Press Release – Federal Fishery Managers to Develop Fishing Regulations for Proposed Hawai‘i National Marine Sanctuary (22 March 2022)

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HONOLULU (22 March 2022) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council said at its meeting today it will develop fishing regulations as part of the proposed Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) sanctuary designation. The NOAA sanctuary designation process includes a formal consultation with the regional fishery management councils on fisheries regulations at the start of the process. The Council will include options for permitting and reporting requirements for commercial (outside current monument boundaries), noncommercial, Native Hawaiian practices and research fishing within sanctuary boundaries.
Several Council members noted that since the proposed sanctuary boundaries are still undefined, the Council response and draft regulations should be kept broad. Matt Ramsey, Council member from Hawai‘i, remarked, “It’s important to have a clear understanding of what is being proposed for the sanctuary boundary. If it expands beyond the area that already restricts commercial fishing that is a completely different story.”
“I support moving ahead,” said John Gourley, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) vice chair. “We have enough areas closed to fishing and should develop fishing regulations under Magnuson-Stevens Act when allowed.”
The Council will amend its Hawai‘i Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan to analyze fishing alternatives in parallel to the sanctuary fishing regulations.
After reviewing recent data, the Council recommended rolling over the current annual catch limits for the main Hawaiian Islands deepwater shrimp (Heterocarpus laevigatus and H. ensifer) and precious corals for fishing years 2022-2025.
The Council also requested the National Marine Fisheries Service provide information to the State of Hawai‘i legislature regarding HB 1988 that proposes to prohibit the harvest, sale, import or export of coral products. Exceptions would be allowed for noncommercial harvest or research purposes. Included in the bill’s list of species are the Council’s precious coral managed species (pink, red, bamboo and black). The language may be inconsistent with federal regulations that allow commercial harvest of precious corals, and would essentially close the sustainably managed fishery.
The Council meeting continues tomorrow with discussions on a new Pacific strategy to address international fisheries issues and implications of a false killer whale weak hook study, among other topics. Instructions on connecting to Webex, agendas and briefing documents are posted at
The Council manages federal fisheries operating in waters offshore of the State of Hawai‘i, the Territories of American Samoa and Guam, the CNMI and the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Areas.
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawai‘i governors: Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Manny Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Will Sword, noncommercial fisherman/engineer (American Samoa) (vice chair); Monique Amani, business owner (Guam); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa); Matt Ramsey, Conservation International (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 Archie Soliai, American Samoa Dept. of Marine & Wildlife Resources (chair). Designated federal officials (voting): Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (nonvoting): Charles Brinkman and Rebecca Wintering, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and RADM Matthew Sibley, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District. 

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