UNDERSTANDING THE WESTERN PACIFIC REGIONAL FISHERY MANAGEMENT COUNCIL PROCESS
The fishery management system for the pelagic fisheries of the US Pacific Islands Region involves the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Island Regional Office, the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Advisories Bodies to the Council and a process by which the public and diverse stakeholder input and scientific information are incorporated in the process.
The Council plays a central role in developing and amending the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for how the fishery is managed. The actions taken to consider, develop, monitor and propose amendments to the FEP is done through a transparent public process. Much of the scientific information needed for stock assessments, impacts on the ecosystem and protected species that forms the basis on which the fishery is managed is provided by the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. Advisory bodies of the Council play a special role in vetting fishery issues raised through inputs from scientists, public comment and stakeholder inputs.
The following section is an excerpt from the Executive Summary of the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan (WPRFMC, 2011) to describe the criteria for a Fishery Ecosystem Plan and stress why it is a central document. To find out more, review the Navigating the Western Pacific Council Process document at https://www.wpcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/COUNCIL_PROCESS_GUIDEv5_FINAL.pdf
When reviewing potential regulatory changes, the Council also draws upon the services of knowledgeable people from local and federal agencies, universities and the public, who serve on Council panels and committees.
Advisory bodies include the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), the Archipelagic and Pelagic Plan Teams, the Advisory Panel (AP), Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committees (REAC) and other committees.
Advisory bodies provide comments, both written and oral, on relevant issues being considered by the Council.
Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) – The SSC reviews the scientific and technical aspects of fisheries in the Western Pacific Region and provides the Council with management recommendations. SSC members are resource economists, biologists, sociologists, population modelers and other knowledgeable experts.
Plan Teams – The Council has teams of scientists, managers and industry representatives who make recommendations to the Council based on their annual review of the region’s bottomfish and seamount groundfish, coral reef ecosystem, crustaceans, pelagics and precious coral fisheries.
Advisory Panel (AP) – The Council receives advice from a panel of recreational and commercial fishermen, charter boat operators, buyers, sellers, consumers and others knowledgeable about the fisheries in the region, including indigenous fisheries. The panel includes subpanels for the American Samoa, Hawaii and Mariana Archipelagos; Pacific Pelagic Ecosystem; and Western Pacific Community Demonstration Project Program.
Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committees (REAC) – The Council receives advice from the American Samoa, Hawaii and Mariana Archipelago REACs. Each REAC brings together Council members and representatives from federal, state and local government agencies; businesses; and non-governmental organizations with responsibility and interest in land-based and non-fishing activities that potentially affect the marine ecosystem of the relevant archipelago.
Other Advisory Bodies – The Council convenes and solicits recommendations from a variety of other committees as warranted, such as its Fisheries Data Coordinating Committee, Marine Mammal Advisory Committee, Marine Protected Area Advisory Committee, Non-Commercial Advisory Committee, Sea Turtle Advisory Committee and Social Science Research Committee.
The process for improving the FEP and regulations.
The process by which the Council develops or proposes changes to regulations involves a sequence of steps with many opportunities for input and comment from the public. The Council reviews proposals, options papers, draft amendment documents, National Environmental Policy Act analysis documents, and eventually votes on a preferred alternative, which may become regulations at the end of the process.
- An issue is presented from public, advisory body, etc.
- The Council reviews the issue and decides whether to initiate analysis of alternatives
- If analysis is initiated the Council staff develops alternatives and other needed documents for review. The alternatives are reviewed by the Advisory Bodies, the Council, and the public. The Council selects the preferred alternative, initiates further analysis or decides to take no further action towards submitting a proposed amendment to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan and regulations.
- The Council’s preferred alternative is forwarded to Secretary of Commerce for review and approval.
- Draft rules published for public comment.
- The final decision is made by Secretary of Commerce for implementation of rulemaking.