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 407]

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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