The following is a synopsis of Chris Oliver’s (newly appointed Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries) keynote address at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle on 16 November 2017, summarizing his goals and priorities for NOAA Fisheries.
His main goals for NOAA Fisheries are (1) to maximize fishing opportunities while ensuring sustainability (2) to conserve while supporting responsible resource development and (3) to improve regulatory efficiency.
Some defined priorities under each of these goals are as follows:
- To support the regional councils in their flexibility to maximize fishing opportunities. In this case, flexibility does not mean abandoning catch limits, but even though the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act works well in the North Pacific, it is not perfect for all commercial and some recreational fisheries. Flexibility could then mean something like catch targets in recreational fisheries that determine effort.
- To work on streamlining the regulatory process (for example the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act paperwork). This will include some type of cost benefit analysis that would perhaps discourage doing years of paperwork for only marginal benefits. Streamlining the regulatory process does not in this case mean less regulations.
- To maintain and enhance data collection. The North Pacific is a model of how data can be collected for commercial fisheries, which should certainly continue and be exported to other regions of the United States. As the NOAA “white boats” age, data collection will have to become more cooperative, using fishing vessels as platforms for data collection instead. We need to improve recreational fisheries data collection which at the moment is a huge challenge (especially regarding the economic impact of recreational and commercial fisheries), and to ensure that model outputs make sense and corroborate what we know about reality.
- Expanding seafood production and exports. The Secretary of Commerce sees promoting aquaculture as a priority to reducing the trade deficit. NOAA could be involved in helping to coordinate the permitting process without forcing states to participate who have expressed opposition (eg Alaska). With regards to expanding seafood production on the US West Coast, Chris pointed out that fishermen are not catching all the fish they could. This is a result of some unnecessary regulations that are restricting catches, but also a lack of regulations that could be helping to promote catches.
Overall, Mr. Oliver supports the council system/regional approaches to managing fisheries, and believes that the West Coast is a leader in sustainable management and even that our management system might be our most valuable export. He emphasized how important the trust between managers, industry and scientists is and how the West Coast seems to be a model for those type of cooperative relationships.