Press Release – Council Holds First Virtual Fishers Forum Highlighting Fishermen Contributions to Science and Management (31 August 2020)

News and Updates, Press Releases

A fisherman releases a tagged yellowfin tuna as part of a dispersal study off Hawaiʻi. Understanding movement patterns and behavior are important to effectively manage fish populations. Photo courtesy Molly Lutcavage, PIFG.

HONOLULU (31 August 2020)  More than 100 people participated in the Western Pacific Regional  Fishery Management Council’s first virtual Fishers Forum and review of Hawaiʻi small-boat fisheries management Aug. 27, 2020. The theme for the forum was fishermen, particularly non-commercial fishermen, contributing to the knowledge base for fishery scientists and managers. Scientists highlighted research projects that depend upon fishermen input and collaboration to be successful. Council staff informed participants about Hawaiʻi small-boat fishery management regulations currently in place and discussed future options for mandatory permitting and reporting.

Hawaiʻi small-boat fishery management and other matters will be considered by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee when it meets Sept. 9-10, 2020, by web conference (Webex) and during the Council meeting Sept. 15-17, 2020, also by web conference with host sites at Cliff Point, 304 W. O’Brien Dr., Hagatna, Guam; Hyatt Regency Saipan, Royal Palm Ave., Micro Beach Rd., Saipan, CNMI; and Department of Port Administration, Airport Conference Rm., Pago Pago International Airport, Tafuna Village, American Samoa. Instructions on connecting to Webex, agendas and briefing documents will be posted at
Fishermen Helping Science
Molly Lutcavage, Pacific Islands Fisheries Group (PIFG) and Large Pelagics Research Center, demonstrated how fishermen helped to identify tuna movement patterns through fish tagging, which is critical to answering many scientific and management questions. Cassie Pardee and John Wiley, Poseidon Fisheries Research, shared how biosamples provided by fishermen, primarily at fishing tournaments, contributed to the determination of coral reef fish life history characteristics such as life span and reproductive age and size. Justin Hospital, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center (PIFSC), emphasized that fishermen’s responses to socioeconomic surveys is critical to support effective fisheries management because it helps NMFS better understand the fishing community and its motivations and the benefits and costs of regulations, among other issues.
Review of Hawaiʻi Small-Boat Fisheries Management
Council staff gave an overview of Hawaiʻi small-boat fisheries regulations in effect and current sources of fishery data. Non-commercial fishermen are not required to report their fishing effort, catch or participation, resulting in the bulk of the data used in management decisions coming from commercial data logbooks and non-commercial estimates derived from surveys and models, which are highly uncertain. This uncertainty may lead to future possible allocation management measures between non-commercial and commercial sectors.
The Magnuson Stevens Act, under which the Council operates, requires the regular review of fishery ecosystem management plans to evaluate their effectiveness. During his opening remarks at the forum, Ed Watamura, Council vice chair for Hawaiʻi, asked listeners to imagine “fishery regulations that are created and never revisited, never reviewed and never taken off the books, even though they are not working and not enforceable.” In October 2019, the Council directed staff to review Hawaiʻi small-boat fisheries management. The overall process of reviewing regulations includes many steps such as the public scoping meetings held in February 2020 across the state that pointed at the need for non-commercial fishery data, and developing options for mandatory permitting and reporting.
The options presented ranged from taking no action, continuing to rely on existing data gathering methods and potentially leading to impacts from quotas and international management, to mandatory reporting that would provide the data needed for science and management in federal waters but would require fishermen to apply for permits or provide catch reports, something that would be unfamiliar to them.
Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Council has worked to resolve conflicts between longline vessels and small-boat fisheries due to overlapping fishing grounds and effort. Longliners from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean traveled as close as three miles out from the main Hawaiian Islands to set their lines. In response, the Council initiated 50 and 75-mile longline exclusion zones.
Several forum participants expressed concern about the possibility of removing the longline exclusion area, while others echoed the need for more fishery data, asked about plans for additional fish aggregating devices and encouraged the Council to focus their efforts on marketing and promoting local, fresh seafood.
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 Hawaiʻi, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology); Shelton Harley (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); Jason Helyer (Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS PIFSC); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (SeaState, Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Dept. of Marine and Wildlife Resources); Graham Pilling (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); Kurt Schaefer (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission); Craig Severance (University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, retired); Michael Tenorio (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (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 Hawaiʻi governors: Archie Soliai, StarKist (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 (Hawaiʻi) (vice chair); Monique Amani, business owner (Guam); Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (Hawaiʻi); and McGrew Rice, charter boat captain (CNMI). Designated state officials: Anthony Benavente, CNMI Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawaiʻi 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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