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Press Release – Federal Managers Agree to a US Pacific Island Marine Aquaculture Management Program, Ecosystem Component Species Reclassification (15 March 2018)

HONOLULU (15 March 2018) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council took initial action today in Honolulu to establish an aquaculture management program for the US exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters (generally, 3 to 200 miles offshore) of the US Pacific Islands and to reclassify hundreds of species as ecosystem components.
The Council is mandated by Congress to manage federal fisheries of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the US Pacific Remote Island Areas. Recommendations by the Council are transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval.
“Supplementing the harvest of domestic fisheries with cultured product would help the United States meet consumers’ growing demand for seafood and may reduce the dependence on seafood imports,” notes Kitty M. Simonds, the Council’s executive director.

The aquaculture plan would establish a regional permitting process and provide a comprehensive framework to regulate activities so as to protect wild fish stocks and fisheries. Requirements would include a federal permit that is renewable and transferable, an aquaculture operations plan, prohibition areas, allowable species, and recordkeeping and reporting.
The Council is expected to take final action on the plan during its next meeting, scheduled for June 12 to 15, 2018, in Honolulu, pending completion of a programmatic environmental impact statement by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Council also today agreed to reclassify hundreds of species it manages as “ecosystem component species” and to retain dozens of species as “management unit species.” The species that remain classified as in need of conservation and management” include about a dozen bottomfish species each found in American Samoa, Guam, CNMI and Hawai’i as well as seven precious coral, two crustacean and three seamount groundfish species in the Hawai’i Archipelago.
All of the coral reef ecosystem species would be reclassified as ecosystem component species, given that they are mostly caught in state/territory waters rather than federal waters. Management measures and implementing regulations would be retained for the ecosystem component species, but other federal actions would no longer be required such as stock assessments, annual catch limits and essential fish habitat designations.
The Council is expected to take final action on the reclassification of the species at its June meeting, pending the completion of an environmental assessment.
The Council heard the positive results from a new benchmark stock assessment for seven Hawaii deep-water bottomfish species. The assessment was endorsed by an independent review panel and the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee. The Council will take final action on the 2018-2019 annual catch limit for these species at its June meeting. The quota could increase by about 200,000 pounds over the current quota of 306,000 pounds.
The Council will conclude its meeting tomorrow. For an agenda and background documents, go to  www.wpcouncil.org/category/upcoming-council-and-advisory-body-meetings/ or email info@wpcouncil.org or phone (808) 522-8220.

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.