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International Affairs & Research Collaboration

Encounter Protocols on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems

The North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) is developing encounter protocols to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) from fishing activities over seamounts in its Convention area. Dr. Loh-Lee Low of the AFSC has been designated the lead to develop the protocols for the Commission. These protocols are required to implement conservation measures to protect VMEs under "International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas" that were developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The guidelines were developed to implement the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 61/105 that was passed in December 2006.This Resolution calls on States to directly, or through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and Arrangements (RFMO/A), apply the precautionary approach and ecosystem approach to sustainably manage fish stocks and protect VMEs.

The VMEs over seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean have been designated by the NPFC for protection from significant adverse impacts. The Commission formed a workgroup of the member's scientists to look into the following tasks:

  1. Determine the distribution of encounters in fishing and survey operations with the four orders of corals identified in the NPFC interim measures as primary indicators of VMEs. (These orders are Alcyonacea, Antipatharia, Gorgonacea, and Scleractini.)
  2. Estimate catch rates of corals brought up by the fishing gear.
  3. Estimate catch rates of corals encountered but not brought up by the fishing gear.
  4. Estimate catch rates encountered in directed fisheries on corals and catch rates of encounters not brought up by the fishing gear.
  5. Compare the estimated catch rates with those rates encountered in the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization area and the scientific literature, taking into account differences in physical characteristics of the ecosystems and differences in physical characteristics of the ecosystems and differences in fishing gear dynamics.

To prepare for the Commission's assignment, the AFSC organized a working group of NMFS scientists who met in Honolulu during 14-15 September 2011 to review the issues and make recommendations on encounter protocols. Experts from the following NMFS units participated the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, the Pacific Islands Regional Office, the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and the Science and Technology Office of NMFS headquarters. A report of the workshop will be issued in December 2011.

By Loh-Lee Low

Salmon Summit

Dr. Loh-Lee Low was an invited speaker at the "Salmon Summit," an international symposium co-convened by North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) titled "Salmon at Sea: Scientific Advances and their Implications for Management." He presented an overview of the status of salmon in the North Pacific Ocean and trends in marine mortality.

The symposium was held in La Rochelle, France, during 11-13 October 2011. One hundred and thirty scientists and managers from around the North Atlantic and from the North Pacific and Baltic regions attended the symposium. The objectives of the symposium were to review recent advances in understanding the migration, distribution, and survival of salmon at sea and the factors influencing them; consider the management implications of recent advances in understanding the salmon's marine life; identify gaps in current understanding and future research priorities; increase awareness of recent research efforts to improve understanding salmon at sea and to encourage support for future research.

By Loh-Lee Low

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