2013 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Report for the Groundfish Resources of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Regions
The National Standard Guidelines for Fishery Management Plans published by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) require that a stock assessment and fishery evaluation (SAFE) report be prepared and reviewed annually for each fishery management plan (FMP). The SAFE report summarizes the best available scientific information concerning the past, present, and possible future condition of the stocks, marine ecosystems, and fisheries that are managed under Federal regulation. It provides information to the Councils for determining annual harvest levels from each stock, documenting significant trends or changes in the resource, marine ecosystems, and fishery over time, and assessing the relative success of existing state and Federal fishery management programs. For the FMP for the Groundfish Fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Area, the SAFE report is published in three sections: a “Stock Assessment” section, which comprises the bulk of this document, and “Economic Status of Groundfish Fisheries off Alaska” and “Ecosystem Considerations” sections, which are bound separately.
The BSAI Groundfish FMP requires that a draft of the SAFE Report be produced each year in time for the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Each stock or stock complex is represented in the SAFE Report by a chapter containing the latest stock assessment. New or revised stock assessment models are usually previewed at the September Plan Team meeting, and considered again by the Team at its November meeting for recommending final specifications for the following two fishing years. This process is repeated annually.
Normally, full stock assessments are required for walleye pollock, Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, sablefish, and some flatfish stocks every year; while all rockfishes, some flatfishes, sharks, skates, octopus, squid, and sculpins require full stock assessment only during years in which the Aleutian Island bottom trawl survey is conducted (typically even-numbered years). However, a lapse in appropriations resulted in the Federal government being shut down during most of October this year, which in turn resulted in several modifications to the typical procedure (described further under “Stock Status Summaries,” below).
This Stock Assessment section of the SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries is compiled by the BSAI Groundfish Plan Team from chapters contributed by scientists at NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC). These chapters include a recommendation by the author(s) for overfishing level (OFL) and acceptable biological catch (ABC) for each stock and stock complex managed under the FMP for the next two fishing years. This introductory section includes the recommendations of the Team (Table 1), along with a summary of each chapter, including the Ecosystems Considerations chapter and the Economic SAFE Report.
The OFL and ABC recommendations by the Plan Team are reviewed by the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), which may confirm the Team recommendations. The Team and SSC recommendations, together with social and economic factors, are considered by the Council in determining total allowable catches (TACs) and other measures used to manage the fisheries. Neither the author(s), Team, nor SSC recommends TACs.