Press Release – Fishery Management Council Recommends NOAA Support Local Communities in Hawai‘i (18 April 2023)

Hawaii Archipelago, Press Releases

HONOLULU (18 April 2023) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council continues its efforts to persuade NOAA officials to allow Native Hawaiian fishing to recover costs related to their permitted fishing in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). The Council, concerned that federal ocean policies are overlooking the fishing needs of Indigenous Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, responded to NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) with a letter last Friday challenging NOS’s position that recouping costs of fishing in the NWHI amounted to selling, rather than cultural barter and trade.

NOS’s February 22 letter says, “While NOAA may authorize subsistence fishing in the [Monument Expansion Area] under a Native Hawaiian Practices Fishing Permit only where the fish may be traded, bartered, or exchanged on a small scale within the family or community, such activities must be sustainable and must not serve as a toehold for prohibited commercial fishing.”

The Council on April 14 responded that final MEA action does indeed provide for effective safeguards against commercial fishing because (1) commercial fishing is prohibited; and (2) the applicant for a Native Hawaiian Subsistence Practices Fishing Permit is required to describe fishing trip costs. The review process includes consultation with the Council, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Monument board and the public. The NMFS Regional Administrator makes the final decision to allow or disallow the proposed costs. Barter and trade continues to be available and are not affected by a decision on cost recovery.

In their letter, NOS concluded that the action of a “sale” in a federal fishing permit in the NWHI was unlikely to meet the goals and objectives of the Administration’s proposed national marine sanctuary encompassing the entire NWHI.

The Council disagrees because its MEA action does align with the goals and objectives of the Administration’s proposed sanctuary as follows:

  • Provides a framework for NMFS to consider cost recovery. 
  • Promotes partnership and engagement. 
  • Supports co-management for stewardship.
  • Allows input on Native Hawaiian management concepts.
  • Enhances community involvement through public review and commenting with opportunities for economically disadvantaged communities. 

President Obama’s Proclamation 9478 specifically allows for noncommercial fishing and Native Hawaiian fishing practices in the MEA. Obviously, the President intended that sustainable fishing occur in the MEA and any attempt to reduce that opportunity by not allowing recovery of fishing costs clashes with this intent.

Limited cost recovery is necessary for Native Hawaiian participation in regulated fishing practices under Proclamation 9478, considering the community’s socio-economic challenges, which include high rates of poverty, unemployment and negative health conditions. Disallowing cost recovery by sale would further disenfranchise the community, hindering its ability to participate in Native Hawaiian subsistence and traditional fishing practices.

Mayor Derek Kawakami of Kaua‘i at a public meeting the Council held in November 2022 said, “I don’t know too many fishermen who can afford to go there and fish. However, there are rich people who can reach that area which would leave a bitter taste in local mouths.”

Final action by the Council included a request to NOAA/NOS to support disadvantaged communities in Hawai‘i by exploring statutory options such as those provided within the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/CouncilMEAFishingRegs and www.wpcouncil.org/western-pacific-community-development-program.

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, the CNMI, Guam and Hawai‘i governors: John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (chair); Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Manny Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Will Sword, noncommercial fisherman/engineer (American Samoa) (vice chair); Judith Guthertz, University of Guam (Guam); Shaelene Kamaka‘ala, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (Hawai‘i); Matt Ramsey, Conservation International (Hawai‘i); and McGrew Rice, charter boat captain (CNMI). 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. Designated federal officials (voting): Sarah Malloy (acting), NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (nonvoting): Colin Brinkman, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and RADM Mike Day, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.

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