Evaluation of the Effects of Fishing on Essential Fish Habitat
Center for Independent Experts Review
NOAA Fisheries contracted with the Center for Independent Experts (CIE) to conduct a peer review of the evaluation of the Effects of fishing on Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) in Alaska, which was completed in support of the 2004 Draft Essential Fish Habitat Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
Given the context of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements and the EFH regulations, the CIE panel was asked to focus (PDF, 5 pages) on the following issues:
- Does the model incorporate the best available scientific information and provide a reasonable approach to understanding the effects of fishing on habitat in Alaska?
- Does the DEIS Appendix B analysis provide a reasonable approach for identifying whether any Council-managed fishing activities adversely affect EFH in a manner that is more than minimal and not temporary in nature? (For purposes of this question, the terms “temporary” and “minimal” should be interpreted consistent with the preamble to the EFH regulations: “Temporary impacts are those that are limited in duration and that allow the particular environment to recover without measurable impact. Minimal impacts are those that may result in relatively small changes in the affected environment and insignificant changes in ecological functions.”) To answer this question, the panel should address at least the following issues:
- Does the DEIS Appendix B analysis apply an appropriate standard (including the consideration of stock status relative to MSST) for determining whether fishing alters the capacity of EFH to support managed species, a sustainable fishery, and the managed species’ contribution to a healthy ecosystem?
- Does the DEIS Appendix B analysis give appropriate consideration to localized habitat impacts that may reduce the capacity of EFH to support managed species in a given area, even if those impacts do not affect a species at the level of an entire stock or population
- What if any improvements should NMFS consider making to the model, or to its application in the context of the DEIS, given the limited data available to use for input parameters?
- The evaluation of the effects of fishing on EFH is contained in Appendix B to the Draft EIS. The evaluation has two components: a quantitative mathematical model to show the expected long term effects of fishing on habitat, and a qualitative assessment of how those changes affect fish stocks. After considering the available tools and methodologies for assessing effects of fishing on habitat, NOAA Fisheries, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council), and the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee concluded that the model and analysis incorporate the best available scientific information and provide a good approach to understanding the impacts of fishing activities on habitat. Nevertheless, the model and its application in this context have many limitations, and have not been subjected to a formal peer review. Given the newness of the model, the importance of this analysis for Alaska’s fisheries, and the controversial nature of the subject matter, NOAA Fisheries determined that an outside peer review is a prudent step that will add credibility to the final analysis and strengthen our administrative record for the EIS process.
Review Process and Reports
The CIE panel included five reviewers plus a chair. The panel reviewed materials related to this topic, participated in a workshop with the NOAA Fisheries scientists who developed the model and the analytical approach, and produced a report. The final report consists of individual reports from each panelist plus a summary report.
- Dr. Asgeir Aglen: Institute for Marine Research, Bergen, Norway (PDF, 20 pages).
- Dr. Ken Drinkwater Review: Institute for Marine Research, Bergen, Norway (PDF, 23 pages).
- Dr. Ken Drinkwater Summary Report: Institute for Marine Research, Bergen, Norway (PDF, 33 pages).
- Dr. Ken Frank: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Dartmouth, Canada (PDF, 15 pages).
- Dr. J. Anthony Koslow: CSIRO Marine Research Floreat, Hobart, Australia (PDF, 16 pages).
- Dr. Pierre Pepin: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, St. Johns, Canada (PDF, 27 pages).
- Dr. Paul Snelgrove: Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, Canada (PDF, 26 pages).