206. Incidental harvest research.
[MSFCMA section 405]
Summary: By July 11, 1997, the Secretary must consult with the Gulf and South
Atlantic Councils and conclude an information collection to assess the impact on fishery
resources of incidental harvest by the shrimp trawl fishery with those Councils' authority. Before
that date, the Secretary must also make available to the public aggregated summaries of
information collected prior to June 30, 1994. Stocks of fish subject to significant incidental
harvest in the course of "normal" shrimp trawling must be identified.
For identified stocks, with priority for those that are overfished, the Secretary must: collect and
evaluate information on the incidental mortality from shrimp trawling; assess the stocks'
condition precisely enough to support sound scientific evaluation of various management
alternatives; and collect and evaluate information on fishing mortality and effort by sources
other than shrimp trawling.
By October 11, 1997, the Secretary must complete a program to develop technology, devices,
and changes in fishing operations to minimize bycatch mortality in shrimp trawls to the extent
practicable, considering bycatch levels prior to November 28, 1990. The program must also
evaluate ecological impacts and the costs and benefits of such devices and operational changes,
and must assess whether utilizing unavoidable bycatch is practicable. Within one year of
completion of the programs, the Secretary must report detailed results to Congress.
Issues: Obviously Congress is concerned about the adequacy and
quality of information upon which the Councils are addressing shrimp trawl bycatch issues. The
South Atlantic Council has already submitted an amendment that will require the use of
bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) to reduce weakfish and Spanish mackerel bycatch, and the
Gulf Council took final action at its November 1996 meeting on a similar amendment to reduce
red snapper bycatch in shrimp trawls. Note that the shrimp fishery, in the entire southeast, is one
that occurs both in State and Federal waters. The State of Georgia, which implemented BRD
requirements in response to an ASMFC plan, is currently defending a legal challenge to that
requirement. The Gulf Council's efforts have generated a good deal of controversy. One
association has hired consultants who challenge NMFS science and statistical methodology in
computing levels of red snapper bycatch in shrimp trawls. Much of the information Congress
has directed be completed in this section has already been collected.
Summary: This subsection requires consistency between bycatch
reduction measures and measures applicable to fishing throughout
the range of U.S. waters for the bycatch species. Such measures
must also be consistent with the need to avoid serious adverse
environmental impacts on bycatch species or the ecology of the
Legislative history: The origin of this caveat was concern that
turtle bycatch in shrimp trawls should be addressed on the
Atlantic coast as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Last summer, a
shrimpers association began claiming that the language required
identical bycatch measures in other countries' jurisdictions,
which would have stymied Councils' efforts to control bycatch.
Recreational fishermen interested in the red snapper fishery
realized the implications of such an interpretation for
rebuilding that stock, since juvenile red snapper are taken in
the shrimp trawl fishery. The managers' amendment added the
phrase "in United States waters" to modify "throughout the
range," which solved part of the problem.
In a dramatic move on the evening of September 18, as the Senate
was poised to vote on S. 39, proceedings were suspended. Late-night negotiations between
Senator Hutchison and other delegations resulted in adding the words "To the extent
practicable" at the beginning of the subsection. Senator Shelby
explained that the amendment "restores the necessary discretion
to the Gulf Council" to adopt bycatch reduction programs. He
said, "Without the Hutchison-Shelby amendment, the red snapper
fishery will be closed, which will shut down recreational
fishermen and a thriving charter boat industry." The amendment
was adopted without a vote the following day.
Issues: While the Gulf Council should take into consideration
bycatch reduction measures (or lack thereof) applicable to
bycatch species in U.S. waters outside its area of authority, the
legislative history is clear that any inconsistencies should not
keep the Council from adopting whatever measures it deems
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