Press Releases

Press Release – Turtles, Whales, Birds among Fishery Science Discussions This Week in Honolulu (12 March 2019)

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HONOLULU (12 March 2019) Renowned scientists from throughout the Pacific began a three-day meeting today in Honolulu to consider a range of issues facing the offshore fisheries of Hawai‘i and the US Territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Recommendations from this group known as the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) will be forwarded to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which meets in Honolulu on March 18-21. The Council develops fishery management measures for the fisheries, which are transmitted to the US Secretary of Commerce for approval and implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Loggerhead and Leatherback Sea Turtles: A draft biological opinion (BiOp) by NMFS on the Hawai‘i-based shallow-set longline fishery has been delayed several times, most lately due to the recent federal government shutdown. The due date is now March 25 after the Council meeting. The SSC will receive an update on the BiOp status and discuss the review timelines. The Hawai‘i longline fishery for swordfish currently closes if it interacts with 17 loggerhead turtles based on a 2004 BiOp or 26 leatherback turtles based on a 2012 BiOp. 

False Killer Whales: The Southern Exclusion Zone (SEZ), a 132,000 square mile area in the offshore waters around the main Hawaiian Islands, is closed to the Hawai‘i longline fishery if its interactions result in the mortality and serious injury (MS&I) of two false killer whales. When the SEZ is closed, less than 18 percent of US exclusive economic zone around Hawai‘i remains open to the fishery. This fishery lands $100 million plus of principally tuna and swordfish in Honolulu, the majority of which is consumed in the state. The SEZ closed on Feb. 22, 2019, after two false killer whale M&SI were observed in January.

Seabirds: The SSC will review a discussion paper on seabird mitigation measures in the Hawai‘i longline fishery, including consideration of potential removal of blue-dyed bait. Alternate strategies include enhancing outreach and training, identifying tori line designs suitable for the Hawai‘i longline fishery and improving the North Pacific-wide bycatch assessment to allow evaluation of the relative risk of the Hawai‘i longline impacts to seabirds compared to the impacts of other fisheries.

Other Issues:

  • The SSC will evaluate the final benchmark assessment of the Hawai‘i Kona crab fishery and determine whether it is the best scientific information available.
  • SSC will provide advice regarding the federal quotas of longline-caught bigeye tuna for the US Pacific Territories that participate in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the portion of those federal quotas that are allowed to be transferred according to US law. Bigeye tuna is not overfished or subject to overfishing. The WCPFC acknowledges the US territory agreements with US vessels in its conservation and management measures.
  • A working group of the SSC will seek to define benefits and limitations to spatial management actions, both existing and potential, relative to pertinent regional fishery issues and management objectives.
  • A SSC working group will seek to develop a process to comply with the Modern Fish Act requirements on the use of non-government information in fishery management decision-making.

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 (Ministry for Primary Industries, 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); Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, commercial fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Dean Sensui, Hawaii Goes Fishing (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawai‘i); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (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; Chelsea Muña-Brecht, Guam Dept. of Agriculture; Henry Sesepasra, 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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