MAFAC Issues and Recommendations
Dear Mr. Gudes:
The Department's Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) met in Orange Beach, Alabama, during the week of April 23, 2001. The following is our report on MAFAC's activities and actions.
We especially appreciated the attendance of Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Bill Hogarth, who took time from his busy schedule to spend a day and a half with us, along with Clarence Pautzke, Alan Risenhoover, Vicki Cornish, Laurel Bryant, and Tywanna Otts.
Most of our meeting was spent discussing NMFS' response to the MAFAC Views paper which was presented to NOAA in December. In that paper, MAFAC laid out a number of broad recommendations on NMFS programs and activities, with suggestions for changes and improvements where warranted. We are very pleased that NMFS is taking our input seriously and look forward to continuing to work with NMFS to ensure implementation.
MAFAC was especially interested in three areas: budget, outreach, and science. On the first, numerous compliments were given to Alan Risenhoover and the budget office for the work that they have done to both simplify and clarify the NMFS budget. A key ingredient to enlisting constituent support for the budget is the ability to track programs of interest and - in general - to understand the budget structure and spending priorities. MAFAC had made several recommendations in these areas and the new budget format that was shown to us in April goes a long way towards meeting our suggestions. We hope that Mr. Risenhoover and his team - and their good work - will be looked upon favorably by NOAA.
In the area of outreach, we were again pleased that some efforts are being made to improve communication between NMFS and its constituents, and to improve communication within NMFS. Improving outreach has been a priority of MAFAC and indeed the lack of communication is one of the most frequent complaints about NMFS that we hear from our colleagues. Unlike the efforts made with the budget structure, however, it appears that NMFS still lags in implementing outreach recommendations. Full support for outreach and communication programs must continue.
MAFAC members were interested in the approach of combining NMFS outreach efforts with those of Sea Grant. While this innovative approach is encouraging, some members expressed caution that the "message" delivered by Sea Grant employees must be clear. At times, NMFS and Sea Grant may have different ideas to deliver, and these must be clearly delineated. MAFAC will be happy to work with NMFS and Sea Grant in developing this program.
MAFAC members were also concerned that NMFS' efforts to deal with the requirements of NEPA and other procedural issues affecting marine resource conservation and management have not been fully communicated to the regional fishery management councils. Many constituents are aware of the effects of legal decisions on fisheries management but not of what NMFS is doing to address them. NMFS has an opportunity to develop a partnership with constituents, fisheries managers, and universities in addressing these issues and should take advantage of that opportunity to ensure both that procedural requirements are met and that good science prevails.
MAFAC also suggested that constituent meetings be followed up with feedback to the constituents so that the public doesn't get the impression that nobody is really listening. Finally, MAFAC suggested that outreach training be included as a component of staff training at NMFS headquarters.
MAFAC members were also interested in the NMFS observer program that was presented by Vicki Cornish. One issue in particular generated considerable discussion: whether a college degree should be a prerequisite for employment as an observer. Most of the MAFAC members present agreed that, as long as an observer candidate met necessary practical requirements (including demonstrating sufficient scientific knowledge to perform required duties), a degree should not be required.
Because much of MAFAC's efforts during the last several meetings has been oriented towards NMFS operational issues, we have been unable to dedicate a significant amount of time to science issues. As a result, we intend to focus on science at our Fall meeting, with a special emphasis on ecosystem management, continued examination of progress and problems with marine protected areas, and additional examination of issues affecting artisanal fishermen. These latter two issues have been the subject of MAFAC discussion and recommendations in the past, but subsequent events - including President Clinton's use of executive authority to establish or expand marine protected areas in locations where artisanal fishing occurs - suggest that NMFS and NOAA could benefit from MAFAC's further examination.
In deciding where to hold our Fall meeting, MAFAC was as always guided by considerations of cost, appropriateness of the locale to the items on the agenda, availability of federal, state, or university facilities, the possibility of combining a MAFAC meeting with that of a regional fishery management council, and the need to provide an opportunity for NMFS' constituents to participate.
After considering various possibilities, MAFAC is requesting that the next meeting be held at an appropriate location in the Virgin Islands during the week of November 12, 2001. One of MAFAC's members - Dr. LaVerne Ragster - is Provost of the University of the Virgin Islands and is eager to assist with arrangements. That period of the year falls into the "low" season for accommodations and air travel to the area. The Virgin Islands is the site of an extensive marine protected area which has generated controversy among local fishermen, including the artisanal fishing community. The Caribbean area is, unfortunately, often given a lower priority by NMFS yet faces a plethora of ecosystem management issues. This combination of factors led us to conclude that the Virgin Islands would be an ideal location to move forward with our proposed agenda.
I appreciate this opportunity to bring you up to date on MAFAC's activities and look forward to working with you during the final year of my term on MAFAC.
cc: MAFAC members
The MAFAC Outreach Subcommittee met on April 25, 2001; members present were Liz Hamilton, Charles Kidd, Rod Moore, Kate Wynne as well as NMFS staff Laurel Bryant and Alan Risenhoover and several interested MAFAC members.
During the previous day's full MAFAC meeting, Laurel summarized the progress and products of her Outreach development efforts within NMFS. Included was a discussion on NMFS' recent collaboration with the National Office of Sea Grant on a coordinated outreach project. Laurel and Alan provided the Committee with some background on the associated Memorandum of Understanding and budget requests developed to formally encourage this collaboration. The Committee requested a copy of the MOU to help them clarify roles and expectations of each agency in this partnership.
In the course of ensuing discussions, members highlighted the many definitions, dimensions, and demands for outreach. In addition, they reaffirmed MAFAC's appreciation of the Acting Assistant Administrator's efforts to improve internal communication through weekly updates. The Outreach Committee however, focused its discussion on external communication and outreach needs. The group emphasized that outreach should involve TWO WAY communication : transfer of information OUT to the public and BACK to the agency, with Learning occurring at both ends of this conduit. There was discussion that outreach needs are broad and multi disciplinary, extending beyond commercial fisheries into recreational and general public arenas.
The group applauded NMFS' progress and efforts, their hiring of dedicated outreach personnel, and coordination with Sea Grant. However, these efforts do not negate nor diminish NMFS' need to encourage dissemination of user-friendly information on their science and regulations. One suggestion was that NMFS require its grantees to submit a user-friendly synopsis of their research along with their final technical reports. A similar suggestion might follow to apply to dissemination of internal research results by NMFS researchers.
The Legislative Subcommittee met on Wednesday, April 25 to discuss its agenda and activities for the upcoming year. There was agreement that the Subcommittee should focus on the legislative/legal aspects of the following items:
The Subcommittee agreed that MAFAC should request from NMFS any proposed legislation or discussion papers relating to these issues. Members of the Subcommittee expressed the desire to address specific identification issues as opposed to comprehensive topics like MMPA, MSA reauthorization.
The chair announced his interest to circulate to members of the Subcommittee all papers received from NMFS prior to the next meeting so that the Subcommittee could continue working during the intervening months. The chair also expressed his desire to limit the scope of the Subcommittee activities to the issues identified at the Alabama meeting, noting however that any member of the Subcommittee has the prerogative to raise any new issue at the next meeting.
The MAFAC Steering Committee met at 12 noon on Wednesday, April 25, 2001 in Orange Beach, AL. Attending were Rod Moore, Jeff Pike, Suzanne Iudicello-Martley, Bonnie Brown, Kate Wynne, Laurel Bryant, Alan Risenhoover, and Tywanna Otts.
After examining the schedule for regional fishery management council meetings and other events that would require attendance by MAFAC members, the Steering Committee agreed that the week of November 12, 2001, would be the target for the next MAFAC meeting.
The committee then discussed issues that should potentially be included on the agenda. Foremost on the list was the question of ecosystem management: how it is defined, how it would be carried out, whether it can be carried out, what would be the costs and benefits. Sub-topics included such things as marine protected areas and socio-economic impacts. In addition, MAFAC would continue its ongoing discussions of budget, legislation, and outreach.
Finally, the question of meeting venue was discussed. MAFAC has made a concerted effort to meet in a variety of locations in order to provide local public input to our deliberations and to ensure that MAFAC members have a broad understanding of the diverse problems and possibilities that can be found in different regions of the country. To date, the only area where MAFAC has not met is the Caribbean. With this in mind, the committee recommended that the November meeting be held in the Virgin Islands. This is an ideal locale to discuss the key issues that have been identified. Further, November is a less costly month in which to meet. To further ensure fiscal responsibility, MAFAC will try to co-locate with other entities for this meeting, such as the Caribbean Fishery Management Council, the University of the Virgin Islands, or the National Park Service.
The MAFAC Steering Committee, having completed its business, adjourned at approximately 1:15 PM.
The Budget Subcommittee of MAFAC met in Orange Beach, AL. Mel Moon, Rod Moore, Suzanne Iudicello-Martley and Alan Reisenhoover attended.
The Subcommittee recognized the substantial progress that has been made with the budget in structure, transparency, and increases in the current fiscal year and next year's requests. Of particular significance is the incorporation of recurring line items into the agency's base.
The Subcommittee also raised two concerns that could undermine these gains: a lack of confidence among Congress and stakeholders that the agency will spend the money and the likelihood that the new administration, once its NOAA team is in place, will bring a higher level of scrutiny to the increases.
The Subcommittee proposes that MAFAC offer the following recommendations to the agency to meet these challenges.
As to priorities for budget consideration, the Budget Subcommittee will develop recommendations as they emerge from the Legislative, Outreach, Science and Capacity Subcommittees. It has been a standing MAFAC priority that budget requests include increased resources and staff dedicated to acquisition and analysis of socio-economic information.