post

Press Release – Scientists Reiterate Recommendation to Open Hawai`i Bottomfish Fishing Areas, Suggest Revisions to Coral Reef Fisheries Annual Quotas

HONOLULU (15 March 2014) A group of 20 prominent scientists from throughout the Pacific concluded its three-day meeting Thursday in Honolulu with recommendations for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on federally managed fisheries in Hawai`i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the US Pacific remote island areas. The Council will consider the recommendations of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and its other advisory bodies when it convenes March 17 and 18 at the Fiesta Resort, Garapan, CNMI, and March 20 and 21 at the Hilton Hotel, Tumon, Guam. Recommendations by the Council are transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval. For the full SSC and Council meeting agendas and other background documents, go to meetings section of the Council’s website at www.wpcouncil.org.

Hawai`i Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas

SSC member Alton Miyasaka from the Hawai`i Division of Aquatic Resources presented the State of Hawai`i’s proposed plan to revise the State’s bottomfish restricted fishing areas (BRFAs). The state BRFAs are located in both State and federal waters and were created in the 1990s when local depletion of some bottomfish species in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) was a concern. Currently, the bottomfish stocks are considered healthy, with no overfishing occurring and no stocks overfished.

The State’s proposed plan would open six BRFAs and keep six BRFAs closed. It would also increase the recreational daily bag limit for the seven deepwater bottomfish species from a total of five to a total of 10. A voluntary non-commercial reporting option may be included. Monitoring of the BRFAs would continue based on available funding.

The SSC also reviewed the recommendations of the MHI Bottomfish Working Group. It was suggested that the Council could open the portions of the BRFAs located within federal waters. Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds noted that this option was under review and that a number of the National
Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) justify the elimination of MHI BRFAs in federal waters.

A fisherman provided public comment noting that the Makapu`u BRFA creates economic burdens and safety concerns because fishermen have to travel further to alternate fishing grounds. He said keeping the BRFA closed due to the existence of a precious coral bed in the area is not justified because fishermen do
not fish in the area of the Makapu`u BRFA that includes the bed.

The SSC noted that the Makapu`u and Penguin Bank BRFAs, which the State proposes to keep closed, are the most important fishing areas for fishermen from three islands. Their closures have created the greatest economic hardship of all the existing BRFAs for fishermen, as well social interaction issues through the
crowding of effort into the remaining open areas. The SSC concluded its discussion on this issue by reiterating the recommendation it had made in October 2013 that all BRFAs be eliminated in federal waters and the State be encouraged to remove all BRFAs in State waters as well. The SSC said the utility of the BRFAs to manage the bottomfish fishery has been superseded by mandatory annual catch limits (ACLs) that have been established based on the best scientific information available. Miysaka opposed the recommendation.

Coral Reef Fisheries Annual Quotas

The 2006 reauthorized MSA requires that all federally managed fisheries have ACLs. Exceptions include fisheries that are managed internationally, fisheries for species with life cycles of less than one year, and non-targeted species that are components of the ecosystem. The MSA also requires that the SSC determine the acceptable biological catch (ABC) and that the ACL recommended by the Council not exceed the ABC. Due to the data-poor situation of most coral reef fisheries in the
Western Pacific Region and the MSA deadline for setting ACLs, the initial ABCs and ACLs for the federally managed fisheries in the region were based on the average of historic catch. The result was catch limits that are severely underestimated for most of the fisheries.

The SSC recommended the use of a model that determines maximum sustainable yield (MSY) based on historic catch augmented by biomass estimates from fishery surveys. The SSC reviewed the outcomes of a working group established to determine overfishing limits for coral reef fisheries in the region.

The SSC concurred with the working group and recommended the adoption of the Biomass Augmented Catch-MSY (BAC-MSY) model for coral reef fisheries because it provides a reasonable approach to estimating MSY-based reference points for these otherwise data poor
stocks. The SSC noted that the BAC-MSY method makes more use of the available data than the current approach and that a similar model has been used to determine the quota for Hawai`i’s deepwater bottomfish in the MHI. The SSC also recommended using the 50 percent risk of exceeding
MSY as a reasonable proxy for the overfishing limit; making multiyear rather than annual determinations of ABCs for coral reef fisheries so as to reduce the administrative and scientific burden of more frequent re-analyses; and, when comparing catch to ACL, basing catch upon
an average of the three most recent years of catch data for a stock. The latter factor would allow enough time to effectively address short-term trends in productivity and fishery dynamics while balancing random fluctuations in catch rates. (See page 3 of this press release for the SSC’s
recommended ABCs for 2015-2018.)

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 (University 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); James Lynch (K & L Gates), Dr. Todd Miller (CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife); Alton Miyasaka (Hawai`i Division of Aquatic
Resources); Dr. Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa DMWR); 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.

Annual Biological Catch Recommendations for 2015-2018

Family Group

American Samoa
ABC (lbs)

Guam
ABC (lbs)

CNMI

ABC (lbs)

Hawai`i

ABC (lbs)

Selar crumenophthalmus – atule, atulai, akule or bigeye scad

38,400

52,300

89,400

1,025,000

Acanthuridae – surgeonfish

133,800

101,700

324,600

367,900

Carangidae – jacks1

20,800

29,900

47,400

168,100

Carcharhinidae – reef sharks2

To come

To come

To come

To come

Crustaceans – crabs

4,700

7,600

5,300

35,400

Holocentridae – squirrelfish

15,500

12,000

69,300

150,000

Kyphosidae – chubs/rudderfish

2,200

9,800

24,600

108,600

Labridae – wrasses3

16,600

25,800

59,900

211,000

Lethrinidae – emperors

20,400

58,000

58,200

36,600

Lutjanidae – snappers4

64,400

18,600

202,700

338,200

Mullidae – goatfish

12,000

15,600

29,200

173,100

Mugilidae – mullets

5,200

19,400

5,300

20,100

Mollusks – turbo snail; octopus; giant clams

20,200

25,000

11,600

38,200

Scaridae – parrotfish5

280,100

75,000

157,300

251,700

Serranidae – groupers

27,300

23,700

92,800

132,200

Siganidae – rabbitfish6

181

19,500

10,400

n/a

All other coral reef ecosystem (CRE) management unit species combined, i.e., other CRE finfish, other invertebrates and miscellaneous bottomfish, reef fish and shallow bottomfish

20,300

191,300

8,500

496,500

Cheilinus undulatus – humphead (Napoleon) wrasse6

1,743

1,960

2,009

n/a

Bolbometopon muricatum – bumphead parrotfish6

235

797

797

n/a

Algae

Not monitored

7,100

Not monitored

Not monitored

Decapterus macarellus – `opelu or mackerel scad

Not monitored

Not monitored

Not monitored

459,800

1 Carangidae in Hawai`I includes kahala (Seriola dumerili) since this species is not included in NMFS bottomfish stock assessments and is a reef associated species.

2 The Scientific and Statistical Committee will address reef sharks at its next meeting as the analysis is not yet complete.

3 Family Labridae does not include Cheilinus undulatus (humphead or Napoleon wrasse).

4 Lutjanidae in Hawai`i includes ta`ape (Lutjanus kasmira) since this species is not included in NMFS bottomfish stock assessments and is a reef associated species

5 Family Scaridae does not include Bolbometopon muricatum (bumphead parrotfish).

Siganidae – rabbitfish, C. undulatus and B. muricatum do not occur in Hawai`i.