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Press Release – Federal Fishery Managers Finalize Main Hawaiian Islands Deep-Water Bottomfish Catch Limit Recommendations, Voice Opposition to Humpback Whale Sanctuary Expansion

HONOLULU (17 June 2015) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council  today in Honolulu recommended that the annual catch limits (ACLs) for seven prized species of deep-water bottomfish (known locally as the Deep 7) caught in waters around the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) be set 326,000 pounds for fishing year 2015-2016; 318,000 pounds for 2016-17; and 306,000 pounds for 2017-18. The fishing year for the MHI Deep 7 begins September 1 and ends on August 31 the year following. The recommendations will be forwarded to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval.

These ACLs correspond to a risk of overfishing of 44 percent, 42 percent and 39 percent, respectively. In order to prevent the ACL from being exceeded, an in-season closure will be used when the ACL is reached. While the ACL is based on commercial catch records, the closure would apply to both commercial and noncommercial vessels in both federal and state waters.

Also today, the Council voiced its non-support for the proposed expansion of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The proposal would geographically enlarge the Sanctuary by 17 percent and change the Sanctuary resources from humpback whales only to include the entire marine ecosystem. The Council noted that the proposed expansion would be redundant and could confuse the public as existing federal and State agencies already have authority to provide the management proposed. The Council will send a letter to Office of National Marine Sanctuaries recommending that the Sanctuary continue to focus on outreach and education regarding Central North Pacific humpback whales, even though these whales are not proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The Council meeting continues tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. at the Harbor View Center, 1129 North Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, to address issues regarding the Mariana Archipelago and pelagic and international fisheries. The public is invited to attend the meeting or follow it online at https://wprfmc.webex.com/join/info.wpcouncilnoaa.gov. For more on the Council actions, email info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov or phone (808) 522-8220.

The Council was established by Congress under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976 to manage domestic fisheries operating seaward of State waters around Hawai`i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Pacific Island Remote Island Areas.

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; David Hogan, US Department of State; RAdm Cari B. Thomas, US Coast Guard 14th District; and Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office.