Press Release – Fishing Industry Members Advise Managers on Proposed Sanctuaries and Other Issues Important to Western Pacific Region (10 March 2022)

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Longline vessels in American Samoa.

HONOLULU (10 March 2022) The Fishing Industry Advisory Committee (FIAC) met today to provide advice and recommendations to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council when it meets March 22-24.

NWHI and Marianas Trench Proposed Sanctuaries
The FIAC recommended the Council develop fishing regulations for the proposed Northwestern Hawaiian Islands sanctuary that would allow fishing to continue in as much of the sanctuary as possible. The Committee also asked NMFS to clearly identify spatial boundaries in the fishery compliance guides that include monuments and sanctuaries so fishermen clearly understand where fishing is/is not allowed. Commercial fisherman Kenton Greer expressed his concern with extending the proposed sanctuary boundaries to Middle Bank, as it is an important area for Kauai fishermen.

Regarding the potential development of a national marine sanctuary in the Northern Mariana Islands, the FIAC recommended the Council keep the fishing community informed since it would overlay the existing marine national monument and may expand fishing area closures.

Roundtable Discussion
FIAC members provided updates on the status of the fishing, seafood and related industries, continuing and upcoming issues and changes that may impact the community. “The market has rebounded in 2022 with the stability that comes from restaurants reopening and more consistent airline flights, supporting up to 20,000-30,000 pounds a day of swordfish,” said Michael Goto, FIAC chair and United Fishing Agency auction manager. Hawaii Longline Association (HLA) Executive Director Eric Kingma noted, “there was a significantly lower bigeye tuna catch rate in 2021, 40% less than the historical high in 2015 when catch was 20 million pounds landed.”

WCPFC Pacific Strategy
The FIAC endorsed the new Pacific strategy developed to address Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) issues through a more holistic approach, tying the prosperity of U.S. fisheries in the Pacific with broader geopolitical interests of the nation. Council staff and advisers have developed an information paper that emphasizes the importance of fisheries to the Pacific Islands community and their strategic importance to U.S. national interests.

“There needs to be a better way to negotiate – the relationship between the United States and small island nations has not been strong lately,” said American Samoa fishing vessel owner Stuart Chikami. “There have been recurring issues with compliance, and the Commission has been more focused on economics of a few members, rather than its intended objectives.”

The FIAC recommended U.S. advisors to the WCPFC address this strategy at their next series of meetings and work in coordination with longline and purse seine fishing industries.

During the public discussion, American Samoa Dept. of Marine and Wildlife Resources Director Archie Soliai acknowledged the longline (HLA) and purse seine (American Tunaboat Association) vessel owners for supporting the territory, noting it owes a great debt to those industries.

Equity and Environmental Justice
FIAC members recommended that the Council approve the draft Western Pacific Equity and Environmental Justice (EEJ) Planning Framework. The members agreed that marine national monument designations are disproportionately situated in the Western Pacific, amplifying economic impact to our region. The Council is soliciting community feedback to plan meaningful remedies in lieu of the federal government’s EEJ priorities. The Biden Administration is prioritizing addressing inequities for underserved communities, including Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, with a “whole of government” approach.

The FIAC is one of three advisory bodies to the Council required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act that provides input and recommendations on management and conservation actions from an industry perspective. Members include representatives from Hawaiʻi, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam in industry-related sectors such as fishing, seafood processing, distribution and marketing industries, fishing tackle and marine service and supply providers.

Recommendations made by the FIAC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets March 22-24, 2022, virtually, with host sites at Tedi of Samoa Building, Suite 208B, Fagatogo Village, American Samoa; BRI Building, Suite 205, Kopa Di Oru St., Garapan, Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI); and Cliff Pointe, 304 W. O’Brien Dr., Hagatña, Guam. Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agendas and briefing documents are posted at https://www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars. Host sites are subject to local and federal safety and health guidelines regarding COVID-19; check the Council website for updates.

Fishing Industry Advisory Committee: Michael Goto (United Fishing Agency) (chair), Stuart Chikami (Western Pacific Fisheries), Kenton Greer (commercial fisherman); Vince Haleck (Tautai O Samoa Association); Jonathan Hurd (Malolo Adventures); John Kaneko (Hawaii Seafood Council); Eric Kingma (Hawaii Longline Association); Michael Lee (Garden & Valley Isle Seafood); Sean Martin (POP Fishing and Marine); Baron Miho (Annasea Hawaii); Lino Sablan Tenorio (Tenorio & Associates); Josh Schade (Ahi Assassins); Kerry Umamoto (Hilo Fish Company); Mike Yonemura (Diamond Head Seafood Wholesale).

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