 meeting, the NPFMC approved the extension of the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program through 2007 and recommended the following changes:
1) Modify the observer and observer provider certification and decertification processes to ensure they are compliant with the APA.
2) Increase NMFS’ management controls over observer providers and observers through changes in their duties and responsibilities and through clarification and strengthening of existing regulations.
3) Grant NMFS the authority to place NMFS staff and other qualified persons (most commonly staff from the University of Alaska, Observer Training Center) aboard vessels and at shoreside or floating stationary plants to increase NMFS’ ability to interact effectively with observers, fishermen, and processing plant employees.

The Proposed Rule for these changes was drafted through the combined efforts of Observer Program, AFSC, and Alaska Regional Office staff and should be filed in the Federal Register sometime during the third quarter of 2002.  After public comment, staff will be working on the Final Rule which will implement the regulations.

Database Modernization and Improvements

The Observer Program has successfully deployed its Web-based NORPAC database application on the Internet.  This has resulted in faster connections to the database from remote field office sites in Alaska and has greatly simplified application management and maintenance. In addition, the Observer Program has developed a gear inventory application that interfaces with the NORPAC database.  This new gear inventory system will create a more accurate and efficient process for purchasing, dispersing, and tracking observer gear.

By Bob Maier.


Estimated production figures for 1 January through June 2002. Total production figures were 12,371 with 2,909 test ages and 60 examined and determined to be unageable.

Flathead sole


Dover sole


Northern rocksole


Walleye pollock


Atka mackerel


Pacific ocean perch


Northern rockfish


The Age and Growth Program hosted the 11th Biennial Committee of Age Reading Experts (CARE) workshop on 23-25 April 2002.  Thirty-five age readers from eight agencies attended.  Items of discussion included the continued development of a CARE Ageing Manual, improvement of a CARE web site, and the development of a formal charter for CARE which outlines the responsibilities of officers and members.  Formal interagency structure exchanges were summarized (lingcod, Pacific whiting, sablefish, Dover sole), and hands-on microscope work comprised half of the workshop.  Species of interest were lingcod, Pacific cod, Pacific whiting, and various flatfish and rockfish species (including rougheye rockfish). The Age and Growth Program presented the results of their initial work using an Australian mass production thin-section methodology and demonstrated the process to interested agencies. Jon Short will be the new CARE web page coordinator, and Delsa Anderl will be chairperson for the next term.

By Dan Kimura.


U.S.-Korea Fisheries Science Conference

Richard Marasco and Anne Hollowed attended the First Republic of Korea-United States of America Bilateral Conference on Fisheries Sciences. The meeting was held at the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute in Busan, R.O.K., 20-22 May 2002. The conference marked the beginning of a new research partnership between the two countries.  Scientists from both countries shared information and research approaches regarding the following topics:

a) Current status and critical issues
b) Total Allowable Catch and fisheries management
c) Ecosystem-based fishery management
d) Climate changes and fisheries research
e) Hydroacoustic surveys
f) Ichthyoplankton research and fisheries oceanography.

Future meetings will identify key topics of mutual interest to both nations and provide focused discussions regarding methodology  and comparative studies.  A meeting will be held in the United States in 2003 at a time and location yet to be arranged.  A visiting scientist program will be established to facilitate communication of methods and techniques to address key issues.  The two countries also agreed to identify opportunities for comparative studies at the individual investigator level.

By Anne Hollowed.

Pacific Cod Fisheries Interaction Study Planned for 2003

The Fisheries Interaction Team (FIT) is charged with designing and performing field experiments to determine the extent of interactions of NMFS-managed commercial fisheries in the GOA and BSAI with other components of the marine ecosystem, including the endangered Steller sea lion. FIT scientists Elizabeth Conners and Peter Munro are planning a study to examine the effects of the winter trawl fishery on local abundance of Pacific cod.  The goal of the study is to use the intensive winter cod trawl fishery around Unimak Pass to test for the presence or absence of measurable localized depletion in cod abundance.  Localized depletion has been proposed as an important mechanism by which commercial fishing operations could affect prey availability for sea lions.  The planned study will use cod catch from standardized pot gear as an index of local cod abundance.

Preliminary gear trials were conducted in June 2002 from Kodiak, and a pilot study in Unimak Pass was performed in April 2002.  The preliminary studies indicate that the experimental pot gear works well for this species and that field operations of the scope needed for the study are feasible.  The pilot study fished more than 700 pot-sets over 3-6 hour soaks; catches ranged from 0 to 103 cod/pot, with an average catch of 29 cod/pot.  The consistency of catches in the pilot study suggests that good precision may be attained in the full experiment.  Analysis of the pilot study data and final design for the experiment will be completed in summer 2002.  A full experiment consisting of before-and-after surveys of both trawled and untrawled areas of the pass is planned for winter 2003.  In order to successfully infer presence or absence of a fishing effect, the study needs to determine differences between the fished and unfished areas that are separate from changes in cod abundance due to seasonal migration, local habitat variability, and short-term movement of cod.  Tagging studies are being conducted concurrently with the FIT study in order to learn more about local and seasonal cod movement rates.

By M. Elizabeth  Conners.

SSC-PFMC Appointment

Martin Dorn was recently appointed to the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).  With the transfer of assessment responsibilities to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, AFSC involvement in West Coast groundfish assessment has decreased.  Nevertheless, resource surveys and fisheries monitoring programs initiated by AFSC scientists are still the basis of many West Coast groundfish assessments, and extensive databases of survey and fishery data reside at the AFSC.

By Martin Dorn.

Resource Ecology and Ecosystems Modeling Program

Laboratory analysis was performed on 3,880 groundfish stomachs from the eastern Bering Sea and 1,339 from the Gulf of Alaska. Thirty observers returned 1,085 stomach samples during the quarter from the Bering Sea, and program personnel collected 1,521 stomachs from the Gulf of Alaska.

By Pat Livingston.


Quarterly April-June 2002 sidebar Contents


Auke Bay Lab

National Marine
Mammal Lab

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