Press Release – Feds Set to Address Management of Main Hawaiian Islands Uku, American Samoa Bottomfish and Longline Interactions with Protected Species (19 June 2020)

News and Updates, Press Releases

The uku (Aprion virescens, grey snapper) stock in the main Hawaiian Islands is not overfished nor subject to overfishing according to a NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. The fishery is considered to be data-rich, using a fishery-independent measure of biomass, length and local life history information gathered from the commercial and non-commercial sectors. The 2018 spawning stock was estimated to be 1.8 million pounds, which is 2¾ times the calculated sustainable threshold of 663,705 pounds. The Council will use the acceptable biological catch set by its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to specify the annual catch limit for the fishery for fishing years 2021-2024.

The 2019 assessment of the American Samoa bottomfish fishery indicates that the stock is overfished and subject to overfishing. The National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) notified the Council of its obligation to end overfishing immediately and develop and implement within two years a plan that would rebuild the overfished stock within 10 years. The fishery harvests multiple species of varying depth range and has diverse life history characteristics for which information is sparse and borrowed from other areas. Data sources are creel surveys that estimate total catch and commercial receipt books that capture fish sold to the market. The SSC has recommended that the Council work with American Samoa to develop management options and explore effort and biological limits and area management, as any federal measure would apply to federal waters only, i.e., beyond 3 nautical miles from shore. The SSC also recommended that the bottomfish rebuilding plan include cultural harvest in the offshore banks for deep-water snappers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection efforts have been reduced with unknown consequences on the quality of data that will represent fishing year 2020.

Endangered Species Act consultations are ongoing for the Hawai‘i and American Samoa longline tuna fisheries regarding interactions with protected species. Based on available scientific information, the impact by these US longline fisheries is low compared to foreign fisheries and any measure implemented in these US fisheries is likely to have a limited effect on the population. The Hawai‘i-based deep-set longline fishery targeting bigeye tuna and American Samoa longline fishery targeting albacore are monitored with 20% federal observer coverage.

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawai‘i governors: Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa) (chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Michael Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa); Monique Amani, business owner (Guam); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (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; 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 Dept. of State; and Brian Peck, US Fish and Wildlife Service.   

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