Implementing Annual Catch Limits
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IMPLEMENTING ANNUAL CATCH LIMITS:A Blueprint for Ending Overfishing in U.S. Fisheries
Marine Fish Conservation Network April 2009
Mission StatementThe Marine Fish Conservation Network advocates national policies to achieve healthy oceans and productive fisheries. The Marine Fish Conservation Network (Network) is the largest national coalition solely dedicated to promoting the long-term sustainability of marine fish. With almost 200 membersincluding environmental organizations, commercial and recreational fishing associations, aquariums, and marine science groupsthe Network uses its distinct voice and the best available science to educate policymakers, the fishing industry, and the public about the need for sound conservation and better management practices.
The Marine Fish Conservation Network is supported by many individuals, businesses, and foundations. This report and our work in general is made possible via the generous support of The Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Ocean Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Oak Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, and Patagonia Inc.
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE Suite 210 Washington, DC 20003 tel: 202.543.5509 toll free: 866.823.8552 fax: 202.543.5774 email@example.com www.conservefish.org
CREDITS: Lead author: Kenneth Stump, Marine Fish Conservation Network Policy Director. The author gratefully acknowledges the technical advice and reviews of this report by The Ocean Conservancy, Pew Environmental Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation. PhOTO CREDITS: All photos are from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Library
A Blueprint for ending overfishing in u.s. fisheries
Ending Overfishing: Top Priority of the Reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act of 2006Ending overfishing was the highest priority of the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act of 2006 (MSRA), signed into law in January 2007. Although overfishing was prohibited in the 1996 amendments to the national fisheries law, and maximum sustainable yield (MSY) was designated as a limit fishing level, fishery managers continued to set fishing limits above those recommended by scientists and allowed overfishing to continue in too many fisheries. To achieve the objective of ending overfishing in the MSRA, Congress strengthened the role of science in the fishery management process and required fishery managers to establish science-based annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for all U.S. fisheries with a deadline for implementation of 2010 for all stocks currently subject to overfishing and 2011 for all others.
Changes to the National Standard 1 regulatory guidelines to implement ACLsThe new fisheries law requires the councils science advisors, the Scientific and Statistical Committees (SSCs), to make recommendations for acceptable biological catch (ABC) which managers may not exceed when they specify each years ACLs. The ACLs must be set at a level such that overfishing does not occur in the fishery, and must be accompanied by AMs. In February 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) initiated rulemaking to revise the 1998 National Standard Guidelines for National Standard 1 (prevent overfishing, achieve optimum yield) to assist fishery management councils in the implementation of the new ACL requirements. The revised NS1 guidelines, published in January 2009, affirm that ACLs are required for all stocks in a fishery and that
Statutory requirements of the MSRA Related to the Prevention of OverfishingE
National Standard 1: FMPs must include conservation and management measures that shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield (OY) from each fishery (16 U.S.C. 1801(a)(1)) FMPs must specify objective and measurable criteria for identifying when the fishery to which the plan applies is overfished and to contain measures to prevent overfishing or end overfishing and rebuild the fishery (Id. 1853(a)(10)) Councils must establish and maintain a Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) (Id. 1852(g) (1)(A)) Councils SSCs must make recommendations for acceptable biological catch (ABC), preventing overfishing, and other related management advice (Id. 1852(g)(1)(B))
Councils must establish annual catch limits that may not exceed fishing level recommendations of the SSC or the scientific peer review process (Id. 1852(h)(6)) FMPs must establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits such that overfishing does not occur in a fishery, including measures to ensure accountability (Id. 1853(a)(15)) Fishery managers must prepare and implement a rebuilding plan within two years of notification to end overfishing immediately (Id. 1854(e)(3)&(4)) Fishery managers may not allow a period of overfishing under a rebuilding plan (Id. 1854(e)(4)(A))
IMPLEMENTINg ANNUAL CATCH LIMITS
The new NS1 guidelines require that all stocks in the FMP have status determination criteria (SDCs), a specification of MSY and OY, an ABC control rule and ABC, mechanisms for specifying ACLs, and accountability measures, with minor exceptions for those species with statutory exemptions from ACLs.
ACL is a limit not to be exceeded, attainment of which triggers accountability measures to ensure that ACLs are complied with. The new legal requirements stand to improve fisheries management significantly and end chronic overfishing in the nations fisheries, if fully implemented.
From Rulemaking to ImplementationWith the 2010-2011 deadline looming, the attention now shifts to implementation of ACLs at the eight regional fishery management councils charged with developing the fishery management plans (FMPs) for each U.S. fishery. Just as fishery management councils enacted comprehensive SFA amendments to their FMPs to comply with the 1996 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (popularly known as the Sustainable Fisheries Act, or SFA), at least seven of the eight regional councils are now preparing or considering amendments to some or all of their FMPs to comply with the new requirement for ACLs and AMs in U.S fisheries. Success at ending overfishing will ultimately depend on the implementation of the new rules by the councils and the Fisheries Service. If history is any indication, public oversight will be essential to ensure that councils and the Fisheries Service stay the course.
In a 2007 report, the Network found that overfishing has continued on stocks managed by councils that do not employ enforceable catch limits, whereas chronic overfishing is not a problem in regions that do.1 Our review of council catch-setting procedures and rules indicates that all regions will have to amend their operating procedures and their FMPs to implement the new ACL requirements fully:E
There is currently no consistent approach to ACL-setting at the regional fishery management councils, and many regions do not have a formal catch specification process of any kind. The majority of councils must revamp their operating procedures to incorporate a catch specification process with a working SSC that recommends ABCs and annually reviews the performance of AMs relative to ACLs. Virtually all FMPs will need to be amended to incorporate formal control rules that enable managers to establish numeric catch limits across a wide range of data quality situations and many different species as required by the 2006 amendments. Even the two councils with FMPs having an operational system of SSCrecommended ABCs and catch limits do not adequately account for uncertainties or
Principles for Setting ACLs in U.S. Fisheriesa level such that overfishing does not occur in the fishery and there is a low risk that limits are exceeded.E
ACLs apply to all stocks in a fishery, including non-target stocks that are caught unintentionally as bycatch and retained or discarded at sea. All stocks in the FMP should be considered in the fishery. ACLs must be numeric (e.g., pounds, number of fish) and account for all sources of fishing mortality, including all discards in the fishery and bycatch mortality in other fisheries. ACLs may be set annually or on a multiyear basis, and divided into fishery sectors. ACL is a limit not to be exceeded that triggers accountability measures. ACLs must be set at
The System of ABCs, ACLs and AMs must account for all sources of scientific and management uncertainty, and include uncertainty buffers to provide an adequate margin of safety against the risk of overfishing. ACLs must end overfishing immediately and overfished stocks must be rebuilt in as short a time as possible.
A Blueprint for ending overfishing in u.s. fisheries
provide increasing levels of precaution for stocks with less information.E
a classification scheme for stocks in the fishery; a formal catch specification process that includes annual review of performance; a system of control rules for establishing ABCs and ACLs that includes uncertainty buffers to provide a margin of safety against the risk of overfishing; a vulnerability assessment to reduce the risk of overfishing and improve conservation of stocks; a system of accountability measures to ensure compliance with ACLs and avoidance of overfishing; and procedures for addressing ecosystem considerations in the setting of ACLs in order to achieve OY.
Additional technical guidance by the Fisheries Service is needed to ensure effective implementation at the regional councils.
The clear intent