Press Release – Scientists Set Acceptable Biological Catches for Mariana Archipelago Bottomfish, Recommend New Stock Assessment for Mariana and American Samoa Bottomfish (05 March 2020)

News and Updates, Press Releases

Guam bottomfish vessel and gear. Photo courtesy of James Borja.

HONOLULU (05 March 2020)  The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council concluded its three-day 135th meeting today in Honolulu. Key outcomes addressed the Mariana and American Samoa Archipelago bottomfish fisheries. The Council will consider and may take action on the SSC outcomes and other issues when it meets March 10 to 12 at the YWCA Atherton Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu. For more information on these meetings, including a Fishers Forum on Hawai’i fisheries the evening of March 10, go to https://www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars/ or contact the Council at info@wpcouncil.org or (808) 522-8220.
 
Mariana Archipelago Bottomfish Fisheries: The SSC set annual acceptable biological catches of bottomfish at 27,000 pounds in Guam and 84,000 pounds in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) for fishing years 2020-2023. The specifications are based on a 2019 stock assessment by the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC), which found bottomfish to be overfished on Guam but not in the CNMI and the fisheries in both areas to be operating at sustainable levels of catch and effort. Previous stock assessments had determined that the stocks in both areas were healthy. The acceptable biological catches reflect what can be removed while allowing the stock to reproduce at levels of maximum sustainable yield. Based on creel survey estimates, Guam’s commercial and noncommercial bottomfish fisheries landed 27,781 pounds in 2016; 22,962 pounds in 2017; and 32,751 pounds in 2018; and CNMI landed 49,570 pounds in 2016; 46,290 pounds in 2017; and 858 pounds in 2018. Next week, the Council will develop annual catch limits for the fisheries based on the acceptable biological catch levels and management uncertainties. Catch limits may be equal to or less than the acceptable biological catch specifications.
 
American Samoa and Mariana Archipelago Managed Bottomfish Species: The SSC considered potential alternative groupings for managed bottomfish species caught in federal waters (i.e., seaward of state waters, which are 0 to 3 miles from shore) based on available biological and fishery data and the feasibility of conducting stock assessments. Currently, the bottomfish species in each island area are grouped together as a single bottomfish complex. During discussions, it was noted that the American Samoa stock assessment focused on the heavily exploited area around Tutuila and less around the more lightly exploited areas around the offshore seamounts and the Manu’a islands due to the way the data was collected. It was also noted that careful attention should be given to the definition of a bottomfishing trip, which currently is having bottomfishing gear onboard, because hand crank and electric reels are used for bottomfishing and for trolling. The SSC recommended that the Council request PIFSC to initiate a new benchmark stock assessment and to explore other modeling approaches and data sets aside from the creel surveys and commercial receipt books. An SSC member designee will work with PIFSC and Council staff to explore the deep and shallow species groupings, trip and gear definitions, and available data sources.
 
Scientific and Statistical Committee: James Lynch (K&L Gates LLP) (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); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (SeaState Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources); Ryan Okano (Hawaii Division of Aquatic 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 Hawaii governors: Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa) (chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai’i) (vice chair); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa); Monique Genereux, business owner (Guam); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawai’i); McGrew Rice, charter boat captain (CNMI). Designated state officials: Raymond Roberto, CNMI Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawai’i Dept. of Land & Natural Resources; Chelsa Muña-Brecht, Guam Dept. of Agriculture; 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): RADM Kevin Lunday, USCG 14th District; Michael Brakke, US Department of State; Brian Peck, USFWS.

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