News and Updates

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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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FR Notice – Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology 1/19/2017

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
Commerce.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: This final rule interprets and provides guidance on the requirement of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) that all fishery management plans (FMPs), with respect to any fishery, establish a standardized reporting methodology to assess the amount and type of bycatch occurring in a fishery. The final rule establishes requirements and provides guidance to regional fishery management councils and the Secretary of Commerce regarding the development, documentation, and review of such methodologies, commonly referred to as Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodologies (SBRMs).
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FR Notice – 2016 Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures 1/18/2017

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.
ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments.
SUMMARY: NMFS proposes annual catch limits (ACLs) for Pacific Island bottomfish, crustacean, precious coral, and coral reef ecosystem fisheries, and accountability measures (AMs) to correct or mitigate any overages of catch limits. The proposed ACLs and AMs would be effective for fishing year 2016. The fishing year for each fishery begins on January 1 and ends on December 31, except for precious coral fisheries, which begin July 1 and end on June 30 the following year. Although the 2016 fishing year has ended for most stocks, we will evaluate 2016 catches against these proposed ACLs when data become available in mid-2017. The proposed ACLs and AMs support the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands.
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Fall 2016 Pacific Islands Fishery Newsletter

Click here for printable PDF

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Marine Education and Training (MET) Mini grant program is now accepting applications

The Marine Education and Training (MET) Mini grant program is now accepting applications. Please share with others that may be interested.

Federal Funding Opportunity: NOAA-NMFS-PIRO-2017-2005072
Full Announcement via Grants.gov: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=290838
Due Date: Proposals must be received by http://www.Grants.gov, postmarked, or provided to a delivery service by 5:00 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time, on February 23, 2017.

2017 Marine Education and Training (MET) Mini Grant Program
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA/NMFS) is soliciting competitive applications for the 2017 Pacific Islands Region Marine Education and Training Mini-Grant Program. Projects are being solicited to improve communication, education, and training on marine resource issues throughout the region and increase scientific education for marine-related professions among coastal community residents, including indigenous Pacific islanders, Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented groups in the region.Projects should prepare communities for employment in marine related professions, increase seafood and fishing safety, marketing, or management; or increase the sustainability of fishing practices through technology improvements or data collection.
For more information on the program, visit grants.gov and download the full funding opportunity.