Press Release – Scientists Recommend Improved Mitigation Measures for Protected Species (30 November 2020)

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Hawaiʻi longline fishery vessels berthed at Pier 38 in Honolulu.

HONOLULU (30 November 2020) Scientists overwhelmingly supported a proposal from the Hawaii Longline Association (HLA) to voluntarily switch to monofilament leaders to promote protected species conservation. The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council expressed this support on the first day of its two-day virtual meeting.

 
The Hawaiʻi longline fishery uses wire leaders to prevent gear flyback, an unintended consequence of using required weighted branch lines. While many protected species are released alive, long trailing gear impacts their survival. Changing to monofilament nylon from wire leaders allows the crew to remove most of the trailing gear.
 
The SSC heard a proactive proposal from the HLA that provides significant positive impacts on survival probabilities of oceanic whitetip sharks, leatherback turtles and other protected species. The gear changes, combined with handling procedure improvements, crew training and research, demonstrate the industry’s leadership to minimize protected species interactions.
 
The SSC recommended that the Council consider measures in the HLA proposal for further development under the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Council action at a future meeting. During public comment, Dave Gershman from The Ocean Foundation praised the HLA proposal and urged the SSC to support the initiative and pursue research to promote species recovery.
 
The SSC also recommended a phased-in approach to minimize impacts of U.S. fishing on North Pacific striped marlin through reduced catch limits. The approach is to establish a catch limit through 2024 using best scientific information available (BSIA) to attribute a portion from a total allowable catch (from all fleets) that would end overfishing in the first year. Despite having a 6% contribution to the historical depletion of the stock, the United States is taking unilateral action towards ending overfishing by fulfilling its Magnuson-Stevens Act (Section 304(i)) obligation.
 
Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agenda and briefing documents are posted at www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars. To read the full HLA proposal, visit https://bit.ly/3ocuOwU.
 
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); Shelton Harley (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); Jason Helyer (Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center (PIFSC)); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (SeaState, Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Dept. 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: Archie Soliai (American Samoa) (chair); Michael Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Monique Amani, business owner (Guam); Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (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 Henry Sesepasara, American Samoa Dept. of Marine & Wildlife Resources. Designated federal officials (voting): Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (non-voting): Michael Brakke, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and RADM Matthew Sibley, USCG 14th District.

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