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July-Sept 2012
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Loh-Lee Low served as the representative of the U.S. delegation at the 10th meeting of the Scientific Working Group (SWG) of the North Pacific Fisheries Commission during its Preparatory Conference (PrepConIII) of the Parties in August 2012 in Juneau, Alaska. The agenda items included progress on scientific research and activities assigned to the SWG and its workgroups by the Commission.

Development of encounter protocols on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) for the North Pacific Convention area was a major topic of discussion. For this topic, the chair of PrepConIII (Bill Gibbons-Fly) provided a statement to remind participants of the United Nations mandates that are the basis for the NPFC, specifically the mandate to take steps to protect VMEs and associated species from destructive fishing practices, and expressed the need to bring the conversations that were taking place in the SWG on VMEs back to the plenary sessions.

Despite lengthy discussions, the participants were unable to agree upon the concrete next steps to take to develop the encounter protocols. A range of suggestions was presented, which include:

  1. focus on data collection by identifying priority data collection areas and putting together proposals for collaborative data collection and research (Canada)
  2. work on establishing a process for data handling or data sharing (Russia)
  3. progress work on the five tasks assigned at SWG9 through the intersessional work group and partnering with other organizations that are undertaking similar work (U.S.)
  4. develop a common definition of VMEs (Japan)

The Parties reached general agreement that providing data in advance of the next meeting of the SWG would be a logical next step to progress on the development of the encounter protocol task. They agreed to the development of a 5-year science research plan. Canada offered to take the lead on the development of the plan for discussion at the next SWG meeting or PrepCon, and will work on the plan intersessionally with other participants.

The participants also discussed the March 2012 stock assessment workshop for North Pacific armorhead and next steps in determining the status of this stock. The next meeting of the SWG will take place in 2013.

By Loh-Lee Low

U.S.-Russia Inter-Governmental Consultative Committee (ICC)

Pat Livingston and Loh-Lee Low provided scientific support for the U.S. delegation at the 23rd meeting of the of U.S.-Russia Intergovernmental Consultative Committee (ICC) on Fisheries in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 5-7 September 2012. The delegation of the Russian Federation (RF) was led by Dr. Alexandr Fomin, the Deputy Head of the Fisheries Agency of the Russian Federation, Ministry of Agriculture, and the delegation of the United States was led by Ambassador David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. State Department for Oceans and Fisheries.

The agenda of the meeting covered cooperation in fisheries enforcement and scientific research, status and conservation of resources in the North Pacific (groundfish, salmon, marine mammals, seabirds, and crabs), cooperation and coordination on international fisheries issues, and progress on Russian ratification of the 1979 Maritime Boundary Agreement for the Bering and Chukchi Seas that both countries agreed to and temporarily implemented.

On enforcement of Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing activities in the North Pacific Ocean, Mr. Balton expressed gratitude for Russia's cooperation on fisheries enforcement and congratulated both sides on their productive working relationship. Cooperation on scientific research has also progressed well. The parties exchanged information on the status and management issues of transboundary stocks of groundfish, salmon, marine mammals (particularly on the protection of the endangered status of the western steller sea lion stock), and seabirds (with special need for protecting the endangered short tailed albatross).

Both sides also exchanged views on fish-fisheries issues of international and mutual concerns. Issues of cooperation needed in the following forum were discussed: the 16th annual conference for the conservation of pollock resources in the central Bering Sea, formation of the new North Pacific Fisheries Commission, the South Pacific Fisheries Commission, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living marine Resources (CCAMLR), North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, Rio-2012 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Committee, and the U.S. proposed Arctic Agreement.

The main discussion topic on Russian ratification of the 1979 Maritime Boundary Agreement for the Bering and Chukchi Seas was also addressed. The U.S. Congress has already ratified the Agreement but the Russian Party has yet to do so. Discussions are continuing that included new initiatives for joint and reciprocal surveys on the transboundary nature of the pollock resources on both sides of the maritime boundary line. The initiative has resulted in the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson conducting a pollock survey in the Russian EEZ of the northern Bering Sea in August 2012 and the Russian R/V Kagonosky scheduled to conduct an equivalent survey in the U.S. EEZ in the vicinity of the maritime boundary line in October 2012.

By Loh-Lee Low

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