HONOLULU (28 June 2013) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council concluded its three-day meeting today in Honolulu on federally managed fisheries in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and other US Pacific Islands. Decisions affecting regulations are transmitted as recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval. The Council has three regular meetings each year and operates under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act (MSA). The 2006 reauthorized MSA requires that all fish stocks in federal fisheries be managed through annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures, with a few exceptions. One of the exceptions is for fisheries that are managed under international agreements.
Highly migratory species (i.e., pelagic) fisheries are managed in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), to which the United States is a member. The WCPFC is scheduled to meet in December in Australia. The Council at its meeting this week recommended the following actions for the US delegation to the WCPFC.
- North Pacific striped marlin: The Council will ask the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to develop management measures to present to the WCPFC that will end overfishing and lead to recovery of the stock. Recommended measures include a WCPO North Pacific striped marlin total catch of 3,600 metric tons (mt) as noted in the 2012 stock assessment, as well as the establishment of limits of not more than 500 mt for any WCPFC member or non-member country or territory with a history of catching less than 500 mt of striped marlin. The United States (i.e., Hawaii longline fishery) catches less than 500 mt of striped marlin.
- Tropical tunas: The Council will ask NMFS, in consultation with the Council, to develop and propose a range of management options that would be effective in addressing bigeye tuna overfishing with a primary focus on restrictions for the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs), area-based constraints and capacity reductions.Regarding ACLs that are set domestically, the Council recommended that the 2014 ACL for seven popular deep-water (Deep 7) bottomfish in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) be set at 346,000 lbs and that the ACL be the quota for 2014. Last year the quota was set at 6 percent less than the ACL due to management uncertainty associated with monitoring of the fishery to project the closure date when the limit would be reached. Subsequent improvements in the timeliness of catch reporting have reduced this uncertainty. The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) now requires reporting by trip rather than by month for this fishery. State and federal management of the fishery is subject to cooperative management. When the quota is reached by the commercial fishery operating in state and/or federal waters, commercial and non-commercial fisheries under both jurisdictions are closed. The Deep 7 MHI fishing season runs from September 1 to August 31.
The Council recommended that the 2013 ACLs for coral reef fish, crustacean, precious corals, and other bottomfish fisheries be carried forward to 2014. These ACLs can be found at www.fpir.noaa.gov/SFD/SFD_regs_3.html. The fishing year for these fisheries is January 1 to December 31.
The Council made several recommendations to improve the management of fisheries through ACLs. It will consider removing uku (Aprion virescens, or green jobfish) from the Non-Deep 7 bottomfish mutli-stock complex ACL and establish a single species ACL. The Council reiterated its previous recommendation for the NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) to conduct a stock assessment for uku.
The Council will also evaluate the effectiveness of the ACLs for the MHI Deep 7 bottomfish fishery in preventing overfishing and determine its confidence in the ACL process versus the State of Hawaii’s Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas (BRFAs). Fishermen have argued that the BRFAs, which were created in the 1990s before there were any bottomfish stock assessments or ACLs, should be removed now that these other management tools are in place.
The Council also made the following recommendations and decisions, among others:
Other Pelagic Fishery Issues
- The Council directed its staff to draft a regulatory amendment to the Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) with a preferred alternative that would remove the existing 10 swordfish per trip limit for the American Samoa longline fishery.
- The Council recommended the Pelagic FEP be amended to include a 2,000 mt bigeye tuna longline limit for the US Territories of American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI. The Territories currently have no bigeye tuna limit assigned under the WCPFC. This self-imposed limit demonstrates the commitment by this Council and the United States to address bigeye overfishing. However, the Council recognizes that the US Territories, in common with neighboring Small Island Developing States, share fisheries development aspirations as a means to diversify their economies. The Council will, therefore review these limits annually.
- The Council directed its staff to work with the Hawaii DLNR to develop options for a minimum size for sale of yellowfin tuna in Hawaii by looking at the appropriate minimum size based upon science and begin developing options for management.
- The Council noted the expansion of the retail pelagic fish trade in Guam and directed its staff to review the CNMI legislation for mandatory fish dealer reporting and evaluate if it would be applicable to Guam where fish dealer reporting is voluntary.
- The Council directed its staff to conduct workshops for local fishermen in preparing, handling, and exporting tuna caught within the CNMI.
- The Council requested that the National Marine Sanctuaries Program conduct education and outreach to clarify its fishing regulations for fishing in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS) and that the (NMSAS) work with the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) to establish a comprehensive baseline for the Research Zone around Aunu`u Islands, which prohibits reef fish and bottomfish fishing.
- The Council directed its staff to begin developing a research program to evaluate a comprehensive baseline for evaluating the effectiveness of the 0- to 12-mile closure to fishing around Rose Atoll Marine National Monument including working with NOAA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and DMWR on summarizing existing data and additional studies on fish and habitats of Rose Atoll.
Mariana Archipelago (Guam and CNMI)
- The Council directed its staff to prepare an options paper regarding the current closed areas for bottomfishing in the CNMI as they may be hindering fishery development in the islands.
- The Council recommended that NMFS, USFWS, Guam Department of Agriculture and CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources immediately coordinate on jurisdictional issues, funding and research to improve management of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.
Subsistence Fishing: The Council recommended that the FEPs be amended to include definitions for recreational and subsistence fishing and customary exchange and that this language be incorporated in the next MSA re-authorization.
Seafood Labeling: The Council recommended that any potential NMFS seafood labeling program include a provision that all carbon monoxide treated tuna be labeled with dates for when the fish was caught and/or a sell by date. The local implementation of this program should also include a “Hawaii caught” distinction instead of product of Hawaii to distinguish fish being caught in Hawaii rather than foreign caught and processed in Hawaii.
Marine Debris: The Council requested NOAA and other appropriate agencies to provide funding to American Samoa, Guam, CNMI, Hawaii and for the Pacific Remote Island Areas to fund equipment and supplies for the removal of marine debris, derelict gear (e.g., FADs, traps, vessels, etc.) and flotsam (e.g., stranded whale carcasses).
Climate Change: The Council directed its staff to undertake a series of actions to address climate change. Among them are the development of a Council climate change policy, revision of the Council’s Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Committee into a Marine Planning and Climate Change Committee, community workshops on climate change to prioritize adaptive strategies with the objective of creating recommendations for those strategies, and work with NOAA and other agencies and institutions on specific climate change issues. The Council also recommended the State of Hawaii develop carrying capacity models for resident populations and the tourism industry, recognizing that human impacts are major factors influencing the status of Hawaii’s natural resources; engage the private sector in the development and implementation of adaptation strategies; and consider new fishing regulations for West Hawaii that take into account the recent video of offshore reefs of Puako indicating high levels of reef fish biomass.
Advisory Bodies: Michael Panem was appointed to the American Samoa Advisory Panel. Kara Kimi Apiki and Paul Makani Christensen were appointed to the Hawaii Advisory Panel. George Balazs, Milani Chaloupka, Erin Oleson, Robin Baird, David Hyrenbach, Carl Meyer, Sam Kahng, Jim Lynch, Kara Kimi Apiki and Paul Makani Christensen were appointed to the Protected Species Committee. Frank Aldan was appointed as chair of the CNMI Advisory Panel. The Council formed an Ad Hoc Education Committee to address the need to build capacity in the US Pacific Island territories by assisting college students from the territories to earn a degree in marine science and then obtain internships/work in the territories.
The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council was established by Congress to manage fisheries in offshore waters around Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Pacific remote island areas. Serving as a bridge between the local communities, fishermen, and the federal government, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council continues its commitment to keep fisheries sustainable, protecting the fishing industry and the local communities that that depend on it. For more information or the agendas, visit www.wpcouncil.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org; phone (808) 522-8220, or fax (808) 522-8226.
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Appointees by the Secretary of Commerce from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawaii governors: Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (Vice Chair) ; McGrew Rice, commercial and charter fisherman (Hawaii); William Sword, recreational fisherman (American Samoa) (Vice Chair); Richard Seman, education and outreach specialist (CNMI); Julie Leialoha, environmentalist (Hawaii); Edwin Ebisui (Hawaii) (Vice Chair); and Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency Ltd. (Hawaii). Designated state officials: Arnold Palacios, CNMI Department of Land & Natural Resources; Mariquita Taitague, Guam Department of Agriculture; William Aila, Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources; and Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. Designated federal officials: Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office; Susan White, Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuges Complex; RAdm Cari B. Thomas, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District; and Bill Gibbons-Fly, US Department of State.
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