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Press Release – Scientists Lower Acceptable Biological Catch for Hawai‘i Deep-Water Bottomfish

HONOLULU (11 June 2015) At the conclusion of its three-day meeting today in Honolulu, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council set the acceptable biological catch (ABC) for prized deep-water bottomfish in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) for the 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 fishing years. The MHI bottomfish fishing year begins September 1 and ends August 31 of the following year. The Council will meet next week to recommend the annual catch limit (ACL) for the fishery, which is based on but may not be higher than the ABC. 

The SSC recommended that the ABC for the MHI deep-water bottomfish fishery be lowered from the 2014-2015 ABC of 346,000 pounds to 326,000 pounds for 2015-2016; 318,000 pounds for 2016-2017; and 306,000 for 2017-2018. These ABCs are based on a 2011 MHI bottomfish stock assessment model by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that was rerun with catch and catch-per-unit-effort data from the past three years and then adjusted for scientific uncertainty, based on an independent review of the model. These ABCs have an associated risk of overfishing of 39 percent. Federal law requires the risk be at 50 percent or below.

During the public comment period, bottomfish fishermen Roy Morioka and Ed Watamura noted the need to incorporate unreported catch of bottomfish and the impact of the bottomfish restricted fishing areas established by the State of Hawai‘i and other closed zones on the stock. Furthermore, they said the scientists need to re-examine the historical reconstruction and data sources, traditional knowledge and ratchet-down effect of the stock assessment model as well as revise the scientific uncertainty criteria to make them appropriate to the fishery.

As of June 5, 2015, the commercial MHI deep-water bottomfish fishery had landed 274,912 pounds or about 80 percent of the ACL for 2015-2016. The MHI deep-water bottomfish, also known as the Deep 7, include onaga (Etelis coruscans), ehu (E. carbunculus), opakapaka (Pristipomoides filamentosus), kalekale (P. sieboldii), lehi (Aphareus rutilans), gindai (P. zonatus) and hapuupuu (Epinephelus quernus). For more information on the fishery and an update on the catch, go to http://hawaiibottomfish.info/.

Among the additional items covered by the SSC this week was an update on the bottomfish stock assessments for American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The SSC noted that the territorial bottomfish are not overfished and overfishing did not occur in 2013. It recommended that the shallow-water and deep-water bottomfish complexes in the territories be considered separately as NMFS moves forward with the assessments.

This recommendation and others from the SSC and other Council advisory groups will be considered by the Council at its 163rd meeting, June 16-18, 2015, at the Harbor View Center, 1129 North Nimitz Highway, Honolulu. Fishermen and other members of the public are encouraged to participate in the meeting and provide their comments.

As part of the 163rd meeting, the Council will hold a Fishers Forum on Seafood Safety and Traceability, June 17, 2015, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Harbor View Center, 1129 North Nimitz Highway at Pier 38 (above Nico’s). This free, family friendly event will include information tables, speakers, public discussion, door prizes and more! Among the guest speakers is John Henderschedt, director of the NMFS Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, which is based in the Washington, DC, metro area. The office addresses international fisheries and sustainable seafood issues through effective engagement with science, policy and commerce of US seafood in the global economy. Those who can’t attend the Fishers Forum in-person can participate via webconference at www.wprfmc.webex.com/join/info.wpcouncilnoaa.gov. Henderschedt will also address the Council on June 18 during the last day of the Council meeting.

For more information on these events, the fishery management issues to be covered and how to provide written and/or oral testimony, please go to www.wpcouncil.org/meetings or contact the Council at info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov or call 808 522-8220.

Scientific and Statistical Committee: Judith Amesbury (Micronesian Archaeological Research Services); Dr. Paul Callaghan (University of Guam retired); Dr. Frank A. Camacho (University of Guam); Dr. Milani Chaloupka (University of Queensland); Dr. Charles Daxboeck, chair, (BioDax Consulting Tahiti); Dr. Richard Deriso (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission); Dr. Erik Franklin (Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology); Dr. John Hampton (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); David Itano (consultant); Dr. Pierre Kleiber (NMFS PIFSC, retired); Dr. Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Dr. Molly Lutcavage (University of Massachusetts); James Lynch (K&L Gates); Dr. Todd Miller (CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife); Alton Miyaska (Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources); Dr. Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa DMWR); Dr. Minling Pan (NMFS PIFSC); Dr. Craig Severance (University of Hawai`i at Hilo, 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 Hawai`i governors: Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Edwin Ebisui (Hawai`i) (chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency Ltd. (Hawai`i); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Julie Leialoha, biologist (Hawai`i); Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele, Port Administration (American Samoa); McGrew Rice, commercial and charter fisherman (Hawai`i) (vice chair); and William Sword, recreational fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair). Designated state officials: Suzanne Case, Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources; Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources; Richard Seman, CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources; and Matt Sablan, Guam Department of Agriculture. Designated federal officials: Matthew Brown, USFWS Pacific Islands Refuges and Monuments Office; William Gibbons-Fly, US Department of State; RAdm Cari B. Thomas, US Coast Guard 14th District; and Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office.