Press Releases

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Press Release – Fishermen Identify Projects to Improve Fisheries Development in the US Pacific Islands (18 March 2019)

HONOLULU (18 March 2019) Projects to develop fisheries topped the list of needs identified by fishermen from Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) during their March 15 and16 meeting in Honolulu. The group, which constitutes the Advisory Panel (AP) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, also highlighted the importance of fishing to the communities of each of the island areas. They said that the social and economic value of the local and regional fisheries needs to better communicated.

The Advisory Panel of fishermen pointed out the need for fisheries development and improved public understanding of the socioeconomic importance of fisheries in Hawai‘i and US Pacific Islands.

“The Council welcomes the ideas and contributions of the Advisory Panel,” said Council Chair Archie Soliai. “This is a challenging time for fisheries, and the AP has a lot of work to do. ”

The Council will consider the AP recommendations when it meets tomorrow through Thursday at the YWCA Fuller Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu. Included among the suggested projects and activities from the AP are fishery demonstration projects; expanded use of technology to collect fishery data; characterization of existing fisheries in Hawai‘i; and improved fishing opportunities in Guam and the CNMI through improved fish aggregation devices, fishery access and reduction of shark depredation. 

AP members include representatives from diverse fisheries, including spearfish, longline, bottomfish, charter boat, subsistence and the fishery media. The AP is mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 

For agendas and background materials on the AP and Council meetings as well as the Fishers Forum tomorrow (March 19) 6 to 9 p.m. at the Ala Moana Hotel, go to www.wpcouncil.org/category/upcoming-council-and-advisory-body-meetings or contact the Council at info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov or (808) 522-8220.

Advisory Panel: American Samoa: Krista Corry, Sam Meleisea, Carlos Sanchez, Dustin Snow, William Sword, Brian Thompson; CNMI: Richard Farrell, Michael Fleming, Perry Mesgnon, Cecilio Raiukiulipiy, Ray Tebuteb, Jun Yamagishi; Guam: Judith Amesbury, James Borja, Ken Borja, Jason Miller, Matthew Orot, Tatiana Talavera; Hawai‘i: Nathan Abe, Khang Dang, Eddie Ebisui III, Gil Kualii, Carrie Johnston, Clay Tam

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawaii governors: John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (acting chair); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Dean Sensui, film producer (Hawaii) (vice chair); Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa) (vice chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawaii); Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, commercial fisherman (American Samoa); Edwin Watamura (Hawaii). Designated state officials: Raymond Roberto, CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources; Matt Sablan, Guam Department of Agriculture; Henry Sesepasra, American Samoa Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources. Designated federal officials (voting): Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (non-voting): RADM Kevin Lunday, USCG 14th District; Michael Brakke, US Department of State; Brian Peck, USFWS.

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Press Release – Change Is in the Air: Scientists Suggest New Approaches for Marine Mammal Interaction Mitigation, Spatial Management, Non-traditional Data Use, Hawai‘i Kona Crab Measures (15 March 2019)

HONOLULU (15 March 2019) The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council concluded a three-day meeting yesterday in Honolulu with a suite of recommendations to more effectively address issues facing fisheries in the US Pacific Islands. The SSC recommendations will be considered March 18-21 in Honolulu by the Council, a federal instrumentality created by Congress to develop fishery management measures for offshore fisheries in the US Pacific Islands. Recommendations of the Council that are approved by the US Secretary of Commerce are implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

False Killer Whales: The Southern Exclusion Zone (SEZ), a 132,000 square mile area in the offshore waters around the main Hawaiian Islands, was closed to the Hawai‘i longline fishery on Feb. 22, 2019, after its interactions resulted in a mortality and serious injury (M&SI) determination for two false killer whales. With the SEZ closed, less than 18 percent of US exclusive economic zone around Hawai‘i remains open to the fishery. The SEZ may reopen in 2020 if the average estimated false killer whale M&SI in the deep-set longline fishery within the remaining open areas of the EEZ around Hawai‘i for up to the five most recent years is below the potential biological removal (PBR) for the species. This Honolulu-based fishery lands about $100 million of sashimi-quality tuna, which stays principally in the state. The PBR is defined by the Marine Mammal Protection Act as the maximum number of animals that can be removed, not including natural mortalities, from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach and maintain its optimum sustainable population, i.e., its maximum productivity keeping in mind the carrying capacity of the habitat and health of the ecosystem. The SSC recommended that the Council request NMFS develop approaches to incorporate population viability analysis (PVA) to supplement the use of PBR and to reduce uncertainty in PBR estimates. PVA is a species-specific risk assessment method frequently used in conservation biology. The SSC also requested that the Council ask NMFS to provide the data needed for the SSC to develop the PVA in parallel to the NMFS process. It also asked that NMFS develop serious-injury determination criteria for false killer whales that are probability-based. Currently, NMFS considers the impact of a false killer whale determined to be seriously injured to be equivalent to the impact of a dead false killer whale, even though animals determined to be seriously injured are released alive.

Spatial Management: A subgroup of the SSC worked to define benefits and limitations to spatial management actions relative to regional fishery issues and management objectives. The working group explored time-area closures; adaptive/real-time closures and restrictions; permanent no-take closures; and alternative non-spatial management actions, such as gear restrictions. It discussed objectives of management actions, such as increasing targeted bigeye and albacore tuna abundance and reducing Hawai‘i longline interactions with sea turtles and false killer whales. It also identified criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of spatially managed areas. The SSC reviewed the outcomes of the working group and recommended that effective spatial management should have the following:

  • Objectives and performance metrics explicitly specified prior to developing a spatial management area in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the spatial management. The performance metrics should concurrently address conservation, economic and social objectives.
  • Regular monitoring of the performance of the spatial management area.
  • Planned and tenable compliance monitoring and enforcement.

The SSC said permanent closed areas are likely less effective than modifying fishing gear or methods to minimize protected species bycatch. It recommended regulations that would allow industry to find voluntary means to reduce bycatch and have input in the development of mitigation measures.

Non-government Data: A second SSC subgroup worked to develop a process to comply with the requirements of the Modern Fish Act, passed by Congress in December 2018, on the use of non-government information in fishery management decision-making. The SSC noted that the Council process is already designed to incorporate nongovernment sources of data and information when developing conservation and management measures. The SSC further noted that nongovernment authors should provide their scientific papers or data to the Council. Among other recommendations, the SSC recommended that workshops be considered to determine the range and evaluate the quality of data sets.

Hawai‘i Kona Crab: The SSC evaluated the benchmark assessment of the Hawai‘i Kona crab fishery and determined that it is the best scientific information available for status determination and setting harvest limits. The scientists said the assessment possibly accounted for a limited portion of the stock due to the small geographic extent of the commercial fishery relative to the larger distribution of the stock in Hawai‘i as well as a lack of information on noncommercial fishing activities. It suggested that female crabs discards be recorded on fishermen trip reports and that a stock assessment model be used that can account for sex-specific dynamics, since State of Hawai‘i management measures allow the take of males but requires females to be discarded. The SSC recommended that the sex ratio of Kona crab at Penguin Bank be studied to evaluate the potential effects on the stock from the sex-selective fishery and reiterated its strong recommendation that extension of the closed season, changes in mesh size, retention of females and other alternative management options be evaluated to stimulate fishermen participation in this healthy fishery. Fishery participation had declined significantly after the non-retention of female Kona crabs went into effect.

US Territory Longline Bigeye Tuna Quota: Regarding the federal quotas of longline-caught bigeye tuna for the US Pacific Territories that participate in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the SSC noted that the projected impacts of allowing each US Territory to transfer 1,000 or up to 2,000 metric tons (mt) of their 2,000 mt quotas to permitted US longline fishing vessels would not lead to bigeye overfishing and are consistent with the Commission’s management objectives. The WCPFC is an international regional fishery management organization that sets quotas and other management measures for tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

For more information on the SSC and Council meetings, go to www.wpcouncil.org; email info@wpcouncil.org or phone (808) 522-8220.The Council Standing Committees meet March 18 at the Council office, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, and the full Council meets March 19-21 at the YWCA Fuller Hall at 1040 Richards St. A Fishers Forum on Using Life History in Stock Assessments will be held on March 19 from 6 to 9 p.m.at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Hibiscus Ballroom, 410 Atkinson Dr., as part of the Council meeting. The public is invited to all of these meetings.

Scientific and Statistical Committee: James Lynch (K&L Gates LLP) (chair); Debra Cabrera (University of Guam); Frank Camacho (University of Guam); Milani Chaloupka (University of Queensland); Erik Franklin (University of Hawai‘i, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology); Shelton Harley (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (SeaState Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources); Ryan Okano (Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources); Graham Pilling (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); Kurt Schaefer (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission); Craig Severance (University of Hawai`i at Hilo, retired); Michael Tenorio (CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife; and Michael Seki (ex-officio) (NMFS PIFSC).

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawaii governors: Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa) (chair); Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, commercial fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Dean Sensui, Hawaii Goes Fishing (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawai‘i); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai‘i); McGrew Rice, charter boat captain (CNMI). Designated state officials: Raymond Roberto, CNMI Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawai‘i Dept. of Land & Natural Resources; Chelsea Muña-Brecht, Guam Dept. of Agriculture; Henry Sesepasra, American Samoa Dept. of Marine & Wildlife Resources. Designated federal officials (voting): Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (non-voting): RADM Kevin Lunday, USCG 14th District; Michael Brakke, US Department of State; Brian Peck, USFWS.

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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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Press Release – Modern Recreational Fisheries Management Act Implications in the Western Pacific Region (10 January 2019)

HONOLULU (10 January 2019) On the last day of 2018, President Trump signed into law the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act (S. 1520), also known as the Modern Fish Act. The bill, which had been stagnant since its introduction in 2017, was pushed through by the efforts of the same coalition of sports fishing organizations that earlier in the year supported the amended Billfish Conservation Act of 2012. The amended Billfish Act had major consequences for the commercial fisheries in Hawaii and the US Pacific Island territories by banning interstate commerce of a sustainable, traditional fishery in the islands. The Modern Fish Act, on the other hand, is more targeted toward the management of recreational fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico but may have implications for fisheries management in the Western Pacific Region, i.e., the US Pacific Islands.
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Press Release – Federal Managers Delay Final Recommendations on Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtle Interactions with Hawaii Swordfish Fishery (Dec. 18, 2018)

The fishery is scheduled to reopen on Jan. 1, 2019, with allowable interactions of 26 leatherbacks and 17 loggerheads. Should either interaction level be reached, the fishery will close for the remainder of 2019, unless the biological opinion currently in development allows for higher interaction levels and NMFS implements new regulations.

The current leatherback level is based on a 2012 biological opinion, while, consistent with a court-approved settlement agreement, the loggerhead level is based on a 2004 biological opinion. As a result of a split Ninth Circuit decision, a federal district court vacated the loggerhead cap of 34, while leaving the leatherback interaction limit of 26 in place.  The lawsuit settlement also closed the fishery from May 8 to Dec. 31, 2018.
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Press Release – Honolulu Ranks as 7th Most Valuable US Port in Seafood Landed (Dec. 13, 2018)

HONOLULU (13 December 2018)  The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), aka NOAA Fisheries, today released its Fisheries of the United States, 2017 report, with Honolulu continuing as the 7th most valuable US port in terms of landed seafood. The port with the highest value of seafood was New Bedford, Mass., with $389 million in landings, followed by five Alaska ports with landings ranging from $106 million to $173 million. Hawaii’s $104 million in landings was followed by 8th-place Empire-Venice, La., with $100 million in landings; 9th place Cape May-Wildwood, NJ, with $81 million in landings; and 10th-place Sitka, Alaska, with $75 million in seafood landings.
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Press Release: Federal Managers Make Recommendations for Guam, Hawaii Fisheries (Oct. 28, 2018)

Guam Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio opened the Council meeting yesterday on Guam, stating it is up to our leaders to “ensure that your children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy the harvest of the seas and make sure our people enjoy the relative cleanliness that we expect of our waters.” Pictured with Tenorio is Council Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds

TUMON, GUAM (28 October 2018) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council yesterday in Guam concluded its four-day meeting in the Mariana Archipelago with the following recommendations, among others, regarding Guam and Hawaii nearshore fisheries and other matters. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the Council has authority over fisheries seaward of state waters of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the US Pacific Remote Islands.
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Media Advisory – Opening of Fishery Management Council Meeting on Guam Today Delayed to 4 p.m., Lt. Gov. to Address Council on Saturday (Oct. 25, 2018)

TUMON, GUAM (26 October 2018) the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will begin the second half of its 174th meeting from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today, Friday, Oct. 26, at the Hilton Guam Resort and Spa. The Council meeting on Guam was originally scheduled to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

The Fishers Forum on Guam’s Spearfish Fishery that was scheduled to be held today from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hilton Guam Resort and Spa has been cancelled.

The meeting will continue tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 27, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. as originally scheduled. Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio is scheduled to provide welcoming remarks to the Council on Saturday.

These changes are due to typhoon Yutu and resultant canceled commercial flights to Guam from Saipan, where the Council met on Oct. 23 and 24.

For the agenda and other information on the Council meeting, go to www.wpcouncil.org/category/upcoming-council-and-advisory-body-meetings/ or email info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov.

What:        174th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council

When:       Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where:     Hilton Guam Resort and Spa, Tumon, Guam

If you have any questions, please contact Sylvia Spalding at (808) 383-1069 or sylvia.spalding@noaa.gov or Felix Reyes at (671) 483-1904 or efesar05@yahoo.com.

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Press Release – Federal Managers Make Recommendations to Keep US Pacific Island Fisheries Viable (Oct. 24, 2018)

GARAPAN, COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS (24 October 2018) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council yesterday concluded its two-day meeting in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) with recommendations regarding pelagic, international and American Samoa fisheries. Underpinning the discussions were concerns about keeping healthy, sustainable US Pacific Island fisheries viable amid an accumulation of US regulations and international negotiations. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the Council has authority over fisheries seaward of state waters of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the CNMI and the US Pacific Remote Islands.
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Press Release- Federal Managers Present Gov. Torres with $250K for Fisheries Training, Recommend Bottomfish Catch Limits and Other CNMI and Protected Species Measures (Oct. 23, 2018)

GARAPAN, COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS (23 October 2018) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council opened its 174th meeting yesterday in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) with the presentation of a check for $250,000 to  Gov. Ralph Torres and Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Anthony  Benavente. The funds stem from the 2017 bigeye fishing agreement between the Commonwealth and Hawaii longline vessels.

(from right) Council Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds presents $250K check to Gov. Ralph Torres accompanied by CNMI Senate President Arnold Palacios, Council Acting Chair John Gourley of CNMI and CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Anthony Benavente.

In presenting the check, Council Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds said to Gov. Torres that “the funds will be used to implement a bottomfish training and fishing demonstration project, which would then lead hopefully to purchase of a vessel to help with your fishery development,” which Torres had mentioned earlier in his opening remarks to the Council. “The Council has long recognized your huge fisheries development potential for both domestic and export markets,” Simonds continued. “Bottomfish resources in the CNMI are healthy and abundant, and we look forward to this project that will train the next generation of CNMI fishermen.”

“This $250K will give us a not just a head start but an excellent opportunity to promote our fishermen and our resources so we can market not just our fish but the way we handle our fish,” Torres responded. “It’s about partnership.”
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