Press Release – Fishery Management Council to Consider Area-Based Management Issues and Draft Fishing Regulations for Proposed NWHI Sanctuary (17 June 2022)
HONOLULU (17 June 2022) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will meet June 21 to 23, 2022, to discuss President Biden’s “30×30” initiative and a proposed marine national monument expansion, draft fishing regulations for the proposed Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) sanctuary and 2023 U.S. territory bigeye longline catch limits, among other topics. The meeting will be held in a hybrid format, with in-person and remote participation options available for members, and public attendance limited to web conference. The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at www.wpcouncil.org/event/191st-council-meeting-virtual.
The Council will review a Council Coordination Committee area-based management subcommittee report addressing the Biden Administration’s “30×30” initiative to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The initiative has the potential to greatly impact fisheries and their management in the United States. Protections in the Western Pacific Region alone collectively correspond to 29.1% of all U.S. marine waters under fishery council purview, which is 97% of the national goal.
The Council will also discuss a proposal to expand the no-take areas of the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine protected area in the world. This would close waters 50 to 200 nautical miles from Howard and Baker Islands, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll. The Council will deliberate on potential dire consequences of the expansion, such as jeopardizing American Samoa’s economy by reducing supply of U.S.-caught fish to its cannery.
Proposed NWHI Fishing Regulations
The Council will consider action on a regulatory amendment looking at various alternatives for commercial and non-commercial, Native Hawaiian practices, and research fishing in the proposed NWHI sanctuary. At its March 2022 meeting, the Council agreed to develop fishing regulations for the proposed sanctuary, which were provided to the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries as part of the designation process.
The Council will also develop an amendment to its Hawai‘i Archipelago and Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) to analyze fishing alternatives in parallel to the sanctuary fishing regulations. The Council may need to consider the impact of proposed regulations on the current regulatory landscape in the NWHI, including the Council’s current Magnuson-Stevens Act regulations in the area.
2023 Territory Bigeye Specifications
The Council will consider taking final action on the specification of the 2023 U.S. territorial bigeye longline limits for American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
Bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) is internationally managed and assessed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which develops catch and effort limits for member nations. A 2020 stock assessment concluded the bigeye tuna stock in the WCPO is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. Small Island Developing States and Participating Territories (including American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI) are not subject to catch limits for bigeye tuna in consideration of their fishery development aspirations.
Through its Pacific Pelagic FEP, the Council recommends a catch limit for each U.S. territory and allows transfer of part of its catch limit through specified fishing agreements to U.S.-flagged longline vessels that operate out of Hawai‘i.
The Council will also hear from its advisory bodies on the draft National Marine Fisheries Service bottomfish fisheries biological opinion. The assessment concluded bottomfish fisheries in Hawai‘i, American Samoa and the CNMI are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence or recovery of Endangered Species Act-listed species such as the oceanic whitetip shark because interactions affect less than 0.0001% of its population.
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): Colin Brinkman, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and RADM Mike Day, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.