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Ecosystem Considerations in Fishery Management

The Ecosystem Considerations section for 2003, which accompanies the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Reports provided to the NPFMC, was presented to the NPFMC groundfish plan teams in September, to the NPFMC SSC in October, and at the Ecosystem Forum of the NPFMC in December. The chapter content and format are similar to last year, being primarily a status of the environment document. The full document is available on the Alaska Fisheries Science Center web site at .

More survey data on nontarget species were included, though trends in these have not been thoroughly analyzed yet to determine if those are meaningful. The chapter also was enhanced to contain more complete information on bottom trawl, longline, and scallop fishery distribution for understanding effects of gear on habitat. Data gaps still include information on lower trophic levels such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. There were some indicators of a shift in community composition particularly in Central GOA with increases noted in forage fish such as eulachon, shrimp, and Steller sea lions. More work is needed on trend indicators for HAPC biota and nontarget species. Status and trend information for other managed resources such as salmon, herring, and shellfish should also be included in future versions.

Interpretation of observed changes needs to be done in the context of how the indicator relates to a particular ecosystem component. For example, particular oceanographic conditions such as bottom temperature increases might be favorable for some species but not for others. Future evaluations will need to follow an analysis framework that links indicators to particular effects on ecosystem components, such as that provided in the draft programmatic groundfish fishery environmental impact statement. This year, stock assessment scientists began using indicators in this chapter to assess ecosystem factors such as climate, predators, prey, and habitat that might affect a particular stock. Also, information regarding a particular fishery's catch, bycatch, and temporal/spatial distribution was used to consider the possible impacts of that fishery on the ecosystem. We are still in early stages in using this type of information in stock assessments. However, we anticipate the information could be used to modify allowable biological catch recommendations or spatial/
distribution of the catch due to ecosystem concerns or to target further research that would be needed to quantify ecosystem impacts. Next year, it is hoped that information in this chapter will be used in habitat and ecosystem-level assessments to accompany the single-species assessment chapters that traditionally comprise the Groundfish Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) advice to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. These new chapters could assess aggregate effects of groundfish fisheries on ecosystem and habitat and could result in advice regarding changes in aggregate catch levels (OY cap), species mix of the catch, and discard amounts.

By Pat Livingston.


Economic Status of the Groundfish Fisheries Off Alaska

The domestic groundfish fishery off Alaska is an important segment of the U.S. fishing industry. With a total catch of 2.0 million t, a retained catch of 1.9 million t, and an ex-vessel value of $543 million in 2001, it accounted for 47% of the weight and 17% of the ex-vessel value of total U.S. domestic landings as reported in Fisheries of the United States, 2001. The groundfish fisheries accounted for the largest share of the ex-vessel value of all commercial fisheries off Alaska in 2001 (56%), while the Pacific salmon fishery was second with $189 million or 19% of the total Alaska exvessel value. The value of the shellfish catch amounted to $124 million or 13% of the total for Alaska. The gross value of the 2001 groundfish catch after primary processing was approximately $1.4 billion.

A report was prepared as the economic appendix to the SAFE documents for the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. The report provides estimates of total groundfish catch, groundfish discards and discard rates, prohibited species bycatch and bycatch rates, the ex-vessel value of the groundfish catch, the ex-vessel value of the catch in other Alaska fisheries, the gross product value of the resulting groundfish seafood products, the number and sizes of vessels that participated in the Alaska groundfish fisheries, vessel activity, and employment on at-sea processors. In addition to data from the groundfish fisheries, this report contains data on some of the external factors which, in part, determine the economic status of the fisheries. Such factors include foreign exchange rates, the prices and price indexes of products that compete with products from these fisheries, cold storage holdings, domestic per capita consumption of seafood products, and fishery imports. This report also includes a summary of recent estimates of capacity, capacity utilization, and fishery utilization for the vessels that participated in federally managed commercial fisheries off Alaska in 2001.

The estimates in this report are intended both to provide information that can be used to describe the Alaska groundfish fisheries and to provide industry and others an opportunity to comment on the validity of these estimates. The report is available on the Council's website at:

Social Science Workshop

The NMFS Office of Science and Technology sponsored a social science workshop on 22-24 October 2002 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Workshop topics included: 1) spatial modeling in fisheries economics; 2) regional and headquarters social science program overviews; 3) draft guidelines for National Standard 8 (fishing communities); 4) cognitive models of fishery management; 5) nonmarket valuation methods and projects; 6) regional economic models; 7) recreational fisheries; and 8) commercial economics data collection.

Bycatch Management

The Economics and Social Sciences Program is participating in a renewed NMFS effort to address the issues of bycatch. That effort includes preparing a summary of NMFS and Regional Fishery Management Council actions to reduce bycatch since the Magnuson-Stevens Act was amended in 1996, improving the NMFS strategy for managing bycatch, and preparing a Federal Register Notice in response to the Oceana petition for improved bycatch management. The improved NMFS strategy includes the development of a bycatch website that contains information about bycatch regulations and policy, bycatch-reduction research, bycatch experts, bycatch data sets, conferences/workshops, and technology-transfer efforts. The website is intended to assist the public in understanding the bycatch problem, the efforts that have been taken and are being taken to address the bycatch problem, and the commitment of NMFS to meeting its bycatch goal. The website is at

Sociocultural Research

Jennifer Sepez presented a paper at the American Anthropological Association meeting. The paper, "Unalaska, Alaska: Memory and Denial in the Aleutian Landscape", explores history and globalization in Unalaska, an island in the Aleutian archipelago. World War II debris still litters the landscape, from concrete bunkers to sunken ships. Key occurrences such as the air attack by Japanese forces in June 1942, and the "evacuation" and internment of the native Aleut people were officially censored during the war. Since that time, Unalaska has become the nation's busiest commercial fishing port, and the relevance of wartime history to the current sociopolitical landscape has become a locus of contestation between community subgroups reacting to the socioeconomic changes of globalization.

Dr. Sepez also prepared the chapter on tribal communities for the NMFS Socio-cultural Practioner's Manual. The chapter states that social impact assessment (SIA) in tribal communities requires accounting for certain considerations beyond those suggested for non-tribal communities. The chapter addresses legal obligations stemming from the relationship between tribal entities and the Federal government, certain community characteristics and methodological approaches that are likely to affect SIA, and elements to include in the analysis of tribal communities.

By Joe Terry.

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