Press Release – Western Pacific Scientists to Consider Seabird Conservation Measures, Research to Inform Management Decisions (26 November 2021)

News and Updates, Press Releases

HONOLULU (26 November 2021) Scientists will meet Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2021, to provide advice and comments to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on domestic seabird conservation measures, tagging studies to inform management decisions, tropical tuna annual catch limits and other topics. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) meeting will be held virtually and is open to the public. The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at https://www.wpcouncil.org/event/142nd-scientific-and-statistical-committee-virtual-meeting. Among the agenda items are the following:

Revisions for Seabird Conservation Measures
The SSC will consider an impact analysis of management alternatives to help the Hawai‘i longline fishery avoid hooking seabirds. The Council is evaluating using tori lines, or bird scaring lines, as part of a suite of mitigation measures that have been in place since 2002.

Two field trials to develop and test tori lines in the deep-set longline fishery were conducted in 2019-2021 under a cooperative research project between the Council, Hawaii Longline Association and Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC). Results show that tori lines are significantly more effective in preventing longline gear interactions with black-footed and Laysan albatrosses than an existing method of using blue-dyed bait.

Cutting-Edge Research
The SSC will discuss reports on research that could inform future management decisions. PIFSC will describe a collaborative research program aimed at reducing depredation rates and mortality of sharks incidentally captured in small-scale fisheries around Hawai‘i. The Hawai‘i Community Tagging Program (“Shark Tagger” program) was created to facilitate outreach to resource users and to bridge the gap between scientists, fishers and managers.

Another study looks at yellowfin tuna movement patterns in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. Tuna were tagged and released in specific areas to allow scientists to track their dispersion and interaction with oceanic conditions. Knowing the stock structure of these tunas helps managers make appropriate management decisions.

An SSC working group on area-based management will also present its plan to achieve the goals of the Biden Administration’s 30×30 Initiative and the United Nations’ international negotiations to conserve and sustainably use ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Possible Tropical Tuna Quota Increase
The SSC will hear about U.S. preparations for the 18th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which will be held virtually Nov. 28 to Dec. 6, 2021. Key topics include a revised tropical tuna (bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack) conservation and management measure, South Pacific albacore tuna management and a U.S. proposal to strengthen international shark measures by banning wire leaders in longline fisheries, as the Council recommended this year for the Hawai‘i longline fishery.

The Permanent Advisory Committee to the U.S. delegation recommended the United States propose an increase of at least 3,000 metric tons (mt) to the current domestic longline catch limit of 3,554 mt for bigeye tuna. The increase would not exceed management objectives since nearly 10,000 mt of accepted catch among other nations goes unused annually. The Hawai‘i longline fishery has more than 20% observer coverage (international requirement is 5%), does not transship at-sea and operates in a part of the ocean where regional depletion of bigeye tuna has been estimated to be minimal.

The WCPFC is responsible for the waters around Hawai‘i and the U.S. Pacific Islands. The Commission meets annually in December to review stock assessments and other information from sub-groups and committees that start meeting in July.

American Samoa Bottomfish Data Workshops
PIFSC will report on a data workshop held with Council and American Samoa fisheries staffs to evaluate data to be used for the next American Samoa bottomfish benchmark stock assessment to be completed in 2023. The SSC’s working group will report on their meeting with PIFSC and Council staffs on the availability, quality and appropriateness of the data for use in various stock assessment models.

Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets Dec. 7-9, 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 Dr., Hagatña, Guam. Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agendas and briefing documents are posted at https://www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars. 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); 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): 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.

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