Press Release – US Pacific Scientists Discuss Next Generation Data Collection, New Pacific Strategy to Advocate for Fisheries (17 March 2022)

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HONOLULU (17 March 2022) At the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) meeting this week, the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Director Michael Seki presented the NOAA Next Generation Data Acquisition Plan (NG-DAP) that will guide data acquisition for the next 10 to 15 years. The fisheries and technologies to gather data have evolved and regional data needs have changed since the last plan was released in 1998. The NG-DAP will use innovative technologies, modern fishery information collection systems, artificial and machine learning and advanced modeling tools to account for climate change, emerging ocean uses and ecosystem-based fisheries management.
While the NG-DAP is a nationwide effort, the plan will point out regional needs and highlight opportunities for potential partners and collaborators. NOAA plans to hold public workshops in spring 2022 to gather input from stakeholders. The SSC noted that meetings should include fishing communities in the territories.
The Western Pacific Region is still challenged by data limitations due to little federal investment in collecting basic fishery-dependent data and life history information for the benefit of local underserved communities. Over the years, to sustainably manage the fisheries the Council and its SSC have continuously identified research needs to the National Marine Fisheries Service focusing on island and pelagic fisheries, ecosystems, protected species and human communities.
The Council has been on the forefront of improving data collection in the region through creation of an electronic reporting app and piloting numerous data collection projects. The Council recently partnered with PIFSC and the American Samoa Dept. of Marine and Wildlife Resources to convene a series of data workshops in the territory that highlighted deficiencies in data collection and could be addressed in the NG-DAP.
The SSC discussed a new strategy for addressing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) issues through a holistic approach engaging multiple federal departments to advocate for fisheries. Council staff and the U.S. tuna industries developed a paper that emphasizes the importance of fisheries to Pacific Island communities and strategic importance to U.S. interests.
The SSC recommended that U.S. delegations to WCPFC subcommittees coordinate to address objectives of the Pacific strategy and ensure that U.S. Pacific Island Territories and the Commonwealth take an active role in developing and implementing them. “The voices of smaller island nations, including American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands should not be ignored in these discussions,” said Debra Cabrera.
Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds said the East-West Center in Honolulu and the U.S. House Pacific Islands Caucus have launched a “Pacific Islands Matter for America/America Matters for the Pacific Islands” initiative exploring similar issues.
The Biden Administration is seeking public comment on development of an Indo-Pacific strategy. In December, the Council recommended any such Pacific strategy incorporate fishery interests into achieving national objectives. The Council noted that a lack of a favorable tropical tuna management measure for U.S. fisheries within the WCPFC indicates a loss of stature for the United States in the Pacific.
SSC member Ray Hilborn and Dan Ovando, both of the University of Washington, presented two studies* on the utility of area-based management strategies, including marine protected areas (MPAs), to achieve conservation objectives. The studies reinforce a need for monitoring and adapting MPAs to ensure they are achieving stated objectives, and that dynamic fishery closures are superior to static MPAs in meeting objectives with minimal costs to fisheries.
“When closing 30% of fishing areas using a dynamic approach, bycatch can be reduced by 57% without sacrificing loss to optimal yield, compared to 16% reductions in bycatch using a static approach,” said Ray Hilborn speaking on a study he coauthored earlier this year.
Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets virtually March 22-24, 2022. Due to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public host site in American Samoa has been cancelled. Host sites in Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam remain open: BRI Building, Suite 205, Kopa Di Oru St., Garapan, Saipan, CNMI; and Cliff Pointe, 304 W. O’Brien Dr., Hagatña, Guam. Council meeting agenda and briefing documents are posted at To connect to the web conference, go to
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 Div. of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources); Shelton Harley (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); Jason Helyer (Hawai‘i Div. 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 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 Div. 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): Charles Brinkman and Rebecca Wintering, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and RADM Matthew Sibley, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.