National Fisherman

Fishin' definitions

This glossary is a supplement to the Washington Lookout column "It really is that simple" by David Frulla and Shaun Gehan. The article, which provides a simplified overview of fishery management, is in our May issue, page 10.

Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) – A level of catch recommended by the science and statistical committee that, in theory, is the amount of catch that can be landed each year without overfishing a stock (see OFL below). The ABC is set below the OFL to account for scientific uncertainty in calculating overfishing levels.

Accountability Measures (AM) – Measures designed to keep a fishery within the ACL (called "proactive AMs"), like buffers or quotas, or to extract some measure of pain if the ACL is exceeded, such as requirements that overages in one year be paid back in the next.

Administrative Procedure Act (APA) – The law that establishes the procedures by which government agencies like NMFS can create new regulations. It also defines basic standards for rulemaking — for example, that rules be consistent with law and the Constitution and not be "arbitrary and capricious" — and gives you the right to sue NMFS if you think it has acted arbitrarily, unconstitutionally or in a way that is inconsistent with law.

Advisory Panel (AP) – A panel that advises a council on management issues and other matters, comprising fishermen, anglers, environmentalists, academics and other people outside government knowledgeable about fisheries.

Annual Catch Limit (ACL) – A new requirement of the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act (the last major update to the law since passage of the SFA in 1996, see below). ACLs are interpreted as some type of hard limit on catch, typically but not necessarily a quota, set at a level reasonably calculated to prevent overfishing from occurring.

Annual Catch Target (ACT) – A form of accountability measure. ACT is a quota level that is set below the ACL by some amount to prevent overfishing.

Biomass at Maximum Sustainable Yield (Bmsy) – The theoretical long-term average stock size (discussed below in OY and MSY) that produces the highest level of catch over time. Generally, in an FMP, Bmsy is a fishery's target level of abundance.

Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) – Any type of gear modification that reduces the amount of nontargeted catch.

Catch Per Unit of Effort (CPUE) – A standardized measure of catch, such as "pounds per hours towed," with hours being the "unit of effort" in this example. CPUE is often used as a relative indication of a stock's abundance as, on average, gear should catch more fish over a fixed period of time when they are more plentiful. Similarly, a higher CPUE means that a fixed amount of fish can be harvested in less time.

Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) – A law requiring the federal government to coordinate with states over activities that occur on the coast and near coastal waters.

Community Development Quota (CDQ) – A program created by the MSA for specifically enumerated Western Alaska rural and native Alaskan communities to foster economic development and maintain fishing heritages. Provides these communities with the right to a share of annual catch for various offshore Bering Sea/Aleutian Island fisheries.

Days-at-Sea (DAS) – Primarily a feature of New England groundfish and scallop fisheries, DAS are allocated to vessels to control fishing effort, generally in lieu of quotas. For example, the Atlantic sea scallop fishery is managed through use of quotas in small, defined areas where scallop biomass can be calculated, and through DAS for the generally open areas. Annual DAS allocated among scallopers are based on projected daily catch rates and designed to keep the fishery under the ACL.

Designated Habitat Research Area (DHRA) – This may not be a widely used concept, but the New England Fishery Management Council is considering setting aside specified areas that can be used to conduct various research projects, such as to measure bottom gear effects over time.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) – The law that seeks to avoid extinctions by requiring the government to identify species that are "on the brink" of extinction — an endangered species — or those that may be so "in the foreseeable future" — a threatened species, as well as the habitat on which they rely. If determined to be threatened or endangered, a species is given special protections, and federal agencies must ensure their actions do not "jeopardize" any species so designated — or listed — under the act. Generally, if a species is threatened or endangered, like most sea turtles and many sea birds, it cannot be killed, injured, "harassed," etc., unless the killing, injury or harassment occurs incidentally to a lawful activity, like fishing, and the agency has an incidental take permit.

Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) – Defined by the MSA as "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity." Each FMP must identify the managed stock's or stocks' EFH and include "practical" measures to minimize adverse effects of fishing on this habitat.

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – The waters along our coast between the territorial sea and the 200-mile limit, and the resources therein, to which we claim exclusive use and jurisdiction.

Executive Order (EO) – An order issued by the president which does not create law but is binding, according to its terms on federal agencies.

Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) – The final EIS, as described below under NEPA, as distinguished from the draft EIS or a supplemental EIS.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) – Like an EIS, but an analysis of regulatory impacts as required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

Fisheries Science Center (FSC) – The NMFS entity that houses NMFS scientists, researchers and the like. Each NMFS region has a science center.

Fishery Management Action Team (FMAT) – A plan development team (PDT) by another name.

Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – The council-created document that describes the fishery and details required by management measures. The FMP contains all analysis required by the MSA and other laws and is updated as necessary by amendment.

Fishing Mortality Rate (F) – A measure of the amount of fishing effort. F is generally the proportion of the stock that is taken each year by fishing operations. The "target F" is used to determine ACLs, while the "threshold F" is the status determination criterion that says if you go above it, you are overfishing.

Guideline Harvest Level (GHL) – Generally the same as an ACL, the Pacific Halibut Commission, other international fishery management authorities, some councils and Western states use this term to indicate annual allowable catch.

Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) – Really important EFH to which particularly stringent management measures may be applied, up to and including complete closure to fishing or fishing by specified gear types.

Improved Retention/Improved Utilization (IRIU) – A program developed by the North Pacific Council, if not others, to reduce the amount of discard fish and find new uses for unavoidable catch that is discarded for economic reasons. Typically, IRIU programs mandate minimum retention levels that prevent a vessel from discarding less valuable fish that displaces more valuable fish, imposing costs on the vessel that theoretically should provide incentives to find uses or develop value-added products from currently wasted fish.

Individual Fishery Quota (IFQ) – Same as ITQ, but may or may not be transferable.

Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) – One of the older and more controversial forms of LAPPs, it grants a percent share of total annual catch to individual fishermen that can be fished, leased or sold to another.

Limited Access Privilege Program (LAPP) – A term no one uses, but was added to the MSA by the Reauthorization Act and thus is the formal legal term for what is commonly called "catch shares." LAPPs include a variety of management systems that in some manner provide an individual or group access to a defined share of annual catch.

Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) – More formally, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as amended, is the nation's primary fisheries management law, establishing the domestic and international framework for fisheries management.

Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) – Like the ESA, protects all forms of marine mammals from decline and extinction. It is, however, much more stringent and unforgiving than the ESA, and protections extend to all marine mammals regardless of their abundance (see sea lions in Monterey Bay).

Maximum Fishing Mortality Threshold (MFMT) – The formal NMFS name for the threshold F.

Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) – MSY generally equates to the OFL. As noted, MSY is an annual level of catch that, in theory, can be taken each year while maintaining a fish population at a level that produces the highest annual fishery yield, on average, over the long run.

Minimum Stock Size Threshold (MSST) – This is the status determination criterion that tells us when a stock is overfished. If abundance falls below this level, the stock must be rebuilt. Typically, though not always, the MSST is one half the level of Bmsy.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – Ironically referred to as the nation's Environmental Charter, NEPA may be the federal law responsible for more tree deaths than any, except for a forest management law. It requires that agencies take a "hard look" at the environmental consequences of their actions, generally by holding meetings, doing analysis and drafting "environmental impact statements," which often run to the hundreds or thousands of pages. After all that is done, NEPA doesn't require an agency to choose the most environmentally friendly option. Rather, it is designed to create a process for the agency and public to understand the environmental consequences of an action and various alternatives to that action.

National Standard 1 (NS1) – The first, and what some courts have called the primary, of nine national standards for fishery conservation and management in the MSA. NS1 states, "Conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery for the United States fishing industry." All FMPs and other measures taken under the MSA by the councils and NMFS must be consistent with the national standards, and NS1 in particular.

National Standard 8 (NS8) – The eighth national standard, which provides, "Conservation and management measures shall, consistent with the conservation requirements of this Act (including the prevention of overfishing and rebuilding of overfished stocks), take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities by utilizing economic and social data that meet the requirements of paragraph (2), in order to (A) provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and (B) to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities." More simply, it tells councils to at least investigate alternatives that minimize economic impacts on fishermen and their communities, while still recognizing that their primary duty is to prevent overfishing.

Optimum Yield (OY) – What NS1 requires all conservation and management measures to achieve. OY is generally the level of harvest one is allowed to take annually, and so it is typically the ACL. At least in theory, OY is the highest sustainable catch level that can be calculated after considering uncertainty in estimating sustainable catch levels ("scientific uncertainty") and the amount of fish actually taken each year, including landings, unreported catch and fish killed but not retained. If a stock is "overfished" below defined levels of abundance, OY is the amount of harvest that can be taken and still rebuild a stock in a fixed amount of time.

Overfishing Limit (OFL) – Again, in theory, this is the highest level of level of catch that (on average) can be taken each year while maintaining a fish population at optimum levels (see OY and MSY above). Take any level of catch above the OFL, and the population will decline. That is what is called "overfishing." If we had perfect information, OFL and ABC would be the same. But we do not, so OFL is always a higher level of catch than ABC.

Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) – A law designed to reduce paperwork burdens imposed by the government, but which had the effect of creating more paperwork for the government. In general, an agency can't make you fill out a form, like a vessel trip report, unless it has gone through PRA processes and has an OMB Control Number on it. Those processes involve estimating the time and cost people will spend filling out the form, publishing that information in the Federal Register for comment, receiving no comment, getting the number and making you fill out the form.

Plan Development Team (PDT) – A term used by some councils for the group of technical experts that develops and evaluates fishery management measures, advises it on scientific and technical issues, and drafts FMPs, amendments and other action documents, for which it undertakes and supplies all required analysis. In general, PDTs are led by a council staff member and typically contain state and federal employees working for resource management agencies or universities.

Processor Quota (PQ) – A grant of a privilege to receive or process a fixed share of annual catch allocated among processors. The basic idea is to maintain infrastructure and local economies in historic fishing communities.

Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) – As used by some councils, particularly on the West Coast, PSC is a stock that no one, or specific sectors of a fishery, is not allowed to retain. Typically, a vessel or sector in a fishery subject to PSC limits on non-target stocks will have to cease fishing or fishing in certain areas when that limit is projected to be reached.

Regional Fishery Management Council (RFMC) – The body that develops and recommends fishery management plans and amendments to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The MSA established eight such councils, composed of state officials, private stakeholders and federal representatives.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) – A law that, like NS8, requires agencies to consider the economic burdens regulations place on small businesses, as well as alternative regulatory approaches that would achieve the agency's objective in a way that minimizes those burdens on small businesses. Like NEPA, discussed above, this is a procedural law that doesn't require an agency to adopt an approach that minimizes burdens, so long as they are recognized and reasonably considered.

Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) – This is an analysis of a regulation's effects that is required of federal agencies by Executive Order 12866. EO 12866 sets out the standards for how agencies should go about the regulatory process, and provides for White House-level (through the Office of Management and Budget) oversight of the rulemaking process. The RIR can typically be found in an FMP or amendment.

Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) – Created by the MSA, each council has an SSC to advise it on important management issues, such as sustainable harvest levels, overfishing levels and any other scientific matter councils need to do their job. With the changes made by the Reauthorization Act, SSCs have become even more important as now a council cannot set ACLs higher than the SSC's "fishing level recommendations."

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) – 1996 amendments to the Regulatory Flexibility Act which, of most immediate interest, gave small businesses the right to sue an agency for not meeting its RFA duties.

SOL – You're out of luck

Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) – Another name for a stock assessment workshop or stock assessment review committee (see below), which is used in the Southeastern region.

Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) – One of the required elements of an FMP, it is a data collection system that can produce reasonably precise and accurate information on incidental catch.

Status Determination Criteria (SDC) – These are the goalposts (or "objective and measureable criteria," as the MSA says) by which a fishery is determined to be "overfished" — at too low a level of abundance — or subject to too high a fishing mortality rate.

Stock Assessment Workshop/Stock Assessment Review Committee (SAW/SARC) – The names given to bodies that conduct and review stock assessments.

Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 (SFA) – The last major revision to the MSA prior to the 2006 Reauthorization Act. It represented a fundamental shift in the law from one primarily about "Americanizing" our fisheries and promoting the industry to one more focused on conservation.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC) – Basically, a quota. TAC is a cap on all fish taken in fishing operations, including those discarded as well as landed.

Total Allowable Landings (TAL) – Like a TAC or quota, but not measured in terms of total catch, just landed catch.

Turtle Excluder Device (TED) – A specific type of BRD used on shrimp or otter trawls designed to prevent sea turtles from being caught in the net.

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 9/9/14

In this episode:

Seafood Watch upgrades status of 21 fish species
Calif. bill attacking seafood mislabeling approved
Ballot item would protect Bristol Bay salmon
NOAA closes cod, yellowtail fishing areas
Pacific panel halves young bluefin harvest

National Fisherman Live: 8/26/14

In this episode, National Fisherman Publisher Jerry Fraser talks about his early days dragging for redfish on the Vandal.

Inside the Industry

More than a dozen higher education institutions and federal and local fishery management agencies and organizations in American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at building the capacity of the U.S. Pacific Island territories to manage their fisheries and fishery-related resources.


PORTLAND, Maine – The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has appointed Matt Jacobson as its new executive director.
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