Press Release – Western Pacific Scientists Recommend International Actions to End Overfishing for Striped Marlin (18 March 2021)

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HONOLULU (18 March 2021) The SSC suggested several actions to end overfishing of North Pacific striped marlin in order to satisfy the Magnuson-Stevens Act (Section 304(i)) obligation both internationally via the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and domestically. The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council made these and other recommendations during its three-day virtual meeting this week.
International recommendations included improving standardized reporting of billfish catch and discards for all WCPFC fisheries; using circle hooks in all WCPFC longline fisheries; limiting WCPFC member catches to approximately 1 million pounds (500 metric tons) per year; and supporting a consultative rebuilding plan.
A new stock assessment may be provided in 2022 and the SSC proposed that discard mortality (fish that don’t survive capture and release) be included within future rebuilding scenario analyses. The SSC also recommended that future rebuilding efforts utilize a phased-in approach over several years based on a target catch rate rather than a rebuilding timeline.
To support U.S. Pacific Territory data collection efforts, the SSC recommended the integration of creel survey, commercial receipt book, biosampling and app-based data collection systems, such as the Council’s Catchit Logit app, to generate the necessary data from different segments of the fisheries. The Council, territorial fishery management agencies and NMFS are working closely to meet the requirements for stock assessments and address deficiencies in data-limited or data-poor fisheries.
The SSC also recommended supporting an experimental study to evaluate the effectiveness of various mitigation combinations to reduce seabird interactions in the Hawaiʻi shallow-set longline fishery. Currently, if setting off the stern of the boat, conservation measures require the vessel to start setting its gear one hour after sunset (night-setting), use blue-dyed bait and strategic discharge of fish parts and spent bait. Night-setting, while considered to be a “gold standard” for seabird mitigation, prevents shallow-set longline fishermen from adjusting their setting time according to the moon phase to optimize swordfish catch. Fishermen have expressed interest in testing out a new combination of mitigation measures, including tori (bird scaring) lines, to improve operational efficiency while ensuring impacts to seabirds remain low in the fishery.
Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets March 23-25, 2021, virtually with host sites at Tedi of Samoa Building, Suite 208B, Fagatogo Village, American Samoa; BRI Building, Suite 205, Kopa Di Oru St., Garapan, Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI); and Cliff Pointe, 304 W. O’Brien Drive, Hagatña, Guam. On the first day, NMFS will give a briefing on President Biden’s Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.
Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agendas and briefing documents are posted at Host sites are subject to local and federal safety and health guidelines regarding COVID-19; check the Council website for updates.
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); Shelton Harley (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); 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 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 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: Michael Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa) (vice chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Monique Amani, business owner (Guam); Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (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): Michael Brakke, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and RADM Matthew Sibley, USCG 14th District.