Press Release – Western Pacific Council Supports Hawaiʻi Industry Request to Test Bird Scaring Lines as Seabird Interaction Mitigation Measure (03 December 2020)

News and Updates, Press Releases

HONOLULU (03 December 2020) The Hawaii Longline Association has requested an experimental fishing permit for the deep-set longline fishery to test tori line efficacy without the use of blue-dyed bait when fishing north of 23° N. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council today in Honolulu endorsed the application and recommended that National Marine Fisheries Service issue the permit as soon as possible. If approved, the permit would be the first of its kind issued in the Western Pacific Region and field trials could start in early 2021.

Tori, or bird scaring, lines have been internationally recognized as an effective seabird mitigation measure, while data show using blue-dyed bait is less effective than alternative measures. The food-grade blue dye has also become increasingly difficult to source. The Council recommended developing a regulatory amendment to the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan to evaluate options for allowing the use of tori lines in lieu of blue-dyed bait. The results from the tori line study will inform the development of the regulatory amendment.

“I support these efforts to improve and streamline conservation measures in the fleet,” said Council member Roger Dang, owner of longline vessels and Fresh Island Fish of Hawai‘i. “The small Hawaiʻi fleet has minimal impact on seabird populations, but has many more regulatory requirements than foreign fleets on the high seas. Any changes to streamline these requirements will help us and make sense for the fleet,” he noted.

Action on specifying the annual catch limit (ACL) and the rebuilding plan for the American Samoa bottomfish fishery was deferred. The stock is overfished and subject to overfishing. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires the Council to take action to end overfishing immediately and rebuild overfished stock within 10 years. In the past quarter, four fishermen landed a total of 665 pounds of bottomfish.

Deferring action allows the Council to support the American Samoa government in finalizing its territorial bottomfish fishery management plan. With 85% of bottomfish habitat located within territorial waters, it is essential that local and federal governments work together to manage the fishery. Henry Sesepasara, director of the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, recommended the Council postpone action. “We are in the process of providing feedback to the draft plan and will be completing it by January 2021,” he said.

The Council requested NMFS to extend the American Samoa interim catch limit of 13,000 pounds of bottomfish for an additional 185 days from the expiry date of May 17, 2021, while the Council finalizes conservation and management measures to end overfishing in the fishery. A new stock assessment is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

The Council meeting concludes tomorrow by web conference (Webex). Instructions on connecting to Webex, agendas and briefing documents are posted at www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars.

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawai‘i governors: Archie Soliai (American Samoa) (chair); Michael Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Monique Amani, business owner (Guam); Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (Hawai‘i); and 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; and 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): Michael Brakke, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and RADM Matthew Sibley, USCG 14th District.

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