Press Release – Council Urges Reopening of Fishing Grounds Based on New False Killer Whale Study (11 March 2020)

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HONOLULU (11 March 2020) A new study indicates that the pelagic stock of false killer whales around the Hawaiian Islands may be healthier than previously thought. Amanda Bradford of NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center presented the research yesterday to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which has authority over fisheries in the US exclusive economic zone (EEZ, i.e., generally 3 to 200 miles offshore) of Hawai‘i and other US islands and territories in the Pacific. The Council is meeting this week in Honolulu.

In light of the new population estimates, the Council yesterday asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to explore reopening the Southern Exclusion Zone (SEZ), a 132,000-square-mile area spanning the entire EEZ south of the main Hawaiian Islands. Since 2012, the SEZ is closed to the Hawai‘i longline fishery when it interacts with two pelagic false killer whales that result in a mortality and serious injury determination by NMFS. The closed SEZ leaves only 17.8 percent of the EEZ around the Hawaiian Islands open to the fishery.

When the SEZ was implemented, the estimated population size of pelagic false killer whales allowed a maximum of nine individuals from the stock to be removed by means other than natural mortalities. Above that number could impair the stock’s ability to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population, it was determined. The new estimates may indicate a need to modify that number.

The Council meeting continues today and tomorrow at the YWCA Fuller Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. To participate by web conference: Go to https://wprfmc.webex.com/join/info.wpcouncilnoaa.gov. For more information on the meeting, go to www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars, email info@wpcouncil.org or call (808) 522-8220.

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); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa); Monique Genereux, business owner (Guam); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawai‘i); McGrew Rice, charter boat captain (CNMI). Designated state officials: Anthony Benavente, CNMI Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawai‘i Dept. of Land & Natural Resources; Chelsa Muña-Brecht, Guam Dept. of Agriculture; Henry Sesepasara, 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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