HONOLULU (11 September 2020) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and its Standing Committees will meet virtually by web conference (Webex) Sept. 14-17, 2020, to discuss management of federally regulated fisheries in offshore waters surrounding Hawai’i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and eight Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIAs). The meeting agendas, briefing documents and instructions on connecting to Webex can be found online at www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars or by contacting the Council at email@example.com or at (808) 522-8220. The Pelagic and International Standing Committee and Executive and Budget Standing Committee will meet noon to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (HST), respectively, on Monday. The Council will meet 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. In its deliberations, the Council will consider public comments and recommendations from its advisory bodies, including the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), which met virtually Sept. 9 and 10, 2020. Among the items to be considered by the Council are the following:
Hawai’i Small-Boat Fishery: The Council will explore options to require mandatory federal permits and reporting for small-boat vessels fishing in federal waters around Hawai’i (3 to 200 miles from shore). Small boat is defined as those vessels using fishing gear other than longline. The goal is to better understand the impact of fishing, particularly by noncommercial vessels, on federally managed species. Currently, only the commercial and bottomfish sectors of the Hawai’i small-boat fishery are required to have permits. Other than the commercial vessels, only the noncommercial bottomfish vessels operating in federal waters are required to provide catch reports.
CURRENT PERMIT & REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR HAWAI’I OFFSHORE FISHERIES
Commercial fishermen operating in state or federal waters must have a state-issued commercial marine license and report their catches.
Commercial and noncommercial fishermen targeting seven species of deep-water bottomfish in state or federal waters around Hawai’i must register their vessels with the State, but the noncommercial vessels operating solely in state waters are not required to provide reports. For the fishing year 2019-2020, which ended Aug. 31, a total of 934 main Hawaiian Islands Deep-7 bottomfish vessels were registered. Of these vessels, 280 were noncommercial.
Noncommercial vessels targeting Deep 7 bottomfish in federal waters are required to have a federal permit and report their catches. Currently, only two vessels are federally permitted and no reports have been provided recently.
The Council held public scoping meetings around the Hawaiian Islands in February 2020 and a virtual Fishers Forum that included a presentation and public discussion on the proposed action on Aug. 27, 2020. The SSC this week recommended that the Council consider a pilot mandatory permitting and reporting project for the Hawai’i small boat fishery to be conducted on a small-scale across on all island areas. The SSC reiterated its position that all fish caught in the fishery should be counted. However, it also noted that enforcement would be a major challenge. The pilot permitting project may provide an opportunity to promote buy-in from the noncommercial fishing community and data to inform a full-scale permitting and reporting scheme including catch-and-effort data for the noncommercial sector.
Grey Snapper Annual Catch Limits: Hawai’i grey snapper, known locally as uku, is managed federally under an annual catch limit (ACL). The fishing year for the species runs Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. The Council is set to recommend the uku ACL for fishing years 2022-2025. The ACL can be equal to the acceptable biological catch, which is determined by the SSC, or below it in consideration of social, economic, ecological and management uncertainties. At its meeting last week, the SSC set the acceptable biological catch at 135 metric tons (297,624 pounds), which equates to a 43% risk of overfishing.
Longline Mandatory Electronic Reporting: The Council is expected to take final action on mandatory electronic reporting for longline fisheries in the Western Pacific Region. The proposed measure would require vessel operators to record and submit logbook data electronically using an electronic logbook application certified by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). If the Council moves forward with the proposed measure, it will consider whether to apply it to the Hawai’i longline fishery alone or also to the American Samoa limited entry vessel size classes C and D (50 feet in length or greater).
Longline Seabird Interaction Mitigation: The Council will consider a preliminary report on demonstrations and field trials to evaluate the practicality and efficacy of tori lines (also known as streamer lines or bird scarring lines) for mitigating albatross interactions in the Hawai’i deep-set longline fishery. Preliminary results indicate that tori lines are effective in reducing albatross contacts on baited hooks when used in conjunction with existing seabird bycatch mitigation measures. Last week, the SSC reviewed the report and recommended that the Council consider including tori lines as an additional seabird mitigation option for all Hawai’i longline fisheries.
PRIA Marine Conservation Plan: In June 2020, the Council approved the Marine Conservation Plan (MCP) for the PRIAs and directed staff to transmit the document to the NMFS Regional Administrator for review, approval and publication in the Federal Register. Subsequently, Council staff found that the MCP objectives and activities were inconsistent with the longline fisheries for the region and should be updated. Council staff updated the objectives and included projects supporting the longline fisheries of the region. The Council will review and consider approving the revised MCP.
Scientific and Statistical Committee: James Lynch (K&L Gates LLP) (chair); Debra Cabrera (University of Guam); Frank Camacho (University of Guam); Milani Chaloupka (University of Queensland); Erik Franklin (University of Hawai’i, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology); Shelton Harley (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (SeaState Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Dept. of Marine and Wildlife Resources); Ryan Okano (Hawai’i Division of Aquatic Resources); Graham Pilling (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; and Michael Seki (ex-officio) (NMFS PIFSC).
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.