Press Release – Scientists to Consider Rebuilding Plan for American Samoa Bottomfish and Other US Pacific Islands Fishery Management Issues (4 June 2020)

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Alia boats used for bottomfishing docked at the Malaloa Marina in Pago, Pago, American Samoa. The SSC may provide advice on potential options that could simultaneously rebuild the bottomfish stock, end overfishing and keep the fishery open.

HONOLULU (4 June 2020) Scientists from throughout the Pacific will convene June 9-11, 2020, to discuss fishery management issues and make recommendations for future management of fisheries in the Western Pacific Region. The meeting of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will be held by web conference. The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at Among the agenda items are the following:

American Samoa Bottomfish Fishery

The Council has asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to apply an interim measure provided for in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) that would allow for overfishing to be reduced but not ended for a period of one year or less. The interim measure would allow the biomass to rebuild while minimizing the impacts of a severe reduction in catch to the fishing community. NMFS calculated that at 13,000 pounds the stock would still see a 1% increase in biomass. However, implementation of the interim measure would be challenging because only 15% of the bottomfish habitat is in federal waters and fishing effort is mostly in territorial waters. NMFS will provide an update on where it is at in terms of completing the interim measure rule.

The MSA requires the Council to specify the annual catch limit (ACL) in conjunction with the SSC setting the acceptable biological catch for the American Samoa bottomfish fishery for fishing years 2021 to 2024. Council staff will provide an update on the specification process. Given the scientific uncertainty of the fishery, working groups have recommended a 30% risk of overfishing. The law allows up to a 50% risk of overfishing. The catch associated with a 30% risk level given the 2019 stock assessment for the fishery by NMFS is 2,000 pounds. The average annual catch from 2016 to 2018 has been 18,352 pounds.

The 2019 stock assessment found the American Samoa bottomfish fishery to be overfished (the stock biomass is below the level needed for it to reproduce at maximum sustainable yield) and subject to overfishing (the level of fishing effort is not sustainable, i.e., would lead to an overfished status). The Council, in consultation with its SSC, must develop and implement within two years a plan that would rebuild the overfished stock within 10 years. At the same time, the Council must immediately end overfishing. The current projection from NMFS shows the stock could rebuild within 10 years with an ACL ranging between 0 to 1,500 pounds.

The SSC may provide advice on potential options that could simultaneously rebuild the bottomfish stock, end overfishing and keep the fishery open.

Stock Definitions

Stock status definition criteria for the management unit species under each of the five Council Fishery Ecosystem Plans will be developed and used to provide guidance on National Standards 3 of the MSA.Bottomfish stocks in two adjacent island areas for the same management units are currently split up by jurisdictional boundaries, which may not be commensurate with the distribution of the management units. Research on reef fish shows no genetic differentiation in adults and recruits between the two regions. In the case of North Pacific striped marlin, stock boundaries are dictated by geopolitical jurisdictional boundaries drawn by regional fishery management organizations. Like territorial bottomfish, this stock has issues for which jurisdictional boundaries are not consistent with biological information (genetics, movement from tagging, life history commonalities) that should replace jurisdictional boundaries for defining stocks. National Standard 3 of the MSA states; “To the extent practicable, an individual stock of fish shall be managed as a unit throughout its range, and interrelated stocks of fish shall be managed as a unit or in close coordination.”

Main Hawaiian Island Uku

The SSC will hear a report on the review of the 2020 main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) uku (Aprion virescens; grey snapper) stock assessment. The review was performed in Honolulu Feb. 24-28, 2020. Model estimates of population biomass show a gradual decline from 1948 to the late 1980s, followed by a brief period of stability and a substantial increase in biomass starting in the early 2000s. The SSC will determine if the assessment is the best scientific information availablefor fishery management decisions.

Electronic Reporting

Council staff will be presenting an overview of the Catchit Logit app suite, an electronic reporting system developed by the Council in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. This is an integrated reporting system where the fisher app and fish vendor app are linked by the administration app. This provides a near-real-time reporting system and an alternative source of fishery-dependent data to support the development of a new stock assessment. This self-reporting system is supported by the mandatory license and reporting regulations in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam (still being developed). Council staff will show elements of the app and dashboard system that automatically summarize the data of individual fishermen on their devices and a public version that summarizes the data for the fishery as a whole. This effort will also be supported by comprehensive outreach to the fishing community and a training workshop for fishermen and fish retailers that will be participating in this program.

Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets June 22-25, 2020, by web conference (Webex) with host sites at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa, Chuchuko Room, 202 Hilton Rd., Tumon Bay, Guam; Hyatt Regency Saipan, Royal Palm Ave., Micro Beach Rd., Saipan, CNMI; and Department of Port Administration, Airport Conference Room, Pago Pago International Airport, Tafuna Village, American Samoa. Instructions on connecting to Webex, agendas and briefing documents will be posted at


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.

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