Ecosystem-Based Management: Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 1: Protecting Unfished and Unmanaged Forage Fish Species

This FEP Initiative is intended to recognize the importance of forage fish to the marine ecosystem off the U.S. West Coast, and to provide adequate protection for forage fish. The Council’s objective is to prohibit the development of new directed fisheries on forage species that are not currently managed by the Council, or the States, until the Council has had an adequate opportunity to assess the science relating to any proposed fishery and any potential impacts to our existing fisheries and communities. The Council is not pursuing a permanent moratorium on fishing for forage fish. Instead, the Council stated that the proposed goal is to not allow new fisheries to begin without adequate opportunity for assessing the science and the potential impacts on existing fisheries and fishing communities. Under the current rules, there is some risk that fisheries could develop before such analysis could be conducted.

The Council formed the ad hoc Ecosystem Workgroup (EW) and charged the group with the development of alternative ways of achieving the desired protection by incorporating forage species into one or more of the Council’s FMPs.  At its September 2014 meeting, the Council reviewed the range of alternatives for protecting unfished and unmanaged forage fish species and reaffirmed the Ecosystem Trophic Role pathway as a preliminary preferred alternative. Under this pathway, protective measures for forage species would be added to each of the Council’s four Fishery Management Plans (FMP This multi-FMP amendment is known as Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 1 (CEBA 1) and will include these FMP amendments: Amendment 15 to the Coastal Pelagic Species FMP, Amendment 25 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP, Amendment 3 to the Highly Migratory Species FMP, and Amendment 19 to the Pacific Coast Salmon FMP.

In September 2014, the Council also adopted draft FMP amendment language and draft Council Operating Procedure (COP) 24 for public review. Draft COP 24 is based on the Council’s preliminary preferred alternative, which would allow the development of new fisheries for unfished species and is structured similarly to existing COPs associated with FMP fisheries. Should a U.S. citizen want to develop targeted fisheries for Shared EC Species at some future time, COP 24 would provide the Council and the public a framework for evaluating the potential impacts of such a fishery to existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the greater marine ecosystem.