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FR Notice – Pacific Island Pelagic Fisheries: 2019 U.S. Territorial Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits (Jun. 21, 2019)

Action

Proposed specifications; request for comments.

Summary

NMFS proposes a 2019 limit of 2,000 metric tons (t) of longline-caught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific territory (American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)). NMFS would allow each territory to allocate up to 1,000 t each year to U.S. longline fishing vessels in a specified fishing agreement that meets established criteria. As an accountability measure, NMFS would monitor, attribute, and restrict (if necessary) catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna, including catches made under a specified fishing agreement. The proposed catch limits and accountability measures would support the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands.

Dates

NMFS must receive comments by June 21, 2019.


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Press Release – New Dates, Times for Meeting to Address Sea Turtles Interactions with Hawaii Longline Fishery for Sustainably Caught Swordfish (29 March 2019)

HONOLULU (29 March 2019)

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has announced that the Biological Opinion (BiOp) Review Advisory Panel meeting scheduled for April 2 and the 177th Council meeting scheduled to be held April 4 have been postponed. The new date and time for the BiOp Review Advisory Panel is April 12 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (HST). The agenda is review of the BiOp for the Hawaii-based shallow-set longline fishery for swordfish. The new date for the Council meeting is April 12 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (HST) or noon to 3 p.m. Samoa Standard Time and April 13 from 9 a.m. to noon Chamorro Standard Time. The meeting will be held by teleconference and webinar. The Council will discuss the Draft BiOp for the Hawaii-based shallow-set longline fishery for swordfish as well as management of loggerhead and leatherback sea turtle interactions in that fishery (final action).

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The Hawaii longline swordfish fishery closed on March 19 after it interacted with the 17th loggerhead turtle for the year. All of the turtles were released alive. The fishery has 100 percent observer coverage, i.e., a federal observer is on every vessel on every trip to monitor protected species interactions. This observer coverage level is extraordinary and an order of magnitude higher than other competing fishing nations. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission requirement is only 5 percent coverage, which most other nations have not met. The United States also operates with measures to reduce and report bycatch at levels that other fishing nations do not implement.
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“Closure of this healthy, underutilized fishery is not only an economic loss for the Hawaii fishery but also has no discernible stock conservation benefit for the Pacific,” notes Council Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds. “The catch from the Hawaii fleet will be supplanted by the catch from foreign fleets that have far less monitoring and bycatch mitigation.”
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The United States was usurped by Taiwan in the late 1990s as the second leading fishing nation to harvest North Pacific swordfish (Japan leads in landings) as US landings declined. The Hawaii fishery accounted for between 55 percent (2017 and 2008) to 34 percent (2012) of the US domestic swordfish landings.
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Projections of the stock through 2026 along with recommendations by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean determined that the stock is not fully utilized and could withstand a significant, yet sustainable increase in harvest. Such an increase in harvest of about 50 percent from recent catches to near maximum sustainable yield would maintain a healthy stock.
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The North Pacific swordfish stock was assessed in 2018 and determined to be nearly double spawning stock biomass at maximum sustainable yield (87 percent over SSBMSY) with fishing mortality determined to be less than half of fishing mortality at maximum sustainable yield (45 percent of FMSY). Spawning stock biomass has increased nearly by 10,000 metric tons since 2000 and has not breached below its commonly used biological reference point (SSBMSY) in any year in the stock’s assessment timeline (1975-2016). The stock had only been considered to be experiencing overfishing (breaching FMSY) in 1993.
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Lack of supply from the sustainable Hawaii shallow-set fishery may increase pressure on other swordfish stocks to meet market demands. This may have inadvertent consequences to stocks, such as those in the Atlantic, that are not as healthy as the North Pacific stock.
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The BiOp Review Advisory Panel meeting will be held by teleconference and webinar. The host site is the Council office, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu. The teleconference number is US toll free (888) 482-3560 or international access +1 (647) 723-3959; the access code is 5228220. The webinar url is https://wprfmc.webex.com/join/info.wpcouncilnoaa.gov.
The 177th Council meeting teleconference number is US toll free (888) 482-3560 or international access +1 (647) 723-3959; the access code is 5228220.
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The webinar url is https://wprfmc.webex.com/join/info.wpcouncilnoaa.gov. Host sites are a) Council office, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu; b) Native American Samoa Advisory Council Office Conference Rm., Pava’ia’i Village, Pago Pago, American Samoa; c) Guam Hilton Resort and Spa, 202 Hilton Rd., Tumon Bay, Guam; and d) Department of Land and Natural Resources Conference Rm., Lower Base Dr., Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
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For the agendas and background materials on the meetings, go to www.wpcouncil.org or contact the Council at info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov or (808) 522-8220.
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The Council was established by Congress in 1976 and has authority over fisheries seaward of state waters of Hawai’i, Guam, American Samoa, the CNMI and the Pacific remote islands. Recommendations that are regulatory in nature are transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for approval and then implemented by that National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and enforced by NMFS and the US Coast Guard.
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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); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen's Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, commercial fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); Dean Sensui, Hawaii Goes Fishing (Hawaii) (vice chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawaii); McGrew Rice, Ihu Nui Kona Sportfishing (CNMI); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawaii). Designated state officials: Raymond Roberto, CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources; Matt Sablan, Guam Department of Agriculture; Henry Sesepasra, American Samoa Department 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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FR Notice – Closure of the 2019 Hawaii Shallow-Set Pelagic Longline Fishery (March 28, 2019)

SUMMARY: This final rule closes the Hawaii shallow-set pelagic longline fishery north of the Equator for all vessels registered under the Hawaii longline limited access program. The shallow-set fishery has reached the annual limit of 17 physical interactions with North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles, so NMFS must close the fishery for the remainder of the calendar year, or until further notice. This action is necessary to comply with regulations that establish maximum annual limits on the numbers of interactions that occur between longline fishing gear and sea turtles.

DATES: Effective March 27, 2019, through December 31, 2019. Compliance date: 9:50 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST) on March 19, 2019, through December 31, 2019.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Harman, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office, 808–725–5170.

Click here for complete FR Notice.

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FR Notice – 2018 U.S. Territorial Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Nov. 7, 2018)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Announcement of a valid specified fishing agreement.

SUMMARY: NMFS announces a valid specified fishing agreement that allocates up to 1,000 metric tons (t) of the 2018 bigeye tuna limit for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to identified U.S. longline fishing vessels. The agreement supports the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands, and fisheries development in the CNMI.
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FR Notice – 2018 U.S. Territorial Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits (Oct. 23, 2018)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Final specifications.

SUMMARY: In this final rule, NMFS specifies a 2018 limit of 2,000 metric tons (t) of longline-caught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific territory (American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)). NMFS will allow each territory to allocate up to 1,000 t each year to U.S. longline fishing vessels in a valid specified fishing agreement. As an accountability measure, NMFS will monitor, attribute, and restrict (if necessary), catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna, including catches made under a specified fishing agreement. These catch limits and accountability measures support the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands.

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Press Release – Scientists Support Electronic Reporting for Hawaii Longline Fishery, Comment on Proposed Increase in Fishery’s Bigeye Quota (October 18, 2018)

HONOLULU (18 October 2018) Scientists from throughout the Pacific concluded their three-day meeting yesterday in Hilo on the island of Hawai‘i recommending that the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council take initial action to require mandatory electronic reporting for the Hawaii longline fleet. These and other recommendations by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) on federally managed fisheries of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the US Pacific Remote Islands will be considered by the Council at its 174th meeting to be held Oct. 23 and 24 in Saipan, CNMI, and Oct. 26 and 27 in Guam. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the Council has authority over fisheries seaward of state waters in Hawaii and other US Pacific Islands.
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