Press Release – Scientists Advise Fishery Management Council on Area-Based Management and Development of a University of Hawaii Fisheries Program (15 June 2022)

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HONOLULU (15 June 2022) The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee discussed a report written by the area-based management subcommittee of the Council Coordination Committee (CCC) to address the Biden Administration’s America the Beautiful initiative. The initiative’s goal is to “conserve” 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The purpose of the report was to take inventory of existing managed areas in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) relative to the 30×30 initiative and discuss pros and cons of area-based management.

The subcommittee developed a draft definition of conservation areas to identify qualifying regions since none exists elsewhere. The Western Pacific Region (WPR) is the largest managed ocean area (~1.7 million square nautical miles) in the United States, and more than 60% of its waters (1,032,825 nm2) meet the America the Beautiful criteria. The WPR alone already meets 29% of the initiative’s goal.

The Pacific Remote Islands Coalition recently proposed to expand no-take areas of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to the entire U.S. EEZ, making it the largest marine protected area in the world.

The SSC noted it doesn’t make sense scientifically, doesn’t protect diverse habitats and creates unbalanced regional representation, leading to strong socioeconomic impacts and undermining biodiversity goals.

The SSC suggested the Council request a comprehensive evaluation of the unintended consequences of the proposed expansion and that any measures be evaluated through a transparent and public process prior to implementation. SSC members clarified unintended consequences of the expansion range from displacement of U.S. fisheries by competing foreign fisheries to reduced supply of U.S.-caught fish to the American Samoa cannery.

The SSC also discussed the development of a University of Hawai‘i (UH) Fisheries Program, which may be based on a Coastal and Marine Resources graduate program approved (but not enacted) in 2005. Fisheries play a large role in the culture, food security, and economic development of the WPR. A fisheries education program is needed to build capacity for employment and professional development in Hawai‘i and the U.S. Pacific Territories. Academic and professional development infrastructure is lacking outside of the continental United States.

SSC members expressed support for the program and noted Council staff will contact faculty and administrators at UH to express support and assistance. The SSC recommended revisiting this issue at its September 2022 meeting.

The SSC heard an update on Equity and Environmental Justice (EEJ) activities in the WPR, including a CCC working group report ( that defines EEJ issues within a U.S. fisheries management context, and a WPR EEJ in Fisheries Management workshop. The workshop included discussion on the Council’s impact and contributions in advancing EEJ for WPR fisheries. Participants provided insights into how the Council can leverage several tools—fund, implement, empower, and advocate—to effect change.

The SSC also discussed the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) draft EEJ strategy, which identified barriers to EEJ and how the agency plans to address issues in underserved communities. This will lead to step-down implementation plans at the regional level to create a framework to incorporate EEJ into NMFS’ daily activities. SSC members highlighted the importance of inclusive governance and noted several barriers, including system complexity, overuse of jargon, and the public’s negative attitude and distrust of the process.

Scientific and Statistical Committee: James Lynch (Sierra Pacific Industries) (chair); Debra Cabrera (University of Guam); Frank Camacho (University of Guam); Milani Chaloupka (University of Queensland); Erik Franklin (University of Hawai‘i, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology); Jay Gutierrez (Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources); Shelton Harley (Fisheries New Zealand); Jason Helyer (Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) PIFSC); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (SeaState, Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources); Graham Pilling (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); Kurt Schaefer (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission); Craig Severance (University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, retired); Michael Tenorio (CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife); and Michael Seki (ex-officio) (NMFS PIFSC).

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.

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