A Collaborative Approach to Improving Stock Assessments Commercial Meeting Summary

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1 A Collaborative Approach to Improving Stock Assessments Commercial Meeting Summary March 31 st, 2015 Warwick, Rhode Island Gulf of Maine Research Institute

2 I. Introduction The primary objectives of the Fish Tank series, Collaborative Approach to Improving Stock Assessments, were: to increase dialogue between fishermen and scientists on the best approaches to scientifically robust stock assessments; to provide fishermen with a forum to voice their observations and recommendations around improving both fishery independent- and dependent- data; and to develop collaborative research priorities. To facilitate these objectives, we kept meeting sizes small, had minimal presentations (if any) and allowed fishermen participants to choose which topics discussions would revolve around. The meetings opened with introductions and a brief overview of the stock assessment process. Discussion began with a brainstorming session in which fishermen identified perceived gaps in the stock assessment process and offered potential solutions to address these gaps; gaps were then grouped under larger categories for discussion. Following the brainstorming session, participants chose two to three topics to focus the main discussion on. Dialogue revolved primarily around fishermen observations, concerns and recommendations, with scientist and/or manager input when necessary. The last portion of each meeting focused on discussing recommendations for improving NOAA s communication strategy around stock assessments. The structure of this meeting summary follows that of the meeting. Stock- specific gaps and/or recommendations pertain to Gulf of Maine cod, unless otherwise noted. II. Attendees Fishermen/Industry Representatives: Brown, Chris; Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen s Association Fox, Donald; Lightning Bay Haran, John; Northeast Fishery Sector 13 Jordan, Jim; fisherman Knight, Jon; Superior Trawl Mattera, Fred; Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation Salerno, Daniel; Northeast Fishery Sector 5/11 Scientists/Managers: Anoushian, Walter; NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fishery Office Bank, Crista; UMass School of Marine Science and Technology Baukus, Adam; Gulf of Maine Research Institute Brown, Russ; NMFS, Northeast Fisheries Science Center

3 Cadrin, Steve; UMass School of Marine Science and Technology; Science and Statistical Committee Daton, Alexa; Gulf of Maine Research Institute Gartland, Jim; Virginia Institute of Marine Science Hager, Mark; Gulf of Maine Research Institute Hoey, John; NMFS, Northeast Fisheries Science Center Joyce, Jessica; Gulf of Maine Research Institute Madsen, Shanna; Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission McNamee, Jason; Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Parker, Peg; Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation Rago, Paul; NMFS, Northeast Fisheries Science Center Sherwood, Graham; Gulf of Maine Research Institute III. Gaps Identified The initial brainstorm at the Warwick meeting identified a myriad of gaps and concerns. These gaps generally fell into the following topics: Recreational data: Belief that recreational landings data is inaccurate and subsequently fishing mortality is not understood. Trawl survey: Belief that trawl survey methods are inadequate as they do not have enough spatial and temporal coverage, and subsequently data is flawed. Fishery- dependent data: Concern over limitations of dependent data, due to low quota, VTR accuracy, and the quality of dealer reports, etc. Environmental factors: Concern that water temperature and habitat changes, etc., and subsequent changes in fish behavior are not considered when conducting survey tows. Black sea bass: Concern that black sea bass, which could act as an alternative to groundfish, is a data poor fishery and as such abundance and distribution are not understood. IV. Major Discussion Themes & Gaps Of the gaps initially identified, the group agreed to focus discussion on three major themes: trawl surveys, fishery dependent data. and black sea bass. The major gaps identified under these themes are: Trawl surveys o R/V Bigelow has limited coverage o More spatial and temporal information is needed to understand distribution and abundance of black sea bass o Asking too much of the Bigelow by focusing its efforts in all species rather than specific ones of concern o Trawl survey does not take into account the changes in timing of fish movement year to year.

4 Fishery- dependent data (FDD) o How can landings hold weight in assessments when quotas are so limiting? o Discard information from FDD is inaccurate o Observer and at- sea monitoring programs are data gathering platforms, but only discard estimates are being used in assessments o VTRs are not always accurate o Dealer reports are inaccurate and not enforced Black sea bass o There is a lot of uncertainty in black sea bass abundance from ME to NC. o Large amount of uncertainty of catch in recreational fleet o Migration and movement is hard to assess; there is no spatial heterogeneity. o Black sea bass discard rates vary by location and fishery and are therefore difficult to quantify. V. Industry Recommendations Throughout the main discussion of gaps in trawl surveys, fishery dependent data and black sea bass, several recommendations were made by industry to reduce the gaps identified: Trawl surveys o Augment trawl data with industry- based surveys Use fishing vessels to collect data and expand pool of cooperative research participants o Survey on a continual basis in the same areas to get a better handle on distribution patterns. Once every two weeks or month, year round o Get enough fishermen to saturate data in a statistical area and it almost becomes fishery- independent data. o Use bottom temperatures and other environmental data as indicators of when and where to survey. Fishery- dependent data o Develop of an industry funded research commitment (Research Set- Aside). o Use more data from NEFOP/ASM in stock assessments o Use observers to collect CPUE o Conduct industry sentinel survey to help paint a better picture of real- time conditions.

5 This would have enormous value considering the rate of chance in climate and conditions as well as gaining industry buy- in. o Incentivize proper and thorough VTR reporting so as to provide more accurate and useful data. o Allow sector managers access to change/correct VTRs. o Improve the quality of dealer data sets. o Use more observer data, and have observers flag certain events, such as changes in fishing behavior. Captains could record such events on observer report. Have a coded field on observer reports that is searchable to capture such events. o Have monthly communication between industry, scientists, and managers to better incorporate fishermen observations into assessments and management Black sea bass o Use trawlers, pot fishermen, charter boats, etc., to collect data on black sea bass, in particular to understand size and gender change. o Deploy fleets of fishermen (e.g. inshore rod and reel and offshore draggers) to record data on black sea bass using tablets o Use more financial resources on stock that you have less data on. o Develop in- season management measures for black sea bass. Management o We should not be managing gear! Develop performance standards and let the industry innovate. VI. Improving Communications Several suggestions were made in response to the question: How can NOAA improve communications to industry and the public on stock assessments? Communicate more about opportunities to enter other fisheries Better communication on accountability measures (AMs) to other fisheries. o E.g. If the groundfish fishery is closed out of an area for windowpane but the small mesh fishery has access and catches windowpane, they might trigger AMs for all fisheries. Have fishermen on the SSC and PDT; commercial presence in all of these committees to ground truth with their experience and observations. Work towards real- time data and systems to access and communicate such data. Have communication be two- way door; often industry knows what is happening with a stock before NMFS o E.g. timing of windowpane

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