Press Release – Scientists to Evaluate Impacts of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Expansion (15 September 2021)

News and Updates, Press Releases

HONOLULU (15 September 2021) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) suggested developing a working group to evaluate the impacts of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) expansion on Hawai‘i-based fisheries. Several recently published peer-review scientific papers show differing impacts and are unclear on this contentious issue.
 
In 2016, President Obama issued a proclamation to expand the existing monument from 50 to 200 nautical miles around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). Council and Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) staffs and the SSC would work jointly to examine the expansion’s potential local economic and other impacts, and determine whether the area is achieving its stated management objectives. The working group would share its results with the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils that are providing feedback on President Biden’s 30×30 area-based management initiative.
 
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is in the initial stages of responding to the president’s request to initiate a new designation process for a NWHI sanctuary. As part of this process, the Council is afforded the opportunity to provide input on any potential fishing regulations. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act designation process requires compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws. This was circumvented by the presidential proclamations to create the PMNM in 2006 and the expanded area in 2016, which effectively cut out the local community’s engagement and input on the matter.
 
PIFSC presented a research plan to the SSC on investigating the impact of imports on the Hawai‘i fish market. Recently, the price of bigeye ahi exceeded $20 per pound at the market—several times more than what buyers usually pay. Prices then stayed around $11–12 per pound and cooled off to $7–8 per pound during the second week in August.
 
The Hawai‘i market had an extreme shortage of foreign-sourced pelagic fish products and an overall decreased supply in the local market—mainly from local Hawaiian fisheries. The supply shortage, coupled with the increase in tourism after COVID-19 restrictions were partially lifted, created a “perfect storm” for the consumer.
 
The SSC suggested that consumer choice and fish substitution be incorporated into PIFSC’s model to attempt to discern the true value difference between fish species. Fish originating from different locations outside of Hawai‘i are not equivalent in terms of quality or type of fish. PIFSC anticipates the final report will be available for review in August 2022.
 
The SSC meeting continues through tomorrow, Sept. 16, 2021. Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agenda and briefing documents are posted at www.wpcouncil.org/event/141st-scientific-and-statistical-committee-virtual-meeting.
 
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 (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 (NMFS PIFSC) (ex-officio).

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