HONOLULU (8 March 2018) Renowned scientists from throughout the Pacific today concluded a three-day meeting in Honolulu to develop 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. Recommendations from the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will be considered by the Council next week Wednesday through Friday at the Laniakea YWCA, Fuller Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu. Fishermen and other members of the public are invited to attend the meeting and provide their comments and testimonies. Among the recommendations made by the SSC are the following:

Loggerhead turtle. Photo courtesy of Col Limpus.

Sea turtle interactions in the Hawai‘i shallow-set longline fishery: Loggerhead turtle interactions in the Hawaii longline fishery that sets shallow to target swordfish are associated with a temperature band between 17.5° C to 18.5° C, which provides the basis for the NOAA TurtleWatch map. Available online at https://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/eod/turtlewatch.php, the map provides up-to-date information about the thermal habitat of loggerhead turtles north of the Hawaiian Islands. The SSC recommended improvements to the map to provide additional information that would be useful for fishermen in making decisions for avoiding loggerhead turtles while fishing for swordfish. It also recommended that the Council consider how more timely information on sea turtle interactions could be provided to the fleet through improved communication. The scientists also recommended that sea turtle interactions be managed through an industry-implemented, non-regulatory, transferable interaction quota system or a fleet-wide hard cap with other innovative and efficient methods.

2018 longline-caught bigeye tuna limits for the US Territories in the Pacific: The SSC said the projected impacts of a 2,000 metric ton (mt) catch limit each for American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI should not lead to bigeye overfishing and the projected impacts of allowing each territory to transfer 1,000 mt or 2,000 mt of its limit are essentially the same. The territories are authorized to allocate their catch to federally permitted, US longline vessels through Specified Fishing Agreements.

American Samoa Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA): Currently, vessels larger than 50 feet in length are prohibited from fishing within 50 nautical miles (nm) around the islands of Tutuila, Manu‘a and Swains. In 2015, the Council’s preference was to modify the LVPA exemption area to 12 nm around these islands for the local US longline fleet so as to improve their economic efficiency while taking into consideration the need to prevent overfishing and impacts on small vessels. Subsequently, a federal court determined that consideration must also be given to protecting American Samoa cultural fishing practices. The SSC found that the large vessel economic situation could be addressed while also preventing gear conflicts and supporting preservation of cultural fishing opportunities.

American Samoa swordfish trip limit: A measure implemented in 2011 limits the amount of swordfish that American Samoa longline vessels can land to 10 per fishing trip. The measure mirrored regulations applicable to the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery at the time, which have subsequently changed. While 97 percent of the American Samoa longline trips involve catches of less than 10 swordfish, there are instances when more than 10 swordfish are caught per trip. Swordfish discards as a result of the trip limit regulations result in unnecessary discards and loss of revenue for an economically distressed fishery. Unnecessary swordfish discards also reduce local swordfish supply including swordfish that may be given away to the community and for cultural reasons. The SSC recommended that the Council consider removing the swordfish trip limit. The SSC said such action would not have adverse impacts to the swordfish stock and would eliminate unnecessary regulatory discards that currently reduce revenue for the longline fleet as well as the local swordfish supply. The SSC noted that removal of swordfish trip limit would not lead to increased sea turtle interactions because gear configurations and fishing effort would remain the same.

For the complete SSC and Council meeting agendas and associated documents, go to www.wpcouncil.org/category/upcoming-council-and-advisory-body-meetings/ or email info@wpcouncil.org or phone (808) 522-8220.

Scientific and Statistical Committee: Debra Cabrera (St. John’s School, Guam); Frank A. Camacho (University of Guam); Milani Chaloupka (University of Queensland); Erik Franklin (Hawai`I Institute of Marine Biology); Shelton Harley (Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); James Lynch (K&L Gates LLP); Steve Martell (SeaState Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources); Ryan L. Okano (Hawai‘I Division of Aquatic Resources); Graham Piling (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).


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. (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); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawai‘i); Dean Sensui, film producer (Hawai‘i); Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa). Designated state officials: Anthony Benavente, CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawai`I 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 Vincent B. Atkins, USCG 14th District; Michael Brakke, US Department of State; Brian Peck, USFWS.