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State-Federal Fisheries

2005 NOAA Fisheries - State Marine Fisheries Directors’ Meeting

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently hosted the third in a series of biennial meetings with its marine resource management partners from the coastal states, territories and Pacific and Caribbean Islands (“States”). During April 11-13, 2005, representatives of 30 of the 35 coastal States met with the entire NMFS Headquarters and Regional leadership in St. Pete Beach, Florida, to discuss current issues of mutual concern and to identify opportunities to better coordinate and cooperate in managing our shared marine resources. Dr. William Hogarth, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, hosted the meeting, with logistical support provided by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.

This report summarizes the major issues covered during the meeting and is not intended to provide a verbatim representation of all discussions. The meeting agenda, a table of all participants, including affiliations, and a table of Action Items from the meeting are linked to this report, as are all power point presentations given during the meeting. The body of the report follows the order of presented topics and focuses on the discussions that resulted from the presentations, relying on the slides in the presentations to highlight the basis for ensuing comments. However, expanded summaries of speaker comments are provided when clarification of information in the presentation/slides is needed.

NMFS considers this series of biennial meetings with our State Marine Resource Management partners a critical element to the successful communication, coordination, and cooperation necessary in achieving our shared goals to protect, restore and manage our coastal ocean resources. We thank all participants for contributing their thoughts and time to this meeting and to our ongoing partnership efforts.


2005 NOAA Fisheries - State Directors’ Meeting

11-13 April 2005


Monday April 11

11:00-1:00            Opportunity for Informal Discussions


1:00 – 2:15            Introductions & NOAA Fisheries Updates (Bill Hogarth)


2:15 – 3:00            Regional Perspectives and overviews- Issues from the States' perspective

Overviews from Atlantic (Vince O’Shea)

Gulf (Larry Simpson)

Pacific (Randy Fisher)

Caribbean (Barbara Kojis)

Pacific Islands (Francis Oishi, Richard Seman)


3:15- 4:00            Aquaculture update (Michael Rubino)


4:00- 5:00            Marine Protected Areas- (Joe Uravitch)


Tuesday April 12

8:30-9:15            Ocean Commission Follow-up; Ocean Action Plan (Bill Hogarth)


9:15-9:45            State issues- funding strategies  (Bill Hogarth)


9:45- 10:30            Essential Fish Habitat Guidelines- Update (Rollie Schmitten)

10:30-12:00            Data & Research Issues- (Steve Murawski)

-         National Data Workshop

-         NMFS Cooperative Research Program

-         NRC studies on:

o       Recreational fishery data

o       Ecosystem level effects of fishing

o       Benefits and risks of seafood consumption


1:00- 2:00              Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization (Rebecca Lent)


2:00- 3:00            Ecosystem Approaches to Management (Jack Dunnigan)


3:45-5:00            Recreational Fisheries (Forbes Darby)


Wednesday April 13

8:30-9:30            Comments from the NOAA Administrator Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher USN (Ret.)


9:45-10:15            Joint Enforcement Agreements (Mark Spurrier)


10:20-11:10            Protected Resources -update  (Phil Williams)


11:10- 12:00            Wrap-up and Review (Bill Hogarth)



List of Participants

  picture from NOAA Library



Introductions and NMFS Updates

Dr. Hogarth opened the meeting with a review of several recent events within the NMFS, including: the pending retirement of 3 senior staff members; a recently received petition to list the Eastern oyster as a threatened or endangered species; a proposed bycatch reduction experiment using pelagic longline vessels; and an endangered species status review being conducted jointly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), on American eel.

Dr. Hogarth stressed the importance of partnerships between NMFS and the states, and provided an update on the status of action items from the 2003 biennial State Directors Meeting. Of the 29 Action Items from the 2003 meeting, 11 have been completed, 14 are ongoing, 2 remain in progress, and 2 have been overtaken by events. (see Appendix A for a copy of Dr. Hogarth’s presentation).

Other topics touched on during opening remarks, which were to be more fully addressed later in the meeting, included:
· The National Permit Project – addressing adoption of a uniform policy for issuing and managing fishery permits throughout the country, to reduce duplicative data submissions, and to link current and historical data;
· Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) reauthorization- to be addressed by Congress this year. The role of the National Environmental Policy Act and the MSA will be part of those discussions;
· Data issues, especially related to highly migratory species tournaments; and
· Joint Enforcement Agreements with the states.

There were also general discussions on state and NMFS concerns related to liquefied natural gas terminals slated for placement in the Gulf of Mexico, and on Section 6 permitting related to protected resources.

Regional Perspectives and overviews- Issues from the States' perspective

Following general updates from NMFS, representatives from the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts and the Pacific and Caribbean Islands provided brief reports on important current issues from their perspectives.

Reporting for the Atlantic States, Vince O’Shea, Executive Director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), noted that ASMFC is composed of the 15 Atlantic States, from Maine to Florida. The ASMFC serves as a forum for the states to solve common marine fisheries problems. There are 22 species currently under management through ASMFC fishery management plans implemented by the States. (See Appendix B).

Emerging issues that are currently receiving Atlantic states’ attention, include concerns relative to the status of Atlantic menhaden, American lobster, Atlantic red drum and several diadromous species, and the need for expanded coverage of the nearshore trawl surveys.

For menhaden, while the coastwide stock assessment indicated that the stock was not overfished, and that overfishing was not occurring, there is concern from some sectors that pressure from the reduction fishery in Chesapeake Bay could be contributing to localized depletion of menhaden needed for forage for predatory fish, such as striped bass. The ASMFC is working with the states, NMFS and USFWS to identify and initiate research that will address these concerns. ASMFC and the northern States are coordinating research to address an increase in the distribution of shell disease in American lobster. The southern States are working through the ASMFC to develop research projects, including enhanced tagging programs to better understand the status of Atlantic red drum. In addition, management of this species is being transferred from the MSA to the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act. The ASMFC will also be supporting updates of stock assessments for the diadromous stocks of American shad and river herring.

In addition, the ASMFC is developing a multispecies model to better address needs associated with a move toward an ecological approach to management. This model will be peer reviewed this year. From a funding perspective, the ASMFC is working with its member states in a collaborative effort to develop research programs to better identify needs to meet management and research objectives, and to justify the allocation of funds.

The Atlantic states also acknowledge the importance of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistic Survey as source of recreational fisheries data needed for stock assessments, but encourage NMFS, ASMFC and the States to work together to address areas of improvement, including the quality of the data, poor stakeholder perception of the program, and insufficient funding. The ASMFC provides a forum for the states to work collaboratively to strengthen partnerships with Federal agencies to solve common problems.

Larry Simpson, Executive Director of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) provided an overview of current issues for the Gulf States. The GSMFC is comprised of the States of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas; and provides a forum and administrative mechanism to address interjurisdictional fisheries issues and programs. (See Appendix C).

The Gulf States continue to improve fisheries data systems. The Fisheries Information Network (FIN), a state-Federal cooperative program to collect, manage, and disseminate statistical data and information on the marine commercial and recreational fisheries of the Southeast Region, is the primary data system in the Gulf. The FIN consists of two components: the Southeast Recreational Fisheries Information Network [RecFIN (SE)] and the Commercial Fisheries Information Network (ComFIN). The FIN has developed and implemented a data management system, which has been on-line since July 2002. This system provides data to both confidential and non-confidential data users and contains a multitude of fishery-dependent data. Data currently available from the FIN system include: trip ticket data from Florida (1984-2004), Alabama (2002-2004), Mississippi (2002-2003 for oyster and finfish only) and Louisiana (1999-2004); NMFS historical data (1954-2004, for those areas not covered by trip ticket systems); recreational catch estimates (1981-2003); menhaden catch and effort data (1987-1990 and 1993-1999); and biological data (2002-2003). There are currently almost 17 million records in the system.

For recreational fisheries, the Gulf states have increased sampling of the intercept portion of the MRFSS for charter boats in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida as well as overall charter boat sampling in Texas. In 2004, the states conducted over 56,000 interviews with recreational anglers and exceeded the quota for all survey modes by 35% Gulf-wide. Increased sampling occurred in the other survey modes, as well, by 1.3X for shore mode, 5.5X for charter mode, and 1.4Xfor private/rental mode, providing over a third more available data for fisheries management.

Beginning in 2002, all Gulf states conducted interviews of recreational and commercial fishermen and collected biological data from their catches. Increased biological sampling will lead to more accurate assessments for a greater number of Gulf species. Logbooks from Louisiana and Texas recreational head boats, collected since 1998, are also being complied. Head boat data include catch and effort as well as biological samples of the catch, which occurs primarily in the Exclusive Economic Zone from ports along the coasts of Texas and Florida. Beginning in 2004, Alabama has conducted at-sea sampling of ten percent of Alabama head boats trips, allowing collection of biological and disposition data on discards.. These data will be used to produce expanded estimates of catch and discards by wave for head boats. In 2005, Florida will also conduct at-sea sampling for head boats operating in their state.

The GSMFC coordinates collection of commercial fisheries data, including the use of electronic dealer reporting. Currently, there are 283 dealers from Louisiana to Florida utilizing this system, representing about twenty five percent of the commercial landings (excluding menhaden) reported to those states. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are working toward commercial trip ticket systems. Florida, Louisiana and Alabama have fully implemented programs while Texas will be implementing a program for a limited number of dealers (~60) in 2005. Mississippi has implemented trip-level reporting for oysters and finfish and is working towards including their other fisheries.

The Gulf states also participate in SEAMAP, which provides invaluable fisheries independent data to assess the conditions of stocks, and provides catch, location, and environmental information. This survey was the first to identify and provide information on the expanse of the hypoxic “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico.

The GSMFC also coordinates activities through its Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management Program, which has updated the striped bass plan, developed a sheepshead status profile, is reviewing the status of the blue crab fishery, has facilitated Gulf menhaden data entry, and has organized a literature database. The law enforcement committee is actively reviewing coordinated enforcement issues. The GSMFC supports the sportfish restoration program of the USFWS by coordinating states’ program for artificial reef developments; serves with the Gulf and South Atlantic regional panel of the Aquatic Invasive Species Program; provides Geographic Information System support for all GSMFC activities; and administers a billfish research grant program.

The GSMFC’s Habitat Program supports the states through coordination of the very successful efforts by the states to remove derelict blue crab traps, and through its involvement in discussions on the placement and type liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.

Emerging issues important to the Gulf, include: shrimp imports, limited entry for some fisheries, and the reauthorization of the MSA. The GSMFC also requests that the SEAMAP and Interjurisdictional Act programs be funded at the full appropriation levels.

Randy Fisher, Executive Director of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) gave a brief review of Pacific coast issues. The PSMFC has a staff of more than 45, with a budget of $41,000,000, of which 96% goes to the Pacific States (Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington). The PSMFC does not have regulatory authority, buts serves the states through the coordination of data collection and data management programs.

Issues associated with the reauthorization of the MSA are of current importance to the Pacific states. These issues include: exemption of the MSA from the NEPA; clarification of the use Vessel Monitoring System collected data by the states, and allowing Councils the ability to develop Individual Quotas in all fisheries sectors. With respect to the Fishery Management Councils, the Pacific states believe that: the current system for selection of new members does not need to changed; there is a need to clarify that fisheries management rests with the MSA Councils and not with the NOAA Sanctuaries Program; and the present process of using science is good, and does not need to be modified.

There are also concerns in the Pacific area relative to the ability of the data collection programs, PACFin, RecFin, and AkFin, to remain as viable sources of the information needed to manage Pacific fisheries. These projects have been level funded for the last 8 years and are in jeopardy if inflation and increases in personnel costs are not reflected in the future budget allocations. Additional data needs resulting from the implementation of new initiatives in Ecosystem Approaches to Management, marine aquaculture, and the Integrated Ocean Observation Initiative will also require funding; this new funding should not be at the expense of current funding to existing fisheries data programs needed for stock assessments. The PSMFC believes that it is important for the states to review and have a more active role in the NMFS budget process.

The Pacific states also believe that there needs to be a discussion on how to manage restored seals and sea lion populations, relative to their effect to fisheries resources.

A review of Caribbean Island issues was presented by Barbara Kojis, of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) (see Appendix D). Commercial fisheries of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are different than those of the other areas, in that they are characterized primarily as artisanal, or small scaled, consisting of boats of about 16 to 20 feet, with large boats generally no greater than about 35 feet in length. The fishing activities occur over narrow shelf and shelf edges. The Caribbean Fishery Management Council (CFMC) is the focus of joint management between the USVI and Puerto Rico; no interstate Commission exists in this area. The CFMC has recently approved an Essential Fish Habitat amendment for the spiny lobster, queen conch, reef fish and the coral and associated invertebrates and plants, and is in the process of developing amendments to their FMPs based on the requirements of the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA). Puerto Rico had recently approved extensive new territorial regulations in support of SFA and has strongly recommended that federal regulations be compatible with theirs. The USVI is also pursuing compatible regulations, and has made several suggestions implementation of regulations in the EEZ.

The NMFS needs to consider how best to assist state governments in funding all the fisheries management work mandated by Congress. This is especially true in the U.S. Caribbean because most of the fishable habitat is within the jurisdiction of the local governments. Both Puerto Rico and the USVI collect needed fisheries data, but while Puerto Rico receives some state funding for these efforts, the USVI does not. Both jurisdictions receive funding from the State-Federal Cooperative Statistics Program, the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (IFA), and SEAMAP, but funding under these programs have decreased or remained the same over the years, while costs have increased substantially. The SEAMAP fisheries independent data collection is also hampered by limited funding, impacting the number of samples that can be collected and analyzed. NMFS must also ensure that Caribbean data are available and incorporated in the new Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) process.

Key issues of concern in the Caribbean, related to the previous discussion, are: who is going to determine the current status of species that have been undergoing rebuilding; who is going to establish baseline data for species that will be managed under the proposed new regulations; and who is going to monitor the effectiveness of the SFA rebuilding plan?

The Pacific Islands summary was provide by Francis Oishi, of Hawaii and Richard Seman, of the CNMI, based on summary slides provide in Appendix E. Information was not available for an update of fisheries activities in Guam.

Hawaii has several data collection programs. For the commercial fisheries, the Marine License Program provides effort and catch data, while the Marine Dealers Report provides sales data; and the Aquarium Fish Permit Program provides information of the catch of tropical fish for the aquarium trade. The Hawaii Marine Recreational Fishing Survey conducts intercepts surveys of recreational fishermen which provide catch data for the recreational fisheries. Additional fisheries independent data programs, include the Sportfish Tagging Project, Sportfish Stock Enhancement, Tagging, and Monitoring Project; and resource inventory surveys, which are conducted in partnership with NOAA. Hawaii is also participating in a multi-agency initiative to develop a long-term marine ecosystem research plan.

Funding issues are important for Hawaii, and increased support from NMFS is crucial for the future of the Hawaii Marine Recreational Fishing Survey. Support received from NMFS is also important for the WPACFin and Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act, while additional support is needed for fisheries independent research.

Issues that need to be discussed include the need for regular communications with Hawaii’s Federal partners; the need to address overlapping Federal/state interests, such as with overfishing of bottomfish and with Marine Protected Areas; recreational marine licenses, coral reefs, and the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. As incidental take permits are developed, consideration also must be given as to how these permits affect commercial and recreational fisheries. In addition, consideration must be given to Native Rights.

American Samoa has two data collection programs: The Offshore Pelagic Fisheries Project, where data are collected as fish are landed; and an Inshore Creel Survey of recreational fishermen.

The fisheries legislation is currently under review, measures under consideration include size and seasonal limits. American Samoa also has had a very successful Fish Attracting Device (FAD) Program since 1979. The program is now using third generation FADs, many of which were destroyed by recent typhoons. In addition, two Community Development Program projects have been approved for funding. These include a cold storage facility and longline bycatch marketing project.

The CNMI has a fisheries data collection program funded by NMFS, WPACFin, and the IFA. There is also an inshore-lagoon and coastal survey for recreational fishermen. Most of the fresh fish consumed in CNMI is imported by air. Most information is gathered as commercial sales data. The CNMI does receive funds under the Coral Reef Initiative to support reef-monitoring efforts.

The FAD program in the CNMI has been in existence since 1988, with numerous typhoons having caused the FADs to be replaced every two to three years. A cost/benefit study should be conducted to assess the benefits of the program.

The CNMI has had no recent changes to the local fisheries regulations. The Commonwealth believes that the Joint Enforcement Authority is a good program, and has had CNMI enforcement officers deputized in this program. In the reauthorization of the MSA, the CNMI requests that the needs of remote islands be remembered, and that the needs of community level associations and traditional fishing methods be appreciated.

NMFS Aquaculture Update

Michael Rubino, the NMFS Aquaculture program manager provided an update of NMFS aquaculture activities (see Appendix F), noting that the NMFS emphasis is on opportunity, with aquaculture able to address increasing demand for seafood while creating jobs in coastal communities. He also discussed the challenges aquaculture presents and the reasons for the current momentum in related activities. He then described the elements of the NOAA Program, and how NOAA and State Programs compliment each other, and discussed the environmental, economic and social issues associated with aquaculture programs.

Following the NMFS presentation, there was significant discussion by participants, including expressions of several concerns. These included: the potential for bureaucratic problems, given different agencies’ regulatory requirements, if aquaculture were allowed into the EEZ; operations that would not be profitable elsewhere would require subsidies, as seen with agriculture; and in the Pacific region, the effects on Alaskan fisheries of the escape of Atlantic salmon from fish farms in Canada.

Best Management Practices must be very clear in order to adequately address escapements, cage placements, and fish health, and enforcement needs. “One stop” shopping will reduce the time needed to issues permits, and bureaucratic complexities will be reduced if only one organization coordinates regulatory requirements. However, it was noted that cooperation with the states will be very important, as well as with sister Federal agencies. The Joint Aquaculture Sub-Committee has workgroups of staff from U.S. Department of Agriculture, USFWS, and NOAA to develop a regulatory framework and to plan necessary research and development. There will be coordination between all Federal agencies in developing draft legislation, which is currently under review by OPM, and should be released for public review in May 2005.

There was discussion of the need for consistency with state regulations and Coastal Zone Management polices, and it was noted that, if aquaculture were prohibited in state waters, it would also be prohibited in the adjacent EEZ. It was also noted that Mexico has large bluefin tuna aquaculture operations, and that these operations could effect transboundary stocks. In addition, the need to harvest bait fish to feed these tuna could affect the availability of migratory bait fish on which California stocks feed. While this issue is not one to be addressed by the aquaculture bill, it will be discussed at the next meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Tunas. The State of California agreed to provide more information on concerns about bait fish impacts, so the issue can be discussed at future U.S. and Mexico bilateral fisheries meetings.

It was clear that there were a number of concerns, many of which could be addressed in the regulatory frameworks implemented for aquaculture, such as those introduced internationally in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, and nationally as in the deliberations on the introduction of Asian Oysters in Chesapeake Bay.

Concerns related to the introduction of invasive species can be addressed by using local, rather than non-native species. Communications will be a key component in avoiding invasive species issues, and since regions and states can have varying concerns, communication efforts need to be comprehensive and ongoing. It is important for the interstate commissions, as well as the states to be involved in the review of development of aquaculture programs.

It was noted that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has received permit applications for aquaculture pilot projects, and that it could take one to two years to have the legislation and rule in place. Discussion indicated that Exempted Fishing Permits may be appropriate for experimental pilot projects that may be requested prior to completion of rulemaking.

NOAA-Marine Protected Areas Update

Joe Uravitch, Program manager for the NOAA Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center, provided a review of MPA activities (see Appendix G). MPAs are diverse groups of conservation areas that can have multiple uses, cultural significance, and economic impacts. On the Federal level, Executive Order 13158 (EO) requires NOAA to develop a scientifically comprehensive national system of areas representing diverse marine ecosystems, natural, and cultural resources. The EO applies only to Federal agencies and requires those agencies to consult and coordinate with states, territories, tribes, Fisheries Management Councils, and others. NOAA is looking for input from all sectors in implementing this program.

Implementation of the EO involves development of a comprehensive inventory of all marine managed areas, in consultation with state, territory, and federal agencies, and building and enhancing partnerships and coordination across existing MPA programs. The program is addressing issues on stakeholder involvement, governance, and adaptive management. There will be regional public dialogues, workshops with state advisory groups, and meetings with the Federal Interagency Working Group. The draft framework will be published in the Federal Register of public review and comment. A representative of the coastal states organization provides full-time staff support to the program, and has held various meetings with constituents. The MPA program offers a forum to coordinate ecosystem based planning and management of MPAs across federal, state, territory, and tribal boundaries, and can leverage resources for partners. State Directors are encouraged to request their names be added to the mailing list to be kept apprised of how their agencies can become involved in MPA program activities.


Several LNG terminals have recently been licensed for placement in the Gulf of Mexico and States question whether MPA designations could have been used to prevent such licensing. The concern of the states is that these LNG facilities will be “opened” systems that will use vast quantities of sea-water to the determent of fish larvae. In discussing protecting marine areas, the effects of LNG need to the discussed.

It was also noted that the public in different regions have differing views of the utility of MPAs, with some groups seeing beneficial effects to the environment, while others perceive negative impacts to the rights of fishers.

One state member who has participated in the MPA process reported that the MPA development process is working. However, many members of the MPA State Advisory Committee represent state Coastal Zone Management (CZM) agencies, rather than the state’s marine fisheries agency. Differences in perspectives between state resource management and environmental agencies may result in conflicting opinions on how MPAs should be defined and/or managed. Therefore, it was suggested that all state directors become involved in the MPA process.

Ocean Commission Follow-up; Ocean Action Plan

Dr. Hogarth provided a review of the final report of U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (Commission), delivered to the President in September 2004. The report included comments from 37 Governors, and 212 recommendations: 60 specific to NOAA, and 26 pertaining to NMFS. The report recognized NOAA as the Nation’s lead civilian ocean agency. Appendix H provides the slides for this presentation, additional information provided by Dr. Hogarth is summarized here.

The Commission recommended a number of Critical Actions, including:

(1) Ecosystem based management: to the extent possible, our management system should be based on ecosystem boundaries, rather than political boundaries;

(2) Improved governance: the current management regime is not up to the challenge of managing our oceans, it is not coordinated or comprehensive, in part due to the isolated nature in which the various management systems were developed;

(3) Sound Science: decision-makers are hampered by a lack science-based information to help them manage ocean and coastal resources, the Commission recommended doubling of the Federal budget for ocean-related scientific research;

(4) Education: the American public’s lack of understanding of ocean issues is a contributing factor to many of the problems identified in the report; the Commission believes the success of all of their recommendations will require a strong ocean education program, not just in schools, but of the public at large;

(5) Support for Implementation (Trust Fund): a phased implementation strategy should be developed; the Commission recommended specific funding sources to pay for all of their recommendations through the creation of an Ocean Policy Trust Fund; and

(6) Specific Recommendations: the Commission made very specific recommendations in a wide range of issue areas, such as ocean leadership and governance, stewardship of ocean resources, economic growth and coastal conservation, increased scientific knowledge, education and public awareness, and international ocean science and policy.

In implementing the Committee’s recommendations, The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) tasked Federal agencies with identifying initiatives responsive to the report that could be implemented in the near-term

CEQ set up the Interagency Ocean Policy Group, including staff from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, the Interior, Justice, State, and Transportation, plus Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Marine Mammal Commission, and others to aid it in developing the President’s response.

The Administrations response consisted of two elements: a Presidential Executive Order calling for a cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy, and the release of the U.S. Ocean Action Plan identifying key focus areas for the Administration in implementation of Commission recommendations will be a more systematic collaboration and better integration of effort would benefit the management and protection of our Nation’s ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources.

The President’s Executive Order created the Committee on Ocean Policy, which includes the Secretary of Commerce. In addition, the Action Plan established a number of committees to develop a new ocean governance structure. Central to implementation of the Oceans Action Plan was creation of the Interagency Committee on Ocean Science and Resource Management Integration (referred to as the “Aqua Box” in the organization chart). NOAA Administrator Lautenbacher represents the Department of Commerce on this committee. In addition, the Subcommittee on Integrated Management of Ocean Resources, or “SIMOR” will address most actions of interest to NMFS. These committees will consider improvements to the overall structure for ocean and coastal governance, including improving Federal coordination and supporting regional collaboration.

The Ocean Action Plan proposes several changes to the MSA, including: promote dedicated access privileges, including IFQ’s as a management; balance Council representation with a broader portion of interested parties; improve data acquisition methods to provide better information to managers; and develop standard and transparent procedures for incorporation of science in fisheries management

The Ocean Action Plan also addresses: protection of corals, marine aquaculture,
a national bycatch strategy, Gulf of Maine habitat restoration, a national strategy for fisheries enforcement, and development of guidelines for the use of science in fisheries management, community watersheds, wetlands, and reauthorization of many laws that govern ocean activities (MSA, Marine Mammal Protection Act, CZMA, etc.)

State participants noted that while the Committee’s report called for establishment of an Ocean Trust fund, the Ocean Action Plan does not contain this provision. Participants identified creation of such a fund as a key to the states’ ability to participate in addressing the Commission’s recommendations and asked that NMFS to investigate options for such a Trust, even if no monies are available in the short-term. NMFS agreed to explore the issue.

Additional discussions focused on the proposed ocean observation systems, and how oceanographic information could assist fisheries assessments. There was concern that development of these systems may result in funding reductions in current fisheries data collection systems, and suggestions that existing data collection programs could serve as models for these new systems. Participants recommended that an ecosystem approach to data collection be incorporated into NMFS’ budgeting process, which is to be based on ecosystem goals.

Participants also noted that the states need to be involved in all aspects of the implementation of the Ocean Action Plan and the evolving approach to management, and that this involvement needs to include state marine fisheries agencies as well as state CZM agencies.

State issues- funding strategies

In addressing states’ funding concerns, Dr. Hogarth provided a review of the sources of funding to states, the primary uses of funds to the states, a review of current programs, and other possible funding sources (see Appendix I). Overall grant funding to states in FY 2004 totaled $80,629,076. FY 2004 funding for Pacific salmon projects totaled $104,578,737. FY 2004 funding for Atlantic salmon projects totaled $1,460,000 Program emphasis has been to support habitat restoration and conservation, fishery dependent and independent data collection, fishery monitoring, research in support of fisheries management (stock assessments, habitat studies, ecosystem models), and law enforcement.

Participants discussed a need to evaluate, both on a national and regional level, funding for fishery science and management activities; to assess what needs are being met and not, what duplication is occurring; and what priorities need to be reviewed. It was generally agreed that a national review would be a positive exercise, and there is also a need to look at how funds have been used historically. This review should be done with the states and Commissions, and should include both base budgets and earmarks.

To initiate this review process, regions and centers should begin initial evaluations, and the states should be asked to commit to participate in these regional reviews. These reviews should include all resources available to address data, research, and management needs; focus on ecosystem based management; and link projects to appropriate programs.

State participants pointed out that the trust fund described in the Ocean Commission’s report could be a source of funding for needed marine fisheries science and management activities, especially at the state level. They also discussed the need for a coordinated approach to gain Congressional support for a trust fund. However, concern was also expressed that existing funding should not be diverted to support the Ocean Action plan.

It was noted also that NMFS has entered a performance based budgeting process and that could complicate the immediate request for additional funding.

There was concern that NMFS Headquarters appears to be receiving more funds than previously, and some questioned the effect of reduced funds to the science centers and regional offices. However, it was pointed out that under current goal-focused budgeting, funds given to headquarters are passed through to the field as part of the matrix budget management. It was noted that all Agency attorneys located in the regions are funded through Headquarters accounts, as are all construction costs. In addition, Headquarters or the Department of Justice pay litigation fees, and that NMFS is now winning about ninety percent of suits.

There was broad agreement to revisit funding under the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. Historically this program was sufficient to fund the construction of laboratories, yet recent awards are often not thought to be worth the effort to submit an application. The states agreed to include review of grant programs as an action item, and to establish a work group to assist NMFS to use this program as a corner stone to update the state/interstate Commission/NMFS partnership. It was suggested that the funding formula also be reexamined and that both the Hill and the Administration be notified by the states of the extent of the problem the current funding level and distribution formula create for the states. It was also pointed out that while the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act supports commercial fisheries, there is also a need to address funding levels for sport fishing projects.

There was also discussion that the funds states receive from the Regional Fisheries Management Councils, especially in the Northeast, to participate in the Council process, are no longer sufficient, and there is a need for reinstatement of funding for state Council liaison positions. It was noted that some Councils have continued giving states these liaison funds. State participants agreed that it would be appropriate to work through their Congressional representatives to encourage reinstatement of this funding, suggesting a level of $100K/state.

Essential Fish Habitat Guidelines- Update

Rollie Schmitten, Director of the Office of Habitat Conservation, provided a brief overview of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and an update on current EFH-related activities (see Appendix J).

In general, the MSA promotes the protection of EFH by requiring the review of projects conducted under Federal permits, licenses, or other authorities that affect, or have the potential to affect, such habitat. EFH is defined as those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity. The three key elements of EFH management are: describe and identify EFH, minimize to the extent practicable adverse effects of fishing and identify other actions for the conservation of such habitat, and provide for a consultation process for actions that may adversely affect EFH.

While there are needs for improvement in the EFH process, these will be addressed through changes to technical guidance to refine EFH and to improve the approach to address impacts to EFH. NMFS will continue to push for basic science and mapping for habitat distribution, species/habitat relationships, and impacts.

A question was raised as to how to align conflicting policy with Critical Habitat in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and EFH under MSA. It was responded that MSA should include ESA concerns, and that under ESA action cannot occur that would negatively impact critical habitat. EHF should be used to identify all habitats, while critical habitat designations should be to truly protect needed areas. It is hoped in the future these two policies can come together. NMFS agreed to develop a fact sheet describing the differences between EFH, under MSA, and Critical Habitat, under ESA.

It was pointed out that in the Gulf of Mexico EFH designated areas for sturgeon have slowed the installations of docks and beach renourishment. Also, oyster reefs cannot be planted, even though federal dollars have been allocated to do this work. The question was posed as to how EFH designations would affect the placement of LNG terminals in the Gulf of Mexico.

Participants also noted the importance of communicating with the public on successes resulting from EFH designations, and on a more collaborative basis on the health of ecosystems to avoid bureaucratic duplications. Some states are doing between two to three hundred EFH consultations, and they are tracking the interactions and the results; NMFS also should be tracking the results of their consultations.

It was also noted that there is congressional concern on the broadness of the EFH definition and its role in ecosystem management, and EFH will be discussed in the reauthorization of the MSA.

Data and Research Issues

Steve Murawski, Director of the Office of Science and Technology, provided reviews of a number of data and research issues, including: a National Data Workshop; the NMFS Cooperative Research Program; and three upcoming NRC studies.

National Data Workshop (see Appendix K-1)
NMFS will host a National Fisheries Data Workshop in late summer of 2005, with states, Interstate Commissions, Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program, to discuss common data collection and management issues. Of issue is how all parties can collaborate more efficiently, “how much data are enough,” priorities for data initiatives, additional requirements, such as for bycatch monitoring, and recreational fisheries. There are also questions concerning the statistical accuracy and precision in surveys and the confidence intervals of data. There are three areas requiring special attention: (1) the technical aspects of statistical accuracy and precision; (2) the development of new electronic tools, such as electronic logbooks and Vessel Monitoring Systems, and associated issues of confidentially and storage of new data types; (3) and the requirements of the Data Quality Act (DQA) to enhance quality assurance and control issues. NMFS is in the process of developing guidelines needed for the DQA and the needs for peer review and transparency in the review process. NMFS would like to see established a universal system for the data.

The workshop is intended to resolve data issues and to provide collaboration with all data partners. Participants generally stated that, if the workshop will facilitate a more to real-time management of fisheries data, it would be welcomed.

A State Director inquired as to why NMFS does not include recreational data from Texas in NMFS assessments. Texas data are included in the Gulf FIN database. It was agreed that NMFS, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and Texas will discuss the use of Texas data in a more uniform manner, relative to other states’ recreational data.

Some states expressed concern with confidentially issues on the use of VMS data; the data can by used by Councils, but not by the states. There were also questions on the use of VMS by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). NMFS reported that these issues will be discussed during reauthorization of the MSA, along with VMS and Search and Rescue needs.

To avoid duplication of state/federal data collection, it was suggested that case studies be developed of known state and federal data problems. It was also pointed out that in assessments there are large confidence intervals for rare species and that many Councils have stock assessments every three years. These may be considered as issues in accuracy under the DQA. Another important issue is the need to use state fishing license data to establish a statistical sampling frame for recreational fishing surveys.

In the Gulf of Mexico dealers report electronically, and there is a need for additional funding to add modules to the system. NMFS agreed to participate in supporting the expansion of this system.

NMFS Cooperative Research (see Appendix K-2)
Cooperative research is a scientific activity involving two or more partners that gain more collectively than separately in the pursuit of a shared research goal. There is much to be gained through cooperative research, including survey precision and mutual understanding and increased respect among scientists and fisherman. Potential partners in working with fishermen and the fishing industry include fisheries scientists and managers, state biologists, universities, and others. Levels of participation depend on regional and fisheries-specific research needs and opportunities, program costs, and potential benefits. Funding for cooperative research is not centralized, but come from many projects, and totals roughly twenty million dollars per year.

The National Cooperative Research Program is based in NMFS headquarters and is responsible for the national coordination of activities and use of results. The Program allocates funding to the science centers to support Cooperative research (about $400K per science center). The Southeast Cooperative Research Program is using cooperative research to study the effectiveness of bycatch reduction devices and to support the Cooperative Statistics data collection program. The Northeast Cooperative Research Partners Initiative supports long-term research and monitoring projects and short-term projects funded through a competitive awards process. Other Northeast cooperative research projects include a black sea bass cooperative tagging project, and a cooperative monkfish survey. The Alaska Cooperative Research Program supports resource surveys on chartered fishing vessels and conservation engineering studies. The Northwest Groundfish Cooperative Research program focuses on research surveys and industry initiated proposals. The Southwest Cooperative Research Program supports the adult sardine survey and the nearshore groundfish survey. The Pacific Islands Cooperative Research Program funds the Northwest Hawaiian Islands lobster tagging program.

There are many issues in assuring successful cooperative research programs. These include the need for stable long-term funding, assuring for adequate peer review, streamlining permitting and regulatory requirements, and training fishermen in proposal writing. It was noted that there will be an American Fisheries Society sponsored symposium on cooperative research and management at the Anchorage, Alaska meeting in September, 2005.

There was consensus among participants that cooperative research: (1) needs to be as rigorously peer reviewed as other scientific endeavors and (2) is an important tool and has been useful in studies on yellowtail flounder in the Northeast. It was pointed out that the cooperative research program has evolved into a very good program.

One area of concern is the competitive nature of some of these programs; some groups who are not associated with fisheries management could apply for the funds, preventing others from doing long-term studies and building needed infrastructure. NMFS agreed, that there needs to be a national policy for the research approaches in these programs, while noting that some of these programs have requirements that have been specified by Congress.

NMFS agreed to prepare a breakdown on cooperative research funding by region and to send it to meeting participants. NMFS also agreed to work closely with the states on bycatch issues and to establish a national fishing gear testing program.

National Research Council Review of Recreational Studies on Data (Appendix K-3)
To update studies for NMFS by the National Research Council (NRC), the Ocean Studies Board is reviewing the Recreational Fisheries Data Collection Program, and the ecosystem effects of fishing, specifically assessments of the extent of ecosystem change and the implications for policy. The Institute of Medicine’s, Food and Nutrition Board is reviewing the benefits and risks of seafood consumption.

The NRC’s review of recreational fisheries survey methods will focus on how suitable are current statistical survey methods for monitoring different types of recreational fishing, and if there are alternative methods, or changes to current methods, that could improve the quality and utility of fishery statistics.

There are over seventeen million marine recreational anglers and over 65 million fishing trips per year, with an economic impact of more that $30 billion, and over $22 billion in related expenditures per year. Over 135,000 metric tons of fish are landed each year.

There are many challenges to recreational fishery sampling. There are a large number and variety of target species; some species are common, some species are rarely caught. There are incomplete sampling frames, such as licensing programs by states. Recreational discards account for about 60 percent of the catch, and are increasing. Many of the sampling designs were created long before many of today’s management needs were recognized. There is an increasing need to provide credible, precise estimates needed for stock assessments, allocation discussions, and compliance needs.

Other sampling issues include difficulties in meeting or exceeding harvest targets due to errors estimating bag limits, seasons, or other indirect controls. Some biases in statistical estimates could occur if estimates from night fishing, tournaments, private access, etc. are not calculated. Another issue is the continued funding needed to maintain surveys at the intensity necessary for their use in the management process.

The use of state saltwater license databases as statistical frames poses some challenges, as the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific states have licenses but have various exemptions and confidentiality restrictions. No Atlantic state north of Virginia, nor Hawaii, have recreational saltwater fishing licenses. It is hoped that the Ocean Action Plan can help implement state licenses.

The ecosystem effects study on fishing will evaluate evidence of long-term ecosystem effects. The study will comment on the quality of data and models available for assessing ecosystem effects and will focus the ecosystem effects for society and science.

There are many over arching ecosystem issues for fisheries. What evidence exists for reversibility of fishing effects and for ecosystem change due to predator overfishing?
What are the fishing impacts on system-wide productivity from sequential fishing down trophic levels, trophic cascades, control hypotheses for fisheries ecosystems, and fishing induced regime change? The genetic effects of fishing on fish stocks needs to be understand. There have been many studies describing the effects on fishing; these papers are referenced on the power point presentation. The ecosystem effects study will review these publications, analyze and assess their conclusions.

It was suggested that the increased emphasis on ecosystem studies is a positive approach.

It was noted that states have various laws on the confidentiality of data given in applying for a recreational saltwater recreational licenses, complicating the concept of using a license to establish a recreational sampling frame.

Participants also noted that there is increasing reluctance by owners/operators of charter boats/head boats (C/H boats) to the telephone interviews needed for recreational fisheries data collection. The interviews are too long and require the owners/operators to repeat information, and are causing interview fatigue, resulting in incomplete data of fishing trips. There is a need to have the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP) to begin to immediately address these issues.

It was noted that there is an increase in the number of C/H boats in the Gulf of Mexico, and an increase in the number of fly fishing guides in New York.

The state of Texas wildlife program, which was recently peer reviewed by the American Fisheries Society, could be a model for other peer reviews.

Increasing problems with telephone sampling were discussed, including the rise of cell phone numbers that are not subject to random dialing, and the increasing resistance to telemarketing, in general.

The work of the Committee on Nutrient Relationships in Seafood: Selections to Balance Benefits and Risks, will examine seafood consumption to assess the substantial benefits for human health (dietary, circulatory), as well as risks from contaminants. The study will update information on risks, especially from methyl mercury accumulation in fish tissues. The balance of benefits to risks will be assessed. The study will propose optional consumption levels for various groups based on age and other factors. It is expected that the report will be completed in 2006.

NMFS’ Seafood Inspection Laboratory will be the lead group to provide information needed for the health study, with input from the Food and Drug Administration and the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee. There will be an international meeting in Norway late this year to discuss issues of methyl mercury in fish. NMFS will ensure that policy documents developed by the ASMFC on seafood safety will be provided to the necessary individuals, and NMFS will organize public hearings on seafood safety and will continue to work with state public health agencies in this endeavor.

Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization

Rebecca Lent, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, provided an overview of current activities associated with reauthorization of the MSA. Principal issues identified in the presentation include: ecosystems and the MSA; National Standard 1; separation of science and allocation decisions; Dedicated Access Privileges Programs; Council appointments; NEPA and the MSA; and EFH. Each of these issues is further discussed in the Appendix (L).

The next steps for development of NMFS input on MSA reauthorization include this meeting (the NOAA Fisheries – State Directors Meeting), the upcoming Council Chairs and Executive Directors Meeting, and future Congressional hearings. NMFS will continue to work with the Hill, management partners, and stakeholders on development of input to this reauthorization.

Participants noted that it would be wise to use existing programs, such as the Gulf of Mexico Program, as models for getting input on actions that impact ecosystems. It was also noted that the process needs to be both top-down and bottom up.

State participants stated that it is already difficult to find a suitable number of qualified individuals willing to serve as Council members; expanding the number of Council members, as suggested by the Oceans Commission, will only exacerbate this problem. In addition, state agencies know individuals in the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, but are not as familiar with representatives from other groups. They feel that MSA should recommend that Governors reach out to these other groups, but that it should not be mandated. It was acknowledged by NMFS that service on Councils can be stressful.

There was also discussion about the Council decision-making process being broader than simply enacting the conclusions of the Science and Statistical Committees. That the managers/Council members must incorporate the best available science with other factors in making any final management decisions. At the Gulf Council, each state agency’s scientists and other staff are asked to comment in order for the Council to reach a balanced decision. It was suggested that rather than expanding the Council makeup, others, such as the Gulf Program who deal with laws such as the Endangered Species Act, be incorporated into the process.

In the review of the Council process, it was suggested that State Directors should not be voting Council members. However, after discussion it was concluded that this idea would not be a recommendation from the meeting.

There was also concern that incorporation of the ecosystem approach to management be carefully considered; the EHF provisions of the MSA generated over 96 pages of regulations. The ecosystem approach could overwhelm the current management system with new litigation.

Other issues raised during discussions included the need to: resolve questions on the use of VMS data in state and Federal courts; develop an alternative to the NEPA process; reduce the timeline for EFP approvals in the Northeast; improve base funding for critical infrastructure and identify opportunities to make lawmakers aware of this issue; develop alternatives to National Standard 1 and the focus on fishing mortality, and to address difficulties in separating stock assessments from other analyses; address States’ needs for new funding to support new efforts.

It was pointed out that in Alaska, the SSC sets the TAC, and the Council allocates those numbers as an ABC, which is sometimes less than the TAC. Every MSY has some input on allocation based on the gear that is used in different fisheries targeting the same species. Councils could better identify allocation issues once these differences are identified.

There was discussion on the need to compensate individuals who provide information and services to the Councils; reviewing lengthy technical and legal documents is very time consuming. Federal and state personnel have other duties, including collecting and analyzing data needed for the assessments; additional funds must be given to the states and Councils to provide sufficient staff. Federal and state personnel may be adequately compensated, but others, such as University personnel who participate on SSCs, need support to document requirements for tenure. The lack of compensation was discussed as a possible cause for low recent turnouts at SSC meetings and AP meetings. As some Councils use contractors and individuals with local knowledge to perform needed analyses, sufficient funds are needed for these also. NMFS recognizes that the management process has become increasingly complicated and there is a need to simplify it as much as possible. NMFS will discuss the Council process in late April with the Council Chairs and Executive Directors.

Ecosystem Approaches to Management

Jack Dunnigan, Director of the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, discussed the move to ecosystem approaches to management (see Appendix M), describing an ecosystem as a geographically specified system of organisms (including humans), the environment and the processes that control its dynamics. He explained that an ecosystem approach to management is: collaborative, incremental, geographically specified (such as the ten identified Large Marine Ecosystems), accounts for ecosystem knowledge and uncertainty, considers multiple external influences, and balances diverse social objectives. This approach also supports NOAA’s strategic goals to protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources. Additional information can be obtained at the website Email related to ecosystem approaches to management can be sent to:

There was discussion on the complexities of moving from single to multi-species management, and how this must be done gradually by identifying different species as an ecosystem approach is developed. It was agreed that the states must be fully engaged in developing ecosystem approaches and that the public must understand these new approaches. Additional funds are needed to support this new approach; some funds may have to come from existing programs.

Recreational Fisheries

Forbes Darby, National Recreational Fisheries Coordinator with the Office of Constituent Services, provided a review of the implementation of the new NMFS recreational strategic plan (see Appendix N). He discussed the NMFS vision for recreational fisheries and the commitment to improve the science and management of recreational species and their habitats, as provided in the strategic plan. He also described the key components and agency responsibilities for implementation of the plan, details of which are provided in the Appendix. In addition, NMFS was hosting a recreational stakeholders meeting subsequent to the State Directors’ meeting and invited the state participants to attend. However, given the timing of the meeting most would not be able to attend. NMFS will provide State Directors with access to the report of the stakeholders meeting, as soon as it is available.

Participants discussed the need to engage all partners (stakeholders, state agencies, USFWS, Sea Grant, etc) in outreach efforts to the recreational fishing industry. It is especially important to build collaborative relationships with the States, since they are most familiar with the key representatives of the recreational sectors within their states.

Comments from the NOAA Administrator

NOAA Administrator, Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher USN (Ret.), was able to participate in a portion of the meeting and provided comments and updates on a number of NOAA and NMFS efforts of interest to the states. He recognized that partnerships between NOAA and the states are very important if we are going to fully support the President’s U.S. Ocean Action Plan (OAP) (found at:

Topics covered by Administrator Lautenbacher (details provided in Appendix O), included: the OAP’s call for an ecosystem approach to management; incorporation of fisheries data into an Earth Observation Program; the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership as an example of regional efforts that move beyond traditional Federal and state responsibilities; the NMFS recreational fisheries strategic plan; the cooperative enforcement program that increases federal patrols and strengthens state resources; reauthorization of the MSA; aquaculture and the opportunities it offers; and how the other NOAA Services provide support to the states.

Participants expressed concern about how current fisheries data collection programs would be integrated into the new ocean observation program. NOAA responded that consideration would be given to the states and that NOAA would partner with the states and others in meeting the Ocean Action Plan (OAP) requirements.

Two important topics in the Gulf of Mexico that need to be considered in the discussion on implementing the OAP include hypoxic zones in the Gulf and the placement of LNG terminals and their effects on marine life.

There was also discussion of how the implementation of the OAP would work with universities to collect the data needed for the OAP. NOAA responded that the grant process is becoming more transparent, and that the internet grant application program is in development. There is also a four million dollar grant program to support small business research programs. The use of Sea Grant services also needs to be considered. However, there was concern from the states that a greater portion of available funds is going to competitive grants to universities at the cost of long-standing state monitoring programs.

Joint Enforcement Agreements

Mark Spurrier, Deputy Chief of the Office of Enforcement, provided a review and update of the joint enforcement program between NMFS and the state law enforcement agencies (see Appendix P for details). The mission of cooperative enforcement is to increase Federal maritime conservation enforcement while simultaneously strengthening state marine conservation enforcement. Successful examples of cooperative enforcement include recent actions for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, turtles, shark finning, etc. Through these actions state and Federal partners have been able to leverage funds and resources. Through the Joint Enforcement Agreements (JEA) states have been able to add new officers and vehicles, and to support additional enforcement overtime.

Details of recent JEA support and the types of work they cover, along with information on the current solicitation for funding, are provided in the Appendix. With State assistance, NMFS has developed a uniform/standardized reporting software program. This web based reporting program will provide NMFS and the States with accurate and consistent performance measures to showcase our successes. NMFS urge the states to implement the use of this software as soon as is possible. NMFS plans to require its use in FY 2006.

Participants discussed the law enforcement process and the level of enforcement for minor violations. There were concerns expressed that minor violations could be overlooked, tickets should have a fixed schedule for fines, and that the states should be partners with NMFS in setting the fines schedule. NMFS agreed to review the schedule of fines.

The benefits of the JEAs were discussed, and questions were raised as to the allocation of funds to the states to support this program. Funding for the JEA program has help states, which would otherwise have been forced to reduce enforcement budgets. Several region-specific issues were also raised, including: the Federal agent for the Northern Gulf of Mexico has retired and this position needs to be replaced; NMFS enforcement is needed in the Caribbean to assist in training local officers, as well as having federal enforcement, and outreach to local governments; and in the Pacific Islands fisheries the current level of enforcement is a concern, especially with increasing numbers of foreign and domestic vessels; American Samoa would like to discuss Cooperative Enforcement Agreements with NMFS.

NMFS agreed to have a workshop with state and Federal enforcement staffs this fall to discuss how the JEA program can be strengthened and on how funds are allocated to the states. The ASMFC has volunteered to host the workshop.

Protected Resources Update

Phil Williams, Office of Protected Resources, provided an update of NMFS protected species activities. His presentation included an overview of the NMFS protected resources program, brief descriptions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), discussions of considerations of fishery-protected species interactions under each Act, and a review of current “hot topics.” Details of his presentation are provided in Appendix Q.

Relative to fishery interactions, NMFS is currently involved with fishing gear research, investigating gear modifications that may reduce seabird bycatch, fishing gear mitigation methods for right whales; and longline fishery mitigation for sea turtles. Future “hot topics” include: ship strike strategies for whales, ocean noise levels, marine animal and ocean health issues, reauthorization of ESA & MMPA, proposed listings (corals, green sturgeon, coho, killer whale), and status reviews (steelhead, Atlantic sturgeon, American Eel, and Eastern oyster).

Participants raised concerns about the potential listing of Eastern oyster as a threatened or endangered species, and the impacts of such a listing on the coastal fisheries and on aquaculture facilities. NMFS has been petitioned to consider such a determination and has a 90-day determination period to review the merits of the request. If an endangered or threatened status is suggested, NMFS will have a 12- month period to arrive at a decision. NMFS will work with the states and the ASMFC on this issue.

Since there is concern about impacts to aquaculture, should the species be listed, it was suggested that a list of aquaculture successes be organized, and distributed to the states. Others felt there is a need to be proactive and that the determination review should not be seen as automatically being negative to the development of aquaculture.

Participants noted that the ESA endangered status for staghorn and elkhorn corals in the Caribbean need to be fully considered, and any regulations to be developed should also address problems with the watershed.

Gulf representatives indicated that sea turtle work with Mexico has been successful, and that effort needs to be expanded in spite of current budget concerns.

Meeting Wrap-up

Bill Hogarth provided a summary wrap-up of the major points from the various sections of the meeting. Details of that summary are provided below and in his presentation, found at Appendix R.

General Points: (1) for American eel, the Northeast Regional Office will provide states with a current update of the status review being conducted by FWS: (2) the states, individually or through the Commissions, need to become involved in providing input on MSA reauthorization; and (3) NMFS will explore ways that the States can get more involved in the Agency’s budget process.

Aquaculture: (1) as soon as the Aquaculture Bill is cleared for distribution NMFS will distribute it to the States and Commissions for review and comment; (2) California will provide more information to NMFS on its concern relative to Mexican bluefin tuna aquaculture so the issue can be raised at Mexico bilateral meetings; (3) there is a need to focus on endemic versus exotic species, and avoiding what could become invasive species; (4) states, as partners, need to be kept informed of aquaculture activities. There is also a need to get the Commissions involved in the discussion; and (5) NMFS should not issue permits until all needed information is available. However, use of EFPs or other permits may be best way to establish pilot programs without giving permanent rights.

MPAs: (1) MPAs are a critical state issue. States must pay attention to the MPA nomination system, as there is a lot of public interest for more MPAs; and (2) state marine fisheries agencies need to get involved in the MPA State Advisory Committee, as most current members represent CZM agencies. States need to have their fisheries agencies involved, as well.

Ocean Action Plan: (1) NMFS will investigate feasibility of establishing an Ocean Trust fund, as recommended by the Ocean Commission, even though no monies are available at this time; (2) at the first meeting of the “AQUA” box (See “Ocean Commission Follow-up; Ocean Action Plan” presentation), the Ocean Commission had asked for input from states, but the inclination has been to work with State CZM agencies, rather than fish agencies; and (3) state fish agencies need to work within states to ensure there will be one State voice - for both fisheries and CZM.

State funding: (1) Councils should look again at providing funds for state-Council liaison positions ($100,000 per state would go a long way to support coordinated state participation in Council process); and (2) states should work together to get additional funds and to ensure they are not taken from NMFS’ base budget. There is a need to establish group with states/Commissions to work with NMFS to determine how funds, from both base budget and earmarks are spent and to identify what needs are and are not being met- (including conduct of a grant program evaluation.)

EFH: (1) NMFS will put together a fact sheet explaining the difference between EFH and Critical Habitat; and (2) NMFS should track and report the numbers of successful versus non-successful EFH consultations.

National Data Workshop: (1) meeting participants should review the handout provided on the National Data Workshop, and submit comments to NMFS. Project intent is to develop a universal system we can all use - and to drop duplicate systems and improve existing systems. NMFS will need buy-in from all states and their fishermen. NMFS will work with the 3 Interstate Commission Executive Directors to set up the meeting and agenda; and (2) NMFS should investigate why Texas recreational data are not accounted for in National summaries of recreational catch/landings.

Cooperative Research: (1) industry data must be peer reviewed in order to be able to use data in a creditable process; (2) NMFS will provide a breakout of cooperative research dollars that go to the states versus to NMFS; (3) cooperative research should be supported, but such funding should not be at the expense of long-term state funding for needed activities; and (4) there is a need to take better advantage of cooperative research for gear technology to address bycatch issues, and there is a need to partner more with states and NMFS’ Pascagoula lab.

National Research Councils studies: (1) NMFS will report results back to states for all studies; (2) NMFS and the states need to address data confidentiality issues for recreational data and VMS; (3) NMFS and the states need to address increasing refusal rates for interviews from the for-hire fishery; and (4) NMFS and the states need to resolve data confidentiality issues, and to gain stakeholder confidence that data will not go to others (e.g., telemarketers).

MSA Reauthorization: (1) NMFS should consider using existing programs, such as the Gulf Program, as a pilot for ecosystem approaches to management; (2) states have difficulty identifying 3 qualified and interested nominees for Council seats, adding 3 additional seats would be even more difficult; (3) noting that language for EFH in the MSA lead to significant and complicated regulatory guidance, NMFS needs to consider more simple approaches when moving to incorporate ecosystem based approaches to management; and (4) need to resolve just how NEPA will or will not be incorporated into MSA actions, separately or within the MSA process itself.

Ecosystem Approaches to Management: (1) states need to be fully involved in the process; (2) a well informed public must be part of the process, and the process can not be driven by the number of emails received, but by substance. The public needs to be not only informed but engaged as stewards, and has to accept some responsibility; and (3) NMFS and the states need to work not only toward a more efficient use of funds, not just redistribution of current funding levels, but also on the need for investment of new funds.

Recreational Fisheries Strategic Plan: State directors need to be involved in directing the Nations recreational fishing policy. States should be notified as soon as regional teams are established, and these teams must include the states.

Joint Enforcement Agreements: (1) states should check the “Fix-it” list from NMFS Enforcement and provide input about whether they concur with list for their State/region States want continued support for JEAs; (2) NMFS will schedule a meeting with States and enforcement leaders this fall to review JEA program, and include discussions about how funds are allocated among states; (3) states should work to get funding transformed into line item funding; and (4) NMFS will discuss CEAs with American Samoa.

Comments from the NOAA Administrator: NOAA wants to ensure all needed data are available to make correct decisions. The states should have significant inputs to ensure that data needs for fisheries management are addressed. NOAA encourages the States to consider approaches for solving this need, and that state-Federal partnerships are critical to all our shared tasks.

Protected Resources Issues: (1) ship strike strategy; (2) ocean noise; (3) marine animal and ocean health; (4) reauthorization of ESA and MMPA; (5) proposed listings; (6) status reviews; (7) 2005 recovery plans; (8) Eastern oyster petition to list as endangered or threatened- NMFS will be meeting with NE State Directors to discuss needs and process for review in May, will schedule meetings with other States to discuss this issue, and consider any potential negative impacts on the development of aquaculture; and (9) NMFS will put together a list of proactive successes that have prevented need for reactive actions.

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