207. Miscellaneous research.
a. Fisheries systems research. [MSFCMA section 406]
Summary: The Secretary is to convene an advisory panel (exempt
from FACA) by April 11, 1997, to make recommendations on the
application of "ecosystem principles." The National Academy of
Sciences is to advise on the choice of not more than 20 panel
members. By October 11, 1998, the Secretary is to submit to
Congress the panel's report.
Legislative history: Senator Snowe believes NMFS takes a "narrow
approach" focusing on individual fish populations. She wants us
to consider a more "holistic" approach in an ecosystem context.
b. Gulf of Mexico red snapper research. [MSFCMA section
Summary: By November 10, 1996, the Secretary must initiate an
independent peer review to evaluate statistics, scientific
methodology and models, and management measures used in managing
the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, and must evaluate the
costs and benefits of alternative measures. All participants in
the fishery are given a role in the peer review, and may provide
information under amnesty for past violations of reporting
requirements. By October 11, 1997, the Secretary must report his
findings in detail to the Gulf Council.
Prior to October 1, 2000, the Gulf Council may not work on any
plan, amendment, or regulation that creates in the red snapper
fishery an IFQ program or a license consolidation program that
results in different trip limits for vessels in the same class.
This section is more restrictive than the general IFQ moratorium,
because the Council cannot "undertake or continue the preparation
of" any such program, and because any license consolidation
program is added to the prohibition.
After October 1, 2000, the Gulf Council may work on IFQ or
license consolidation programs, but only if the preparation of
such a program is approved in a referendum of red snapper permit
or endorsement holders and certain vessel captains. If
preparation is approved, the Council's proposal may not be
submitted to the Secretary unless a second referendum is
favorable. Eligibility requirements are set out; the Secretary
is to develop a formula for weighting votes based on proportional
harvest under each permit and endorsement.
The Gulf Council must include in any red snapper plan, amendment,
or regulation submitted after October 11, 1996, separate quotas
for recreational (including charter) fishing and commercial
fishing. Fisheries must be closed when these quotas are reached.
The quotas must reflect past allocations to these sectors,
exclusive of any overages.
Legislative history: NMFS stock assessments are already peer
reviewed. This additional review is further evidence of certain
legislators' dissatisfaction with the Gulf Council and NMFS's
management of the red snapper fishery. Opposition to IFQs runs
even higher in these delegations than in Alaska. Apparently the
referendum was a compromise to a proposal to ban IFQs permanently
in this fishery. The moratorium on license consolidations was a
response to a proposal the Gulf Council was considering as S. 39
was moving to the floor.
Historically, fisheries in the Southeast Region, including the
red snapper fishery, have been managed under commercial quotas
that result in a closure when reached, and recreational "quotas"
enforced through bag limits. The bag limits supposedly are low
enough to allow year-round fishing without exceeding the
recreational allocation, but in fact that allocation has been
exceeded in recent years.
Issues: There will be questions about what sort of management
measures fall within the moratorium. Without any experience in
conducting popular votes on management measures, NMFS will face
many new issues in administering double referenda.
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