News and Updates

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Federal Management Efforts Support Commercial, Subsistence and Cultural Fisheries
 in the US Pacific Island (3/24/2017)

HONOLULU (24 March 2017) A bill introduced in the US Senate in mid-February to amend the

Hawaii average annual revenue from commercial billfish landings (not including swordfish), 2011-2015. Source: 2015 Pacific Island Pelagic Fisheries Stock Assessment and Evaluation Report. www.wpcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2017-01-31_Final-2015-SAFE-Report.pdf

Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 would negatively impact Hawaii’s commercial fisheries. It is generally estimated that 20 percent of Hawaii billfish catch (about 550,000 pounds) is sold to US mainland seafood markets annually at a worth of approximately $600,000 in landed, wholesale revenue. The existing law allows billfish landed by US fishing vessels in Hawaii and the US Pacific territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands to be sold in markets on the US mainland. The proposed amendment would prohibit it. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, during its 169th meeting this week in Honolulu, voiced concerns about the proposed legislation and will provide information to the Secretary of Commerce on the stock status of Pacific billfish and the economic impact of the introduced amendment. The Council noted that US mainland sport fishing tournaments target billfish and requested information from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the estimated number of billfish killed in these US mainland tournaments and whether or not the billfish retained goes to local consumption.
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Federal Managers Seek to Retain US Fishery Access to US Waters (3/23/2017)

HONOLULU (23 March 2017) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council concluded its three- day meeting in Honolulu today with a suite of recommendations, many of which are focused on keeping US fishing grounds open to sustainably managed US fisheries. The Council includes the local fishery department directors from Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), fishing experts appointed by the Governors and federal agencies involved in fishing-related activities.
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Federal Managers to Consider Regulating Fisheries in the Expanded NWHI Marine Monument, Designating Thousands of Species as Ecosystem Components (3/20/2017)

HONOLULU (20 March 2017) Developing new fishing regulations for the expanded marine national monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) and identifying marine species to be federally managed as components of the ecosystem are two key issues to be addressed at the 169th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. The meeting runs tomorrow through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Honolulu and is open to the public. The Council includes the local fishery department directors from Hawai’i, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), fishing experts appointed by the Governors and federal agencies involved in fishing-related activities.

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Winter 2017 Pacific Islands Fishery Newsletter

Click here for printable pdf

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FR Notice – Pacific Island Pelagic Fisheries; Deep-Set Tuna Longline Fisheries (02/13/2017)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement; public meetings; request for comments.

SUMMARY: NMFS, in coordination with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), intends to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze the environmental impacts of the continued authorization and management of U.S. Pacific Island deep-set tuna longline fisheries under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific (FEP) and other applicable laws. The analysis would include certain longline fisheries based in Hawaii, the U.S. west coast, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Publication of this notice begins the public scoping process to determine the scope of the environmental issues for consideration in the PEIS and allowing interested parties to suggest fishery management issues to be considered in the PEIS. The PEIS is intended to support management of U.S. pelagic longline fisheries.
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Feds to Analyze Environmental Impacts of Western Pacific Longline Fisheries for Tuna (Feb. 16, 2017)

HONOLULU (16 Feb. 2017) The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced on Monday  its intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze the environmental impacts of U.S. Pacific Island deep-set tuna longline fisheries managed under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific (Pelagic FEP) and other applicable laws. The PEIS will be developed in coordination with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), which develops, monitors, and amends the Pelagic FEP.

“The PEIS is a proactive step in the management of deep-set tuna longline fisheries,” said Council Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds. “It streamlines environmental review for future management decisions and facilitates the ability of fisheries to adaptively respond to changing conditions.”

U.S. longline vessels at Pier 38 in Honolulu to land their tuna catches at the Honolulu fish auction.

Public scoping meetings on the PEIS will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 21 in Hilo and Feb. 23 in Honolulu, Hawaii; Feb. 28 in Utulei, March 1 in Tafuna and March 2 in Pago Pago, American Samoa; March 7 in Susupe, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI); and March 9 in Mangilao, Guam. The public is invited to comment on issues that NMFS should address in the draft PEIS related to management of the deep-set tuna longline fisheries. This will assist NMFS and the Council in determining the scope of the environmental issues and in developing a reasonable range of fishery management alternatives to analyze in the draft PEIS.

Deep-set tuna longline fisheries authorized under the Pelagic FEP are based in Hawaii, the West Coast, American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI and target tunas deeper than 100 meters. The primary fleets are in Hawaii and American Samoa. Access to the Hawaii longline fisheries is limited to 164 vessels, of which about 140 are typically active. Most vessels with Hawaii longline permits are based in Hawaii, and about 10 operate from West Coast ports. Access to the American Samoa deep-set tuna fishery is limited to 60 permits. Historically, a few deep-set tuna longline vessels operated out of Guam and the CNMI, but these fisheries have been inactive since 2011.

The Notice of Intent can be accessed and downloaded from the Federal Register website at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/02/13/2017-02820/pacific-island-pelagic-fisheries-deep-set-tuna-longline-fisheries. Additional information about deep-set tuna longline fisheries managed under the FEP and the progress of the PEIS can be found http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/SFD/pelagic_deepset_tuna_longline_fisheries_pacific_islands_peis.html. 

Under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the Council manages fisheries seaward of the state and territorial waters around American Samoa, the CNMI, Guam, Hawai’i and the U.S. possessions in the Western Pacific Region (Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Palmyra, Jarvis, Howland, Baker, Midway and Wake Islands).

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawai`i governors: Edwin Ebisui Jr. (Hawaii) (chair); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, commercial fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); McGrew Rice, commercial and charter fisherman (Hawaii) (vice chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawaii); Dean Sensui, film producer (Hawaii);  Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa). Designated state officials: Suzanne Case, Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources; Richard Seman, CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources; Matt Sablan, Guam Department of Agriculture. Designated federal officials: Matthew Brown, USFWS; Michael Brakke, US Department of State; RAdm Vincent B. Atkins, USCG 14th District; and Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office.

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Fishery Council Releases Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Report for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region (Feb. 7, 2017)

HONOLULU (7 Feb. 2017) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is pleasedto announce the release of the 2015 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) Report for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region. Pelagic fisheries are the single largest fishery sector in the region, accounting for more than 90 percent of the landings and value of commercial fish catches. Recreational pelagic fisheries and charter fisheries are also extremely important in the Western Pacific. Noncommercial catches of some species in Hawai’i, such as yellowfin tuna, may exceed the commercial catch. For-hire or charter fisheries are also very important in Hawai’i, where the charter fleet in Kona is the largest charter fishery in the world based on blue marlin.
 
“The 2015 SAFE Report represents a major advance in the monitoring and evaluation of the pelagic fisheries in our region,” said Council Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds. “Besides the usual complement of fishery modules found in previous reports, the 2015 report has in-depth chapters on protected species, stock assessment summaries, socio-economics and human dimensions of pelagic fisheries, climate and oceanic indicators, essential fish habitat and marine planning.”

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FR Notice – 12-Month Finding on a Petition To List Giant and Reef Manta Rays as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act 1/12/2017

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding; request for comments.

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 12- month finding on a petition to list the giant manta ray (Manta birostris) and reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We have completed a comprehensive status review of both species in response to this petition. Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, including the status review report(Miller and Klimovich 2016), and after taking into account efforts being made to protect these species, we have determined that the giant manta ray (M. birostris) is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout a significant portion of its range. Therefore, we propose to list the giant manta ray as a threatened species under the ESA. Any protective regulations determined to be necessary and
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FR Notice – List of Fisheries for 2017 1/12/2017

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) publishes its final List of Fisheries (LOF) for 2017, as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The LOF for 2017 reflects new information on interactions between commercial fisheries and marine mammals. NMFS must classify each commercial fishery on the LOF into one of three categories under the MMPA based upon the level of mortality and serious injury of marine mammals that occurs incidental to each fishery. The classification of a fishery on the LOF determines whether participants in that fishery are subject to certain provisions of the MMPA, such as registration, observer coverage, and take reduction plan (TRP) requirements.
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FR Notices – Pacific Tuna Fisheries; 2017 and 2018 Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean 1/18/2017

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.
SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act to implement Resolution C–16–08 (Measures for the Conservation and Management of Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean). This Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) Resolution establishes annual and trip catch limits on commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) in waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) for 2017 and 2018. This action is necessary for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC.
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