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Press Release – Eliminate Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas in Hawaii, Fishery Council Recommends

HONOLULU (21 October 2013) The State of Hawaii’s Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas (BRFAs) located in federal waters should be eliminated, according to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. Meeting last week in Honolulu, the Council also encouraged the State to consider removing all BRFAs in State waters.

The Council noted that its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) questioned the utility of the closed areas given the current State-federal coordinated management of the bottomfish fishery for seven deep-water species, i.e., the Deep 7, in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) using quotas. The MHI bottomfish fishery is deemed healthy by stock assessments with no overfishing occurring.

The State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) established the BRFAs in 1998 because a federal assessment indicated MHI bottomfish stocks were approaching an over-fished condition. In 2006, the State expanded the overall amount of bottomfish grounds contained in the BRFAs by removing some areas, adding new ones, and enlarging and moving others. The result was 12 larger BRFAs most of them containing some Federal waters.

The Council noted the SSC’s comment that proposed research and monitoring of the fishery can be accomplished simultaneously with the opening of the BRFAs.

The Council supported improving data collection, monitoring, stock assessments and cooperative research, which includes the fishing community. The Council directed the MHI Bottomfish Working Group to meet as soon as possible to address these objectives.

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, visit www.wpcouncil.org or email info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov; 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) ; William Sword, recreational fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); Edwin Ebisui (Hawaii) (vice chair); Richard Seman, education and outreach specialist (CNMI) (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 Pal;acios, CNMI Department of Land & Natural Resources (chair); 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.