Nov 25 2017

Pacific Council Gives Preliminary Nod to Two Coastal Sardine and Other Pelagic Species Projects

November 22, 2017 — SEAFOOD NEWS — The Pacific Fishery Management Council last week approved for public review two exempted fishing permits that should help improve coastal pelagic species stock assessments.

Both projects would add more survey work to nearshore areas. Fishermen have identified schools of sardines, in particular, close to shore but accessing them for survey work has been a problem because the sardine season has been closed and NOAA ships cannot access shallow areas. Additionally, both proposals would build on the use of industry knowledge.

The California Wetfish Producers Association research project intends to sample CPS schools in the southern California Bight using aerial spotter pilots with camera systems to fly surveys close to shore and photo-document schools. At the same time, qualified purse seine vessels would capture a subset of the schools identified in the photographs as “point sets.” This would provide a way to address issues identified in the aerial survey methodology review. The survey period is scheduled for late August 2018.

According to the CWPA application, all fish captured, including sardines, would be processed and sold by participating processors, and fishermen will be paid for their catches at the usual rates. Aside from the sale of fish, processors would not be compensated for the extra labor they will incur in weighing and fully sorting each school individually and documenting species composition by school, rather than the normal procedure of offloading the entire catch and documenting by load.

“We strongly support these EFP projects to improve the accuracy of stock assessments. It should be noted that 70 percent or more of the CPS harvest in California occurs in the area inshore of NOAA acoustic surveys,” CWPA Executive Director Diane Pleschner-Steele said. “We are grateful to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Southwest Fishery Science Center for their help and recognition that surveying the nearshore is a high priority research and data need.”

Pacific Seafood’s Mike Okoniewski presented the Westport, Wash.-based West Coast Pelagic Conservation Group project to both the Council and the Scientific and Statistical Committee. The project is designed to provide supplementary data collection and additional sampling techniques for areas nearshore of the proposed 2018 NOAA/Southwest Fisheries Science Center acoustic-trawl survey, according to the group’s application. This research off of Washington and Oregon would continue and expand the 2017 collaborative effort in 2018 so that samples of CPS for species composition and individual fish metrics may be obtained through purse seine operations, according to Council documents.

Sampling would be done at the same general time and nearshore areas as the NOAA survey, the applicants stated. The coastal pelagic species (CPS) that will be retained in small amounts (e.g. 5kg to 25kg) for sampling will be dip-netted sardines, anchovies, and mackerel(s). The sample fish will be frozen and retained for identification and biological measurements to be performed by NOAA.

But unlike the southern EFP, no fish will be harvested for commercial purposes. Wrapped schools would be released alive, the applicants said.

“This collaboration will continue to support the already commendable efforts of the scientists, balancing it with industry knowledge of the fishing grounds,” Okoniewski said.

Both EFPs will add to current survey and stock assessment work, providing more robust data for the fisheries in the future. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and Coastal Pelagics Species Management Team supported the EFPs and suggested minor technical changes to each; both applicants plan to incorporate those suggestions prior to the Council’s and NMFS’ final approval in early 2018.

“The CPSMT recognizes the value of the EFP research proposed by both groups to improve CPS stock assessments by obtaining data that has not been attainable by other means,” the CPS Management Team said in its statement.

The Coastal Pelagic Species Advisory Subpanel also supported the projects. “[We are] encouraged that forward progress is now being made to develop effective survey methods for the nearshore area,” the panel said in its statement. “The CPSAS thanks CWPA, WCPCG and especially the SWFSC for acknowledging the data gaps in current surveys and helping to provide support and funding for cooperative surveys that will hopefully improve the accuracy of future CPS stock assessments.”


This story originally appeared on Seafoodnews.com, a subscription site. It is reprinted with permission.

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