Picture of a Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
Photo by NOAA Fisheries
Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)


An Independent, Scientific Review of the Biological Opinion (2010) of the Fisheries Management Plan for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Management Plan

October 2011

This is a pre-publication release. The final report will be released through the ADFG Special Publication series.

Download draft report - July 2011

Public Meetings

Audio and Presentations from the August 22, 2011 Meeting
A public meeting was held in Anchorage to provide an opportunity for the independent science panel members to receive comments and feedback on the draft review and recommendations.

Listen to audio Audio

Stream MP3 Audio | Download MP3 [22.2 MB]


Scientific review of federal biological opinion

Independent Scientific Review of the Final Biological Opinion of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Management Areas

The Terms of Reference (TOR) for this review of the 2010 Biological Opinion (BiOp) arising from a Section 7 consultation required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are:

  1. Four scientists will be impaneled to review the BiOp and produce a report of that review. The panel will consist of two co-chairs, one selected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and the other by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  The co-chairs will select two other members. All four will be experienced scientists in one or more fields of fisheries management, animal population dynamics, marine mammal biology, and resource economics. None of the four will be federal employees, or have any direct connection with development of this BiOp.  Conclusions of the four-member panel will be by consensus. At their discretion the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the North Pacific Management Council may each select a member of their staff to serve as a liaison with the panel.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the WDFW will arrange administrative support for the panel and will cover costs of meetings and publications.

  2. The panel will focus, but not necessarily limit, their review on the conclusions in the BiOp regarding the Western Distinct Population Segment (WDPS) of Steller sea lions (SSL).  The panel will judge and report on how well the BiOp met the following:
    • Do the conclusions in the BiOp regarding the finding of jeopardy and its posited cause (nutritional stress from food competition with fisheries) follow logically from scientific, economic, and social information presented in the BiOp and attendant documents?
    • Are the conclusions contradicted by any scientific, economic, and social information not presented in the BiOp? 
    • Do the conclusions represent the most likely scientific explanation for apparent population dynamics of the WDPS of SSL given the current state of knowledge?
    • Were alternative scientific explanations to the apparent population dynamics of the WDPS of SSL thoroughly considered, such as explanations involving but not limited to predation, disease, ecosystem/carrying capacity, or emigration?
    • Do the Reasonable and Prudent Actions (RPA) imposed on the fishery follow logically from the conclusions regarding jeopardy?
    • Are the RPA’s sufficient to mitigate jeopardy?
    • Are the RPA’s unnecessarily restrictive to mitigate jeopardy?
    • Are the RPA’s likely to minimize economic and social impacts compared with potential alternatives which would achieve the same benefit for SSL recovery?
    • Are the RPAs likely to effectively meet recovery goals for the WDPS of SSL?
    • Is the scientific record reported in the BiOp reasonably complete? and
    • Is there evidence that the relevant peer and public comments concerning economic and scientific issues were considered when developing the BiOp—including comments on the draft BiOp?

    The panel will use their experience, knowledge of the relevant scientific literature, and relevant public comments in their judgments. Knowledge will include, but will not be limited to, recently published scientific papers, recent stock assessments, and recent population surveys. Relevant public comments will include, but will not be limited to, comments submitted by industry, scientists and the North Pacific Management Council through their Science and Statistical Committee concerning the BiOp in general and concerning specific modifications to RPAs. During their deliberations the panel will note any potential investigations that could likely provide new information critical to eliminating or possibly confirming a scientific explanation of the apparent slow recovery of the WDPS of SSL.

  3. The panel will entertain public and scientific comment on issues concerning the BiOp during an open, one-day meeting scheduled for 2 June in Seattle. The ADFG and/or WDFW will arrange and announce the specific time and specific place of the meeting.

  4. The panel will produce a draft report of their findings by 30 June of this year. The ADFG and WDFW will release the draft to the public and relevant agencies for their review and comment. Any forthcoming comments can be sent to the panel through ADFG and WDFW, or presented to the panel during a second one-day meeting on 1 August in Anchorage. Again, ADFG and WDFW will arrange and announce the specific time and specific place for the meeting.

  5. The panel will present a final report to ADFG and WDFW on their review of the BiOp on the fishery management plan for the groundfish fisheries of the Bering Sea and Western Aleutian Islands. The report will have an executive summary based on consensus judgments by the panel on those issues outlined in item b) above.  The body of the report will contain explanations for those consensus judgments along with any issues over which the panel did not attain consensus and why.  The panel will identify in the report any new research it believes critical to resolving any lack of consensus or disagreement with conclusions in the BiOp. The report will be submitted to ADFG and WDFW by COB 30 September of this year.