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NW Fishletter #383, July 2, 2018

[11] NOAA Goes To Ecosystem Management, Seeks Public Input

NOAA Fisheries is proposing to take a more holistic view of managing fishing, and is seeking public comment on its West Coast Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management draft plan. The draft plan is part of a nationwide effort to shift from managing single species of fish to considering ecosystem needs, with separate draft plans for each region.

The Pacific Northwest is part of the California Current Ecosystem--a current upwelling that goes from Mexico's Baja Peninsula to Vancouver Island. The plans are designed to complement the work of regional fishery management councils.

Toby Garfield, head of the environmental research division at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center, said scientists have long been interested in moving to ecosystem-based fishing rules, and more recent data collection tools have made the change possible. He said it's likely the change to an ecosystem-based fishery will take a long time, starting with changes in the way stock assessments are done. Scientists can then look at life histories, predator-prey relationships and variables in the environment to build models that provide more information in stock assessments.

The draft plans identify priority actions and milestones for the next five years, 2018-2022. The West Coast draft plan notes, "EBFM requires thinking about resources, policies, and management in a different way than we have in the past, and combining that new way of thinking with a better understanding of ecosystem conditions and processes." It gives an example of the algae blooms resulting from warm ocean temperatures in 2014-2016, followed by a delay in the Dungeness crab fishery and unusual feeding locations for humpback whales. "Ultimately, the effects of the marine heat wave included an unusual spike in whale entanglements with crab gear. Piecing these clues together to better understand how we can reduce human interactions with whales took ecosystem-level thinking."

The EBFM has six guiding policies, each with action plans. The policies are: implement ecosystem-level planning; advance understanding of ecosystem processes; prioritize vulnerabilities and risks of ecosystems and their components; explore and address trade-offs within an ecosystem; incorporate ecosystem considerations into management advice; and maintain resilient ecosystems.

The draft plans are available for public comment, which can be sent to through Sept. 30. Comments will be considered before implementation plans are finalized. -K.C. Mehaffey

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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