CONCUR is an active practitioner of truly agreement-focused facilitation, notably in its work throughout the United States to support several Take Reduction Teams.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) section 118 mandates that NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) develop and implement Take Reduction Plans (Plans) to assist in the recovery or prevent the depletion of strategic marine mammal stocks that interact with Category I and II fisheries.

According to NOAA Fisheries, a strategic stock is one that:

  • is listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),
  • is declining and likely to be listed as threatened under the ESA,
  • is listed as depleted under the MMPA, or
  • has direct human-caused mortality which exceeds the stock’s Potential Biological Removal level

The immediate goal of Take Reduction Plans is to reduce, within six months of its implementation, the incidental serious injury or mortality of marine mammals from commercial fishing to levels less than Potential Biological Removal.

The long-term goal is to reduce, within five years of its implementation, the incidental serious injury and mortality of marine mammals from commercial fishing operations to insignificant levels approaching a zero serious injury and mortality rate, taking into account the economics of the fishery, the availability of existing technology, and existing state or regional fishery management plans.

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Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Team (HPTRT)

CONCUR’s work with NMFS on this effort is to identify consensus-supported approaches that can reduce commercial fisheries bycatch of harbor porpoises to sustainable levels. The HPTRT strives to identify consensus-supported approaches that can reduce interactions between harbor porpoises and the Gulf of Maine and Mid-Atlantic commercial gillnet fisheries.

CONCUR begin its work with NMFS and the HPTRT in 2007. Since this beginning a number of consensus agreements have been reached including establishing two regionally distinct bycatch rate targets, assessing compliance with bycatch rate using two years of data, and requiring pingers for Massachusetts Bay Closure Area for the month of November.

At the May 2013 meeting, the Team recognized the consequence area target bycatch rates no longer accurately reflect compliant bycatch rates in New England, and recommended continuing discussions and other actions to ensure compliance with the pinger requirements and achieve MMPA goals.

Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team (ALWTRT)

CONCUR has facilitated the ALWTRT since 2008, and works with NMFS on this effort to identify consensus-supported approaches that can reduce commercial fisheries bycatch of right whales, humpback whales, and other whale species to sustainable levels. Our work focuses on conducting initial stakeholder assessments, convening both in-person and teleconference meetings among fishermen, academics, conservationists, researchers and government agencies, and summarizing emerging agreements.

Based on the deliberation and broad-based support of the Take Reduction Team, a final federal rule took effect in 2015 with several components aimed at reducing injuries and deaths of large whales due to incidental entanglement in fishing gear. The rule addresses the minimum number of traps per trawl, two new gear marking areas for Jeffrey’s Ledge and Jordan Basin, and new gear marking color schemes.

Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Team (BDTRT)

Since 2013, CONCUR has been facilitating the BDTRT, a 46-person team working to reduce bottlenose dolphin bycatch in a range of fisheries from New York to Florida to sustainable levels. At its 2013 in-person meeting, the BNDTRT team generated a set of consensus recommendations–both regulatory and non-regulatory–to reduce takes of estuarine stock in the gillnet fishery, as well as improve education and best practices to reduce interaction of bay, sound, and estuarine stock with trap/pot fisheries in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

After a 2014 entanglement of a bottlenose dolphin in stop net gear, the team met via webinar to receive briefings, develop a series of options, and seek consensus around a preferred option. Each option was considered based on two criteria: potential conservation benefits and implementation feasibility. With CONCUR’s facilitation, the full team expressed broad-based support for a preferred option which included reducing 75% of the stop net webbing and removing the two exempted areas from the 100-yd small mesh gillnet fishing setback.

Following the March 2014 team deliberation, implementation of the preferred option was accomplished via State of North Carolina Proclamation. The team met again via webinar in December 2015 to discuss the status of regulatory implementation, Bottlenose Dolphin stocks and mortality, and observer

Altantic Pelagic Longline Take Reduction Team (PLTRT)

CONCUR has facilitated the PLTRT since its formation in 2005. Early tasks included working with the agency to establish team participation in efforts to identify consensus-supported approaches that can minimize commercial bycatch of Atlantic pelagic species to sustainable levels. With CONCUR’s help, the team developed and reached consensus on the proposed plan, which was adopted in 2006.

CONCUR facilitated a meeting of the PLTRT in December 2015 to critically review the elements of the adopted Take Reduction Plan and develop recommendations for Plan components to more effectively reduce pilot whale bycatch.

After receiving a series of briefings on pilot whale abundance, distribution, mortality, and considering various options, the PLTRT unanimously adopted a series of recommendations. These included revisions in terminal gear requirements, new mainline length measures, and modification of observer protocols and data reporting forms. The PLTRT also adopted the establishment of a work group to develop recommendations to changes and updates to the current handling, and safe release protocols, for marine mammal interactions in the Atlantic pelagic longline fishery and safety of crew and vessels. NMFS staff will draft regulations based on Team regulations; the hope is to have regulations in place by the end of 2016.

False Killer Whale Take Reduction Team (FKWTRT)

In 2010 CONCUR facilitated a consensus agreement among fishermen, conservationists, biologists, and others on a suite of actions intended to reduce the incidental bycatch of false killer whales in Hawaii’s longline tuna and swordfish fishery. CONCUR’s work focused on structuring and guiding team deliberations, as well as working with NMFS policymakers and scientists to tee up issues for team discussion. The use of work teams and cross-interest group caucuses were key in building the foundation of the eventual agreement.

The agreement, referred to as a Draft Take Reduction Plan was created during a fast-track, six-month-long negotiation, and is grounded in several key recommendations. One recommendation calls for the mandatory use of circle hooks in the tuna-targeting deep-set longline fishery, a gear change expected to reduce the likelihood of hooking false killer whales. Another recommendation includes the proposed closure of a seasonal area north and east of the main Hawaiian Islands, where longline fishing is currently allowed for four months of the year.

In subsequent years, the FKWTRT met to provide updates on stock assessment, fisheries management, implementation efforts, and to consider the need for any potential amendments to the Take Reduction Plan. The next FKWTRT meeting is planned for early 2017.

Pacific Offshore Cetacean Take Reduction Team (POCTRT)

CONCUR has worked with the POCTRT since 2014. Initially, CONCUR was responsible for organizing updated membership and participation in the POCTRT. To complete this initial step, CONCUR conducted interviews with candidate TRT members, advised NMFS on the suitability of potential members relative to a set of objective selection criteria. Once completed, CONCUR then helped the agency's Protected Resources and Sustainable Fisheries staff organize a set of webinar and in person meetings held to consider measures dealing with accidental take of Sperm Whales, while allowing the California Drift Gillnet fishery to reopen for the 2013 season beginning in late August.

CONCUR also worked closely with staff of both the Protected Resources and the Sustainable Fisheries Divisions to structure the agenda, elicit options from team members, and distill and emerging consensus within these meetings. Based on these deliberations, the Southwest Region is drafting a Proposed Rule that would enable a Negligible Impact Determination, and thus an open fishing season. The emerging solution includes defining a time area closure that closely tracks the 2,000-meter isobath line, expanded observer coverage, and new VMS requirements.