This is a recap I got from a friend that was at yesterday's F&GC meeting in Sacramento.
There were a couple of interesting things about abalone that came from today's F&GC meeting in Sacramento.
First, TNC asked the Commission where the abalone FMP would be discussed (the Commission Meetings or the MRC meetings). The Commission said that they would be discussing the FMP at their meetings, inferring that there would be little or no discussion of the FMP in the MRC meetings. Also, if you look at the MRC's "Work Plan" there is nothing on their plan to discuss the abalone FMP. In fact, they have the abalone FMP listed on their work plan, but without marking it for discussion during any of their meetings in 2018.
Second, the Department is moving up their schedule for presenting their draft FMP to the Commission from presenting it in June, to presenting it in April. From what I could gather at the meeting, I think the Department is moving the schedule for two reasons. This is good and bad news. On one hand, the Department doesn't think there is enough time to complete a draft plan, have it peer reviewed, have it rewritten and have it ready for the Commission to approve at their December meeting; and then used to reconsider opening the 2019 season. The good part is that we will see the Department's FMP sooner and there will be more time to reach a compromise with them before the December Commission meeting. On the other hand, it sounds like there will be a shortened time for peer review and little, if any, time for the public or the RAAC to be further involved before the draft is released. I think the RAAC will be asked how they want a d-minimus fishery regulated with the caveats of having a fishery of between 5-25,000 TAC (last year's catch was around 150,000) and limited card sales to between 5-15,000 cards (last year's card sales were around 25,000).
I spoke at the meeting and asked the Commission to be aware that the new schedule didn't leave much time for them to fulfil their obligation to review their decision about reopening 2019 (according to the sunset clause they placed on the 2018 closure decision). President Sklar asked the DFW for a schedule for the FMP that would allow it to be used for reopening the 2019 season, if that is the decision.
I also asked them to be sure that the Peer Review group was impartial and that it include fishery managers as well as marine ecologists. I'm not sure the Commissioners understood the difference, so my request may not have been completely grasped by them.
There were only 3 of the 5 Commissioners at the meeting.