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Press Release – Scientists, Managers to Consider Proposed Bigeye Quota Reduction

HONOLULU (04 October 2013) The port of Honolulu consistently ranks as one of the nation’s top 10 fishing ports in terms of value landed. The reason is the sashimi-quality bigeye tuna landed by the Hawaii longline fleet. This fishery is recognized globally as a model for sustainable pelagic fishing with a rating of 95 percent against the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing. Eighty percent of the tuna landed by the fishery stays in Hawaii, where tuna tops the list of seafood consumed.

In the first decade of this century, the Hawaii fishery landed between 4,000 metric tons (mt) and 5,000 mt of bigeye annually. In 2008, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which oversees international management of highly migratory fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), proposed that longline fisheries reduce their take of bigeye tuna to 90 percent of their 2004 landings. The United States, which is a party to the WCPFC, agreed. Therefore, since 2009, the Hawaii longline fishery has been operating under a bigeye tuna quota of 3,763 mt in the WCPFC convention area. In 2009 and 2010, the Hawaii fishery reached the quota before the end of the year causing a shutdown of the fishery for two days and forty days, respectively, during the holiday season when sashimi is at its highest demand in Hawaii.

Now, the Hawaii longline bigeye quota is on the verge of potentially being further reduced to 2,300 mt, or 55 percent of its 2004 landings. That is the recommendation from the eight Pacific Islands nations that comprise the Parties to the Nauru Agreement together with the Philippines and Japan, as part of the outcome of a WCPFC working group meeting convened August 2013 in Tokyo. The proposal did not suggest any quota for the purse-seine fishery, but rather would limit the days that purse-seine vessels could fish on FADs and on the high seas in the WCPFC convention area.

The United States responded by saying it “cannot accept the proposed reduction specified for the Hawaii-based longline fleet … which has no freezer capacity and delivers only fresh fish to supply a local domestic market.” The United States also noted that “among other things, the Hawaii-based fleet operates primarily north of 20 degrees North and outside the tropical area where the vast majority of the fishing mortality occurs.” The US discussion paper recognized that “an estimated 88 percent of bigeye tuna fishing mortality occurs between 20 degrees North and 20 degrees South” and called for consideration to be given to spatial management of the longline fisheries.

Reducing fishing mortality of bigeye tuna is the key agenda item for the WCPFC, which will hold its 10th regular session Dec. 6-10, 2013, in Cairns, Australia. WCPFC has not been able to find a solution to end prolonged overfishing of bigeye tuna in the WCPO. Overfishing of the species manifested when purse-seine vessels began relying on fish aggregation devices (FADs) to catch skipjack tuna, their target species for canned tuna. Unfortunately, the FADs also attracted juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna.

The US Delegation to the WCPFC is represented by the US Department of State, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Pacific and Western Pacific Fishery Management Councils and the US longline and purse-seine fishing industries, among others. Management of the US purse seine fishery has been under the purview of the State Department, as this fishery predominantly fishes in the exclusive economic zones of foreign nations. The Hawaii longline fishery is managed by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, whose recommendations are approved by the Secretary of Commerce and implemented by NMFS.

Next week the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) that advises the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council will convene Tuesday through Thursday, at the Council office, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu. Key among their discussion will be the future of Hawaii’s longline fishery for bigeye as well as management of sharks in the Mariana Archipelago. Fishermen in that archipelago, which includes the US Territory of Guam and the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, have complained for more than a decade about shark depredation, i.e., taking of their bait by sharks. The Mariana Archipelago is by default a shark sanctuary, as it has only a small-scale fishery that does not target sharks. However, there are no stock assessments of sharks in the archipelago. One consideration for the depredation problem is to reduce the shark biomass either through a directed fishery for sharks or an indirect catch by pelagic longlining. The demand for shark meat, fins, cartilage and oil continues and could be served by the Marianas fishery.

Recommendations from the SSC will be considered by the Council Oct. 16-18, 2013, at the YWCA-Fuller Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu. For the full agendas of the SSC and Council meetings and details on public comment opportunities, go to http://www.wpcouncil.org/category/council-and-advisory-body-meetings/. For a copy of the proposals from the WCPFC working group meeting in Tokyo and the WCPFC10 agenda, go to www.wcpfpc.int.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council was established by Congress in 1976. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, it has authority over the fisheries in the Pacific Ocean seaward of the State of Hawaiian, the Territories of American Samoa and Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and US remote island area possessions.

Scientific and Statistical Committee: Dr. Charles Daxboeck, chair, (BioDax Consulting Tahiti); Dr. Judith Amesbury (Micronesian Archeological Research Services); Dr. Paul Callaghan (University of Guam retired); Dr. Frank A. Camacho (Universikty of Guam); Dr. Milani Chaloupka (University of Queensland); Dr. Richard Deriso (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission); Dr. Erik Franklin (Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology); Dr. John Hampton (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); David Itano (NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office); Dr. Pierre Kleiber (NMFS PIFSC, retired); Dr. Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Dr. Molly Lutcavage (University of New Hampshire); Dr. Todd Miller (CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife); Dr. Domingo Ochivallo (American Samoa DMWR); Jim Lynch (K&L Gates); Dr. Minling Pan (NMFS PIFSC); Dr. Craig Severance (University of Hawaii retired); Dr. John Sibert (Pelagic Fisheries Research Program retired); and Dr. Robert Skillman (NMFS PIFSC retired).

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) ; Edwin Ebisui (Hawaii) (Vice Chair); Richard Seman, education and outreach specialist (CNMI); ); William Sword, recreational fisherman (American Samoa) (Vice Chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency Ltd. (Hawaii); Julie Leialoha, biologist (Hawaii); Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele, Port Administration (American Samoa); and McGrew Rice, commercial and charter fisherman (Hawaii). Designated state officials: Arnold Palacios, CNMI Department of Land & Natural Resources (chair); William Aila, Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources; Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources; and Mariquita Taitague, Guam Department of Agriculture. Designated federal officials: Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office; Bill Gibbons-Fly, US Department of State; RAdm Cari B. Thomas, US Coast Guard 14th District; and Susan White, Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuges Complex.

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