Press Release – Scientists to Discuss 2021 Fishery Status, Protected Species Studies and Deep-Sea Mining in the Western Pacific (9 June 2022)

Managed Fisheries, News and Updates, Press Releases

HONOLULU (9 June 2022) Scientists across the Western Pacific Region will meet June 14 to 16, 2022, to provide advice and comments to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on the 2021 fishery status reports, Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations, a false killer whale (FKW) analysis, deep-sea mining and other topics. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) meeting will be held in a hybrid format, with in-person and remote participation options available for members, and public attendance limited to web conference. The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at www.wpcouncil.org/event/144th-scientific-and-statistical-committee-virtual-meeting.

2021 Annual SAFE Reports

The SSC will discuss highlights from the 2021 Annual Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) Reports covering the performance of Council-managed fisheries and ecosystem considerations that potentially drive fishery dynamics. The reports include impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on the fisheries and data collection. For example, total ex-vessel revenue for Hawai‘i pelagic commercial fisheries decreased 22% to $83.4 million in 2020, before rebounding 49% to $124.4 million in 2021. The reports also incorporate fishermen observations that provide a qualitative description of the fisheries and fishery environment. 

ESA Section 7 Consultations

The SSC will review a draft bottomfish fishery biological opinion recently released by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for the Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam fisheries. This is part of an ongoing ESA formal consultation process reinitiated in 2019. The ESA requires federal agencies to ensure the fisheries do not jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed species. In this case, those species are oceanic whitetip sharks, giant manta rays and chambered nautilus, and designated critical habitat for false killer whales in the main Hawaiian Islands. Interactions with ESA-listed species in these bottomfish fisheries are rare, and the draft biological opinion found that these fisheries have minimal impacts on listed species. The assessment addresses reproduction, and population numbers and distribution.

FKW Analysis

The SSC will discuss its input for an ongoing PIFSC analysis of FKW interaction and depredation patterns. The analysis is being conducted due to a Council recommendation from the March 2022 meeting to inform further Council discussion on managing FKW interactions in the Hawai‘i deep-set longline fishery. PIFSC has applied a model to explore FKW interactions and marine mammal-recorded depredation events using historical data from the NMFS Observer Program. The full analysis, anticipated to be completed before the September SSC meeting, will include estimates of economic impacts from depredation and the effect of Southern Exclusion Zone closures on fishing effort and FKW interactions.

Deep-Sea Mining

The SSC will hear updates on deep-sea mining activities in the Pacific, particularly those to extract manganese nodules and cobalt, which are used for batteries in modern electronic devices and vehicles. In the Pacific, more than one million square kilometers have been included in claims for deep-sea prospecting. The ecological impacts of these growing ocean industries on fishing and potential interactions with fishing activities remain to be fully explained. An integrated web portal and map called Deep Sea Mining Watch is available for the public to see ongoing activities: https://deepseaminingwatch.msi.ucsb.edu.

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 (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); 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 Matthew Sibley, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.

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