Press Releases

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PR – Scientists to Advise on Marine Monument Fishing Regulations, American Samoa Large Vessel Prohibited Area, Kona Crabs, Annual Catch Limits (8 June 2017)

HONOLULU (8 June 2017) Renowned scientists from throughout the Pacific will convene in Honolulu June 13 to 15 to provide recommendations on managing fisheries in Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the US Pacific Remote Islands Areas.  The meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) is open to the public and runs 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400. Major agenda items include the following:
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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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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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Fishery Council Sends Letters to Obama on Impacts of Marine National Monuments (15 Dec. 2016)

HONOLULU (15 Dec. 2016) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is hopeful that when President Obama arrives in Honolulu tomorrow, he will acknowledge the $100 million commercial fishing industry in Hawai‘i and the impacts on that fishery by his expansions of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (MNM) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) and the Pacific Remote Islands MNM, which includes nearby Johnston Atoll. The value of the Hawaii longline fishery is excess of $300 million when factoring in retail markets and support industries and their employees.
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Press Release – Statewide Meetings Being Held on NWHI Marine Monument Fishing Regulations (Dec. 7, 2016)

HONOLULU (7 Dec. 2016) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council yesterday in Hilo began holding a series of public scoping meetings to prepare fishing measures for the newly expanded area of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). By Presidential executive order, commercial fishing will be prohibited and non-commercial and Native Hawaiian subsistence fishing will be regulated.
The meetings continue tonight in Kailua-Kona and end on Dec. 17 in Molokai.  Those unable to attend are welcome to send comments to info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov or by mail to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu, HI 96813.  At this scoping phase of the process, there is no comment deadline.
The expanded Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument prohibits commercial fishing in about 61 percent of the US EEZ around Hawai’i. Marine national monuments now comprise 51 percent of US EEZ waters in the US Pacific Islands.
 
Dec. 7 (W) 6 to 8 p.m. West Hawaii Civic Club, Bldg. G, 74-5044 Ane Keohokaloloe Hwy.,
Kailua-Kona, Big Island
Dec. 8 (Th) 6 to 8 p.m. Courtyard, Kahului Airport, 532 Keolani Pl., Kahului, Maui
Dec. 13 (T) 6 to 8 p.m. Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, 4431 Nuhou St., Lihue, Kaua’i
Dec. 15 (Th) 6 to 8 p.m. Ala Moana Hotel, Garden Lanai, 410 Atkinson Dr., Honolulu
Dec. 17 (S) 1 to 3 p.m. Kaunakakai Elementary School, 30 Ailoa St., Kaunakaki, Moloka’i
Agenda: Informational booths, Presidential proclamation on the PMNM expansion, Council’s rule-making role, data discovery questions and public comments.

For more information, go to www.wpcouncil.org or email info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov, ph. (808) 522-8220.
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Press Release – No Change Recommended for US Pacific Territories’ Longline-Caught Bigeye Tuna Limits (October 14, 2016)

HONOLULU (14 Oct. 2016) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council yesterday in Honolulu recommended that the US Participating Territory longline-caught bigeye tuna limits remain at 2,000 metric tons (mt) per Territory for 2017. Pending approval by the Secretary of Commerce, the Territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands (CNMI) are authorized to allocate up to 1,000 mt of their limit to US fishermen through specified fishing agreements as authorized under Amendment 7 of the Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Western Pacific Region. The amendment, which has been in place since 2014, requires that the Territory longline-caught bigeye tuna limits be reviewed and recommended on an annual basis.

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Press Release – Statewide Meetings to Be Held on NWHI Marine Monument Fishing Regulations (Oct. 14, 2016)

HONOLULU (14 Oct. 2016) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, in Honolulu today, agreed to the drafting of amendments and regulations to the Hawai‘i and Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) to accommodate provisions of the August 26th Presidential Proclamation that expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to encompass the entire 200-mile US exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. In accordance with the proclamation, the amendments would prohibit commercial fishing for federally managed precious corals, crustacean, bottomfish, pelagic and coral reef species. The regulations may allow non-commercial fishing and native Hawaiian traditional fishing practices including subsistence fishing and regulate other activities as appropriate.  
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