Press Release – Feds, Local Managers to Work with Fishermen on Bottomfish Issues in US Pacific Territories (11 March 2020)

News and Updates, Press Releases

HONOLULU (11 March 2020) Recent stock assessments by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that the bottomfish stocks in the Territories of American Samoa and Guam are overfished and the bottomfish fishery in American Samoa is undergoing overfishing. In October 2019, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council recommended that NMFS implement interim measures to address rebuilding of the stocks and overfishing in American Samoa. Today in Honolulu the Council additionally recommended that staff work with NMFS and the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources on consistent in-season monitoring and accountability measures; the training of bottomfish fishermen on electronic reporting; and the potential use of a temporal-spatial closure.
 
To develop the rebuilding plans for the overfished stock, select members of the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and Advisory Panel will work with NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) and Pacific Islands Regional Officeto gather needed information. Public meetings will also be held in the two Territories to explore the range of potential management measures for the plans.
 
To address comments from fishermen that data used in the stock assessment were not accurate, the Council will work with the Territory agencies and NMFS on an outreach plan on the importance of accurate and robust data collection and the management efforts for the bottomfish fisheries in American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
 
Another comment made by fishermen regards the current federal management of bottomfish as a single stock complex in each of the Territories. In response, the Council requested that PIFSC develop a new bottomfish benchmark assessment on a species resolution that is deemed appropriate during a data preparation workshop at the soonest time practicable. PIFSC was asked to also explore other modeling approaches and data sets aside from the creel surveys and commercial receipt books currently used (e.g., electronic self-reporting) and to engage fishermen throughout the stock assessment process. The Council will work with NMFS and Territory agencies to review the bottomfish management list and discuss the available options and regulatory consequences of adding and removing species from the list.
 
The Council today also specified annual catch limits (ACLs) for the CNMI and Guam bottomfish fisheries for fishing years 2020-2023. For the CNMI, the Council recommended an ACL of 84,000 pounds (a 39 percent risk of overfishing) and an annual catch target (ACT) of 78,000 pounds (34 percent risk of overfishing). For Guam, the Council recommended an ACL of 27,000 pounds (31 percent risk of overfishing), which allows the catch to be maximized while preventing overfishing and allowing the stock to rebuild within five years. Because data collection systems in Guam and CNMI do not allow for near-real time tracking of catches, the Council recommended a post-season accountability measure where the ACL for the succeeding year will be reduced by the amount of the overage determined by the three-year average of recent catch.
 
The Council meeting continues tomorrow at the YWCA Fuller Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, 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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