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Terms of Reference: Protected Species Stock Assessment Improvement Plan Tier III Workshop 2006

Workshop Home | Abstracts | Agenda | Groups | Readings | Terms of Reference

Early in the development of NOAA Fisheries' Protected Species Stock Assessment Improvement Plan (NMFS 2004a), it was clear that there were to be two phases in its development. In the first phase, NOAA developed a Plan to address the basic marine mammal and turtle assessment mandates of the ESA and MMPA. After long discussions within NOAA, and with NOAA's partners, about basic information requirements, a two-tiered plan was developed:

  • Tier I - Improve Stock Assessments Using Existing Data Collection Resources: This tier maintains the status quo with no new assessment efforts.
  • Tier II - Elevate Stock Assessments to New National Standards of Excellence: At this Tier the quality of all stock assessments should achieve a level commensurate with ESA and MMPA mandates.

This phase culminated in publication of the protected resources SAIP report (NMFS 2004).

Development of the requirements plan through Tiers I and II represented a simple evolution of past practices; however, agency scientists recognized early on that current methods would not provide all the information needed by a changing NOAA. The evolving information needs of NOAA and its partners will require a host of data items that have not traditionally been collected. These themes and needs are subsumed under the second phase of the SAIP development, " Tier III - Next Generation Assessments ":

  • Collection of detailed data on ecology, habitat, behavior, and health of "Ecosystem Indicator Species" to provide a better understanding of how marine mammals, marine turtles, salmon, and other protected species function within their respective ecosystems
  • Ecosystem-based approach to assessments

This final phase in the development of NOAA Protected Species requirements plan will involve expanding observing and research programs beyond the traditional single-species approach towards an ecosystem-based approach. This will complement the current efforts underway for improvements in NOAA's fisheries science. For a few key species (i.e., "Ecosystem Indicator Species") this may involve the collection of a basic suite of data under all five data categories discussed previously. For all species, this will mean the stock assessment will be conducted with processes and models not previously used.

While the SAIP was under development, NOAA Fisheries was making considerable progress in defining an Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM). The Ecosystem Goal Team is functioning to provide overall guidance, and the concept of EAM is now firmly a part of NOAA's Planning Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System. Initial guidance for the agency's approach to EAM can be found in the report to Congress by the Ecosystem Principles Advisory Panel. NOAA managers and scientists are moving the implementation of the EAM process forward, with funding for pilot EAM projects expected to begin no later than FY07 in a limited number of ecosystems. NOAA scientists and managers met in Charleston, SC in late summer 2004 to (1) discuss the delineation of large ecosystems on the basis of natural science (not political boundaries) and (2) discuss how those large ecosystems might be broken down into sub-areas, again, based on natural science criteria. As a result of this workshop, NOAA defined 10 ecosystems based on the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) model. NOAA's defined ecosystem regions extend from coastal areas to the seaward boundaries of continental shelves and the outer margins of the major current systems. These ecosystems include: Arctic Seas, Gulf of Alaska, California Current, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Northeast Shelf, East Bering Sea, Pacific Islands, Great Lakes, and Southeast Shelf. A subsequent workshop was held in Key Largo, FL, in February 2005 to discuss "Ecosystem-Based Decision Support Tools for Fisheries Management" and results from this workshop can be reviewed on their website.

Given the preceding progress, both in the development of the SAIP and EAM, it is appropriate for NOAA Fisheries to now begin work in earnest on the development of a requirements plan which defines and provides Tier III information for its protected species mission. This plan will complement the existing Protected Species SAIP. The first step in this process will be a workshop convened by NOAA in March 2006 to clarify the vision of EAM for protected species, and scope the data collection and research necessary to support Tier III. This workshop will be followed by additional discussions within NOAA to prepare a Tier III Requirements Plan, and will culminate in an expanded version of the SAIP report to be completed in spring 2007.

Workshop Goals
To improve living marine resource science by expanding observing and research programs beyond the traditional single-species approach towards an ecosystem-based approach. The Tier III workshop focuses on a series of key questions to provide guidance to NOAA staff in their development of the Tier III Plan:

  • How do Protected Species fit into NOAA's EAM?
  • Should NOAA's focus be "Ecosystem Studies with A Protected Species Component," "Protected Species Studies with An Ecosystem Component," or both?
  • Can we develop an ecosystem approach for protected species stock assessments (e.g., can PBR be further developed to provide an ecosystem based assessment?)
  • How should NOAA deal with the governance issues related to EAM for protected species? That is, how can EAM be used by NOAA managers to meet their ESA/MMPA mandates?

Other topics that will be addressed include the science needs of NOAA's Ocean Health program related to EAM and how EAM assists NOAA and its partners' in meeting their Tier III information needs. These questions will be addressed largely from the perspective of marine mammal, marine turtle, and salmonid conservation. However, it will be remembered that the results of these discussions also need to be applicable to other NOAA protected marine species.

Workshop Format
The first day and a half of the four-day workshop is expected to be a plenary session. The morning session of the first day will be for taking stock of where NOAA is at this time with respect to EAM and SAIP development. The afternoon of the first day and the next morning will involve formal presentations and discussion of elements of EAM by invited speakers. Case studies will be provided to generate discussion of what an EAM would be for protected species. Days 2-4 will focus on working group discussions designed to develop conceptual approaches to EAM for Protected Species.

The plenary sessions of the meeting will be chaired by Dr. Richard Merrick. However, each working group will have a facilitator and science/management chair working in tandem to move the discussions along. Rapporteurs will be provided for each working group. Each working group will produce a written report that will make up the bulk of the final workshop report.

Workshop Participants
The workshop will bring together a diverse group of scientists and managers to include:

  • NOAA Fisheries staff representing Headquarters Offices (Protected Resources, Sustainable Fisheries, Habitat Conservation, and Science & Technology), and at least 1 representative from each of the Science Centers and Regional Offices
  • NOAA NOS staff including staff from relevant Sanctuaries, National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) sites, and Ocean and Human Health
  • Department of the Interior (DOI) representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Minerals Management Service (MMS)
  • Marine Mammal Commission
  • U.S. Navy Environmental Protection, Safety and Occupational Health Division (N45)/Office of Naval Research (ONR)
  • Selected scientists from outside of the U.S. Government
  • Selected scientists from other nations (e.g., Canada, UK, Mexico)

Workshop Venue, Logistics, and Attendance
The workshop will be held over a 4-day period (7-10 March 2006) at the Hilton Silver Spring in Silver Spring, MD. A block of rooms has been reserved for the workshop. NOAA will provide full funding support to invited speakers and partial support for invited participants.

This meeting will be open to the public, with limited space available, but will not include public comment sessions. Only invited speakers and invited participants will present or participate in discussions. This is not a consensus building workshop.

Workshop Outcomes
A NOAA Tech Memo will be prepared containing presentation summaries and findings of working groups and, perhaps, individual recommendations of the NOAA workshop participants.

NMFS. 2004. A Requirements Plan for Improving the Understanding Of the Status of U.S. Protected Marine Species. Report of the NOAA Fisheries National Task Force for Improving Marine Mammal and Turtle Stock Assessments. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/SPO-63, 112 p.
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