Contrary to Civil Beat Claims, Wespac Is Effective and Transparent

[Below is the Council’s full response submitted to Honolulu Civil Beat, including the section (highlighted in yellow) that Civil Beat redacted.]

In a series of recent articles and an editorial, the Honolulu Civil Beat made several allegations against the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, creating a false impression that Council members and staff operate with “limited oversight” and violate federal law. The Civil Beat called for an investigation into Council operations to address these purported issues.

These claims of impropriety are baseless and ignore the myriad laws, regulations, and policies that Council members and staff follow to properly implement the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), our nation’s primary fisheries law, and related statutes.

This is not the first time the Council has come under attack from the Civil Beat or special interest groups for carrying out the requirements of the MSA. Similar criticisms resulted in a formal Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of the Council from 2008 to 2009—an investigation that included multiple GAO auditors working for weeks in the Council office. The GAO’s final report vindicated the Council against allegations of improper lobbying, conflicts of interest, the use of and accounting for federal funds, and council operations. It also provided some recommendations to improve transparency, which the Council has incorporated.

Criticisms are a fact of life for the Council as it implements the MSA. Fishery management in Hawaii is a controversial subject. The Council, and the scientists it employs, must analyze complex scientific issues and make tough management recommendations to protect and utilize marine resources. This is a difficult task, particularly given the vast area within the Council’s jurisdiction and the many stakeholders with different interests in our fishery resources.

What these articles and the routine criticism by special interest groups overlook is the many successes the Council has had in balancing the complexities of environmental stewardship and commercial use, which are both recognized as important considerations by the MSA. The Council’s mission is to ensure fisheries are managed at optimum yield, consistent with the conservation needs of fish stocks and protected species. To that end, the Council is doing its job and doing it well.

Gov. Ralph Torres, CNMI-R, in October 2018 received a sub-award of $250,000 to fund a fisheries training and demonstration program. “We have a really good fishing industry here, but we need a lot of technical assistance for our fisheries and our fishermen on how to fish properly commercially, how to protect and preserve the fish and how to market the fish,” he said. “We’ve been collaborating with Wespac for many years, and I am very pleased to see this project moving forward. I believe that this will help with other fishing initiatives throughout the region. We are all very excited about this project and look ahead at sustainable fishery resources and training for the benefit of our community,” Gov. Torres added.

The Civil Beat implied that some MCP projects funded by the WPSFF were selected to benefit specific Council members. Here are the facts:

  • John Gourley was not a Council member at the time that his company, Micronesian Environmental Services, received a contract. Additionally, one of the identified grants came from the competitive Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program, not through the WPSFF.

  • Dean Sensui was not a Council member when he received funding to develop a new technique he had conceptualized for observing fish underwater without human interference and to test it in a project that compared Western science and traditional knowledge around a ko‘a (natural fish aggregation site).

  • In American Samoa, Malaloa was identified as the best spot for longline dock expansion in January 2015, nearly two years before Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, one of several longline vessel owners in American Samoa, and I became Council members.

  • The Guam Organization of Saltwater Anglers and Tom Camacho, not Manny Duenas, pursued the Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant fishing platform in Hagatna, a project strongly endorsed by Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo, and dedicated funds from a grant they received to pay a portion of the initial development and construction. Duenas, president of the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association, did not benefit from the fishing platform that helps people catch fish for themselves.


The Civil Beat stated that the Council is “mucking around in what is clearly state policy,” citing the Puwalu (conference) involving Native Hawaiians concerned with traditional and customary fishing practices. The Council frequently works with community organizations to increase understanding of the region’s fisheries and support the MSA’s public engagement goals. The Puwalu had grassroots support, involving kupuna (elders) from every island, and was a joint undertaking by the Council and the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs. It was co-funded by Kamehameha Schools, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Office of State Planning, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

More about ecosystem-based fisheries management in the region and the Puwalu is available in books by Edward Glazier, published by Wiley-Blackwell (2011) and by Palgrave Macmillan (2019). Additional references include the Aha Moku article by Timothy Bailey in Fishing People of the North (Alaska Sea Grant 2012) and Conservation of Pacific Sea Turtles (University of Hawaii 2011).

Finally, the Council works closely with the NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office and NOAA Office of General Counsel to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other information requests, including requests from the Civil Beat. These requests are addressed in the order received and often take substantial staff resources and time to process. Requests that are broad in scope (cover lengthy periods and/or across programs) will take much longer than requests that are narrowly focused. The Council will continue to respond to FOIA and other requests and encourages the public to review online resources, such as the Council’s website, for more information about the Council and its activities.

About the Author

Taotasi Archie Soliai of Pago Pago, American Samoa, serves as the chair of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. He is currently the human and government relations manager at StarKist Samoa and previously served as a member of the American Samoa House of Representatives (2007-2014). He has been a recreational fisherman for decades, and his primary fishery interest is sustainability.

Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds (3rd from left) in American Samoa with Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga (far left) and other members of the administration and Fono (legislature) at the 2013 opening of the Faga`alu Park Boat Ramp. This project was funded by the Council through a WPSFF contract and established in partnership with American Samoa’s Departments of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation.

Press Release – Fishery Managers Recommend Removing Bigeye Tuna Quota Limit for US Pacific Territories Consistent with International Provisions (27 June 2019)

HONOLULU (27 June 2019) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, yesterday in Honolulu, recommended removing the 2,000 metric (mt) annual catch limit for bigeye tuna caught by longline in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) for the US Pacific Territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Removal of the catch limit would bring parity between the US Territories and other Territories and Small Island Developing States (SIDs) in the region. The recommendation will go the US Secretary of Commerce for approval as part of Amendment 9 to the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) for the Western Pacific Region.
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Protected: Kitty Simonds’s testimony to House Natural resource committee on May 1, 2019

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Press Release – Turtles, Whales, Birds among Fishery Science Discussions This Week in Honolulu (12 March 2019)

HONOLULU (12 March 2019) Renowned scientists from throughout the Pacific began a three-day meeting today in Honolulu to consider a range of issues facing the offshore fisheries of Hawai‘i and the US Territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Recommendations from this group known as the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) will be forwarded to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which meets in Honolulu on March 18-21. The Council develops fishery management measures for the fisheries, which are transmitted to the US Secretary of Commerce for approval and implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

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2019 Hawaii Lunar calendar

2019 Kaulana Mahina (Hawaiian Lunar) Calendar (printable PDF version)

Links to the Hawaiian Lunar Calendar youtube videos
⇓⇓⇓(Click on the pictures below)⇓⇓⇓

About this Calendar ‘Okakopa (October 2018)
(November 2018)
(December 2018)
(January 2019)
(February 2019)
(March 2019)
(April 2019)
Mei (May 2019) Iune (June 2019) Iulai (July 2019)
(August 2019)
Kepakemapa (September 2019) ‘Okakopa
(October 2019)
(November 2019)
(December 2019)
About the Council
About the Contributors
About the YWCA About the YWCA O’ahu Fernhurst Residence
For complete video, click on the image below



2019-2022 Advisory Panel Membership Applications-DEADLINE EXTENDED TO SEPTEMBER 15

Looking for a Few Good Advisors!!!

Do you fish?   Do you want to get involved in managing our marine resources?  Then we want you!  The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Council) invites fishermen, members of fishery related industries, and other individuals from fishery or marine related organizations to apply for membership to the Advisory Panel (AP) for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.   Advisors provide advice to the Council on all aspects of the region’s fisheries and suggest management strategies.

The AP includes three sub-panels that focus on the American Samoa Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP), Hawaii Archipelago and PRIA FEP, and Marianas Archipelago FEP.  Each of these panels will also deal with the Pelagics FEP as well.

Applicants will be considered based on the following selection criteria:

  • Present or recent activity in recreational, commercial or subsistence fishing;
  • Present or recent involvement in the buying, processing or marketing sectors of the fishing industry and/or involvement in conservation or management organizations, fishing clubs or other organized groups concerned with marine or fisheries issues;
  • Willingness to play an active role in fisheries management; and
  • Ability to dedicate time for fishery document review and participate in meetings.

The AP terms are for four years and will commence Jan. 1, 2019.  Positions are voluntary (not paid).  However, members are reimbursed for expenses related to their participation in meetings.  Advisory Panel member selections will be made at the Council’s meeting in October.  Applicants will be notified shortly thereafter.

Applications are being accepted electronically and can be found at 

For those who may need other arrangements, please call the Council Office at (808) 522-8220 for assistance.  Completed applications must be received by the Council before September 15, 2018 (DEADLINE EXTENDED).


Mariana Archipelago FEP Advisory Panel

Date: October 20, 2018          Time: 8:30 am to 12:00 pm
Location: Tumon, Guam


Contractor Solicitation: Protected Species Program Technical Assistant to Update the SAFE Report Protected Species Modules and Improve Protected Species Information Base for Fisheries Management

The Council is seeking a contractor to provide technical assistance to the Council’s Protected Species Program in updating the protected species module of the Fishery Ecosystem Plan Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation (SAFE) Reports. The contractor may also assist with other projects to improve the protected species information base for fisheries management. The contract will run for a five-month period starting in January.

Applications should include 1) a cover letter; 2) resume or CV; and 3) at least one technical writing sample, submitted to the contact information below by 5pm (Hawaii) on Tuesday, December 12, 2017:

Asuka Ishizaki
Protected Species Coordinator
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
1164 Bishop Street, Suite 1400
Honolulu, HI 96813

For more information on the scope of work, please see the full solicitation.



Press Release: Scientists to Advise on NWHI Monument Fisheries, Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits

HONOLULU (29 Sept. 2016) President Obama’s proclamation expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) to include 532,578 square miles of ocean prohibits commercial fishing but allows non-commercial fishing including native Hawaiian subsistence fishing. In a letter dated Sept. 23, 2016, to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Pacific Islands Regional Administrator Michael Tosatto said that he looked “forward to the Council’s recommendations for amending the Hawai‘i and Pelagic fishery ecosystem plans to establish appropriate fishing requirements under the Magnuson-Stevens [Fishery Conservation and Management] Act, including the prohibition on commercial fishing and the regulation of non-commercial fishing.”
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