Ocean Connections

For those of you that follow this blog, you may have noticed at this time every year ASLC scientists, students and interns attend the annual gathering of scientists and managers called the Alaska Marine Science Symposium.

For a week of science-filled fun, I am usually running around between sessions, learning about marine heatwaves, finding collaborators to discuss new projects idea, and most importantly, badgering my fellow ASLC team members to inundate 60° North Science with reports and musing from the conference. Mary, our new science communications intern, did write a great reflection blog about the conference, but I wasn’t able to pester the rest of the team because this year I unfortunately could not attend AMSS due to another obligation: the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) meeting in Seattle.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council

The NPFMC is one of eight regional fishery management councils created under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to manage our nation’s marine fishery resources.

The eight regional fisheries management councils (Image credit: http://www.fisherycouncils.org/)

The NPFMC manages six different fishery management plans, covering 140+ species (i.e. Pollock, cod, rockfish, crab, scallops, and more). Through a transparent, science-based process, the Council develops and amends fishery management plans, prevents overfishing, balances resource conservation with achieving optimum yield for domestic fisheries, develops research priorities, and sets annual catch limits and accountability measures.

Joining the SSC

Since 2017, I have served on the NPFMC’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). The SSC is a group of 18 scientists from state and federal science/management agencies, universities, and other organizations. As a group, the SSC provides scientific advice and recommendations for fisheries management decisions across a range of topics including:

  • recommendations for acceptable biological catch
  • preventing overfishing
  • maximum sustainable yield
  • achieving rebuilding targets
  • report on stock status and health
  • bycatch
  • habitat status
  • social and economic impacts of management measures
  • sustainability of fishing practices
The 2018 SSC (sadly the photo was taken at a meeting I couldn’t attend)

Science in Action

At our meeting in Seattle this year, the SSC reviewed part of the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (BS FEP). Specifically, we received updates from two task forces: the “Evaluating Climate Action Module Task force” and the “Local Knowledge (LK) / Traditional Knowledge (TK) / Subsistence Action Module Task force”. The BS FEP is part of the Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management in the Bering Sea. It is a tool adopted by the Council in December 2018 that provides a framework for incorporating and updating ecosystem goals and actions into regional management.

This interactive StoryMap from NOAA is a great resource for explaining what Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management in the Bering Sea is all about.

I wanted to highlight this agenda item in light of the timing overlap of the Council Meeting and AMSS. As highlighted in Mary’s post: at conferences like AMSS, and even here on this blog, scientists typically focus on the outputs: reports and data about the rapid changes that have been observed in the Bering Sea– reductions of sea ice, movement of fish into the Northern Bering Sea, unusual mortality events of grey whales. But how is that information actually used?

On the other side of the coin are the managers and Councils that need to evaluate the data and make decisions that may impact ecosystems, subsistence communities, and fisheries. In the case of the BS FEP, the taskforces within its action modules are working on evaluating the many streams of information, identifying ways to incorporate LK and TK, and developing ways to apply these resources into tactical and strategic management measures that ensure a productive Bering Sea marine ecosystem and healthy fisheries for decades to come.

How can you participate?

While I was sad to not attend AMSS this year, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate as part of the Council family and contribute to sustainable fisheries management in Alaska. In return, I have gained new perspectives and a deeper understanding of ocean ecosystem connections, including the social and economic components.

If the Council process, EBFM, or any of these topics are of interest to you, I encourage you to attend a Council meeting if you’re able to (the public is able to engage with all parts of the Council, and the meeting location rotates between Anchorage and several communities in AK, WA, and OR). You can also check out the great resources available online like the infographics and storymaps included here.

Written By: Dr. Amy Bishop

Feature Image Credit: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/region/alaska

Infographics: https://www.npfmc.org/overview/

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