Press Release – WP Council to Address Final Fishing Regulation Recommendations for Proposed US PRI Sanctuary (07 December 2023)

News and Updates, Press Releases

HONOLULU (07 December 2023) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will meet next week to discuss its final recommendations for fishing regulations in the proposed Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Sanctuary (PRINMS). At its last meeting in September, Council members initially found that existing regulations may already meet the goals and objectives of the proposed sanctuary. This decision was based on a recommendation from the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) after a thorough review of existing rules and regulations in the Council PRI Fishery Ecosystem Plan and available data from NOAA.

For commercial fishing on pelagic stocks, the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) presented data indicating that fishing in the PRI has a minimal impact on tuna stocks. The catch in the PRI accounts for less than 1% of the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for skipjack and yellowfin tuna and only 3.5% of the MSY for bigeye tuna. More importantly, these tuna stocks are neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.

Last week, the SSC discussed at its meeting a NOAA PIFSC report on the Economic Contributions of U.S. Commercial Fisheries in American Samoa that documents hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs that are directly or indirectly supported by the industry. The Committee found no scientific evidence to support additional fishing rules in the proposed sanctuary and cautioned against causing unintended negative impacts on the U.S. fleet and the underserved community of American Samoa.

The existing Council decision-making process under the Magnuson-Stevens Act allows for shared stewardship with state and territorial partners, as well as domestic and international partnerships in managing highly migratory pelagic fish species such as Pacific tunas. The Council has been in the forefront of engaging with indigenous and traditional communities in American Samoa, Hawai‘i, Guam and the CNMI to utilize traditional knowledge in modern management practices. 

The Council has long implemented enduring and comprehensive fishing regulations in the Western Pacific, such as a region-wide total prohibition on ‘destructive’ gears in 1986 to protect habitat, vulnerable species and biodiversity. 

The Council will discuss and may take action on annual catch limits for the American Samoa bottomfish fishery for 2024-2026, a revision to the Hawai‘i Fishery Ecosystem Plan regarding the essential fish habitat designation for gray jobfish (uku), and bigeye tuna catch limits and allocation for the U.S. Pacific Territories.

The Council meets next week virtually Dec. 12-13, 2023, with host sites at 1164 Bishop St., Ste. 1400, Honolulu, HI; Tedi of Samoa Bldg. Ste. 208B, Fagatogo Village, American Samoa; Cliff Pointe, 304 W. O’Brien Dr., Hagatna, Guam; BRI Bldg. Ste. 205, Kopa Di Oru St., Garapan, Saipan, CNMI. Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agendas and briefing documents are posted at www.wpcouncil.org/event/197th-council-meeting.

Reference: Hing Ling Chan. 2023. Economic Contributions of U.S. Commercial Fisheries in American Samoa. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-PIFSC-151, 35 p. doi:10.25923/x904-a830. Available online at: https://repository.library.noaa.gov/view/noaa/55943

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, the CNMI, Guam and Hawai‘i governors: Will Sword, noncommercial fisherman/engineer (American Samoa) (chair); Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Manny Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Judith Guthertz, University of Guam (Guam); Pete Itibus, noncommercial fisher (CNMI); Shaelene Kamaka‘ala, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (Hawai‘i); and Matt Ramsey, Conservation International (Hawai‘i). Designated state officials: Dawn Chang, Hawai‘i Dept. of Land & Natural Resources; Sylvan Igisomar, CNMI Dept. of Lands & Natural Resources (vice chair); Chelsa Muña, Guam Dept. of Agriculture; and Archie Soliai, American Samoa Dept. of Marine & Wildlife Resources (vice chair). Designated federal officials (voting): Sarah Malloy (acting), NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (nonvoting): Colin Brinkman, U.S. State Dept.; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and RADM Michael Day, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.

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