Press Release – Pacific Scientists to Consider Snapper Catch Limits, Evaluate Gear Requirements in Longline Fisheries (10 June 2021)
HONOLULU (10 June 2021) Scientists from throughout the Pacific will meet June 15 to 17, 2021, to provide advice on managing the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) uku fishery, longline fishery gear and release requirements, and other topics to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. The meeting of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) will be held virtually and is open to the public. The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at www.wpcouncil.org/event/140th-scientific-and-statistical-committee-virtual-meeting. Among the agenda items are the following:
MHI Uku Catch Limits
At its September 2020 meeting, the SSC set the acceptable biological catch for uku (green/gray jobfish) at 297,624 pounds for fishing year 2022 to 2025. This corresponds to a 43% risk of overfishing when accounting for scientific uncertainties. The SSC may provide scientific advice on the appropriate level of management based on the ability to track the catch in-season. The commercial fishery data is from monthly mandatory fisher reports, while the noncommercial fishery data is estimated from voluntary surveys completed every two months. The SSC will consider if the uku fishery commercial and noncommercial sectors should be managed as a whole or separately.
Gear and Release Requirements for Longline Fisheries
Most vessels in the Hawai‘i deep-set longline fishery use wire leaders in the terminal portion of the branchline between the hook and the weighted swivel to reduce the risk of crew injuries resulting from flyback. Wire leaders make it difficult to remove the terminal portion of the branch line from sharks or other protected species that cannot be brought onboard. Switching to monofilament nylon leaders would allow crew to remove gear closer to the hook and may facilitate a shark’s ability to break free by biting through the line. Tagging studies show that shorter trailing gear gives sharks a better chance of survival.
The Hawaii Longline Association announced at the December 2020 Council meeting that their member vessels will voluntarily eliminate the use of wire leaders by July 1, 2021, and use monofilament nylon leaders or other similar materials. The Council is considering a regulatory change to prohibit the use of wire leaders and to require removal of trailing gear to improve post-hooking survivorship of Endangered Species Act-listed oceanic whitetip sharks and other protected species. The SSC will discuss results from a risk analysis tool that the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) applied to several longline mitigation measures, including the transition to monofilament leaders, among others. The tool provides all possible outcomes of decisions taken and assesses the impact of risk, which allows managers to make better decisions under uncertainty. The SSC may provide additional scientific input to the Council to inform its decisions on the transition from wire leaders and removal of trailing gear.
Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets June 22-24, 2021, 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 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.