HONOLULU (5 November 2020) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council recently convened three virtual meetings in its continued efforts to support regional and local fishing and seafood communities. The meetings highlight the Council’s emphasis on collaboration among agencies and promoting stakeholder involvement in the fishery management process.
The Fishing Industry Advisory Committee (FIAC) is one of three advisory bodies to the Council required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act that provides input and recommendations on management and conservation actions from an industry perspective. Members include representatives from Hawaiʻi, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam in industry-related sectors such as fishing, seafood processing, distribution and marketing industries, fishing tackle and marine service and supply providers.
The Non-Commercial Fisheries Advisory Committee (NCFAC) has existed in a simpler form since 1999, but its purpose has now expanded from gathering recreational fishing data in Hawaiʻi to providing advice to the Council on non-commercial fishery issues, data collection and research. The Council also met with the State of Hawaiʻi and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to discuss improving state and federal fishery management coordination and filling regulatory and monitoring gaps.
FIAC members emphasized the tremendous impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on fishing and marketing. They put forward several recommendations to the Council, including supporting a Pacific Island-wide seafood promotion program, improving harbor safety and management, redesigning fish aggregating devices to be more environmentally responsible and ensuring industry representation on the national NMFS Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee.
The NCFAC meeting focused on the Council’s current data collection efforts and needs and research priorities. Committee members noted that smart device applications and electronic monitoring could be incorporated into existing data collection systems. The voluntary Hawaii Marine Recreational Fishing Survey collects non-commercial catch data, but garnering participation continues to be an issue. Members suggested increasing outreach efforts to fishermen regarding data usage to demystify the fishery management process, encourage participation and instill a sense of pride that they are part of the solution.
At the Council meeting with the State of Hawaii and NMFS representatives, participants acknowledged continuing data gaps and identified several areas where federal and state rules could be better aligned, especially in the non-commercial small-boat fisheries. While accurate, timely catch and effort data from fishermen is important for improving stock assessments and to minimize management uncertainty, some discrepancies still exist. For example, the Hawaiʻi longline and bottomfish fishermen report their fishing trip information within 72 hours of landing; and fishermen with state commercial marine licenses catching pelagics, uku, Kona crab and other species continue to report on a monthly basis.
All three groups plan to regularly meet and continue to address fishing community needs.