Press Release – Western Pacific Scientists to Discuss Longline Fishery Interaction Analyses and Bigeye Tuna Regulations Next Week (10 March 2023)

Announcements, Press Releases

HONOLULU (10 March 2023) Scientific advisors to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will meet March 14-16, 2023, to provide advice and comments on on protected species interactions with the commercial Hawai‘i deep-set and American Samoa longline fisheries, domestic and international fishing regulations, and other topics.

The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) will convene in a hybrid format, with public attendance limited to remote participation via web conference. The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at

Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultations
The SSC will review draft biological opinions (BiOps) for the Hawai‘i deep-set longline and American Samoa longline fisheries, released this week by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The BiOps, part of a formal consultation process, concluded the two longline fisheries are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed species. The fleets have incidental interactions with species such as sea turtles, oceanic whitetip sharks and giant manta rays. Many of the animals are released alive following handling guidelines intended to increase their chance of survival. The SSC may provide advice to the Council on the BiOp analyses and findings.

International Bigeye Tuna Management
The SSC will review information on bigeye tuna catch and/or allocation limits for American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI and may advise the Council on a preliminary preferred option. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has agreed to maintain the 2016 longline bigeye limits of six countries, including the United States, until the end of 2023.

Conservation and management measure 2021-01 does not establish individual limits on the amount of bigeye tuna that may be harvested annually by Small Island Developing States and Participating Territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI. The WCPFC may decide to resume current catch limits for flag states and participating members through 2023 and beyond. The Council has identified additional considerations that warrant its direction and action for the implementation of the management framework modifications to the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan. The recommended catch and/or allocation limits would not take effect until 2024 at the earliest.

NWHI Fishing Cost Recovery Analysis
The Council has recommended regulations for permitting fishing in the Monument Expansion Area (MEA) of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), including Native Hawaiian subsistence fishing practices permits and cost recovery for those permits. The cost recovery limit would not exceed $15,000 per trip, and permittees must report direct costs and catch information. NOAA has conducted an analysis of historical trip costs and current prices, which will be presented to the Council at its March 2023 meeting. The SSC may review options for cost recovery and recommend an appropriate total cost to be recovered through the permits.

The MEA was established in 2016 by Presidential Proclamation 9478 and is managed by NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Proclamation allows for regulated fishing activities, including Native Hawaiian practices and noncommercial fishing, but prohibits commercial fishing activities and anchoring on any living or dead coral.

Other agenda topics include Guam bottomfish data workshop outcomes, a shark bycatch mortality study and area-based management issues.

Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets March 27-28 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Saipan, CNMI, and March 30-31, 2023, at the Guam Hilton Hotel in Tamuning. Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agendas and briefing documents are posted at

Scientific and Statistical Committee: James Lynch (chair); Jason Biggs (Guam Division of Aquatic & Wildlife Resources); 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 (Fisheries New Zealand); Jason Helyer (Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)); Dave Itano (Fisheries Consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (Sea State Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Dept. of Marine & Wildlife Resources); Graham Pilling (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); Craig Severance (University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, retired); Francisco Villagomez (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Division of Fish & Wildlife); Michael Seki (ex-officio) (NMFS PIFSC).

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, the CNMI, Guam and Hawai‘i governors: John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (chair); Roger Dang, Fresh Island Fish Co. (Hawai‘i) (vice chair); Manny Dueñas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Will Sword, noncommercial fisherman/engineer (American Samoa) (vice chair); Judith Guthertz, University of Guam (Guam); Shaelene Kamaka‘ala, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (Hawai‘i); Matt Ramsey, Conservation International (Hawai‘i); and McGrew Rice, charter boat captain (CNMI). Designated state officials: Dawn Chang, Hawai‘i Dept. of Land & Natural Resources; Sylvan Igisomar, CNMI Dept. of Lands & Natural Resources (vice chair); Chelsa Muña, Guam Dept. of Agriculture; and Archie Soliai, American Samoa Dept. of Marine & Wildlife Resources. Designated federal officials (voting): Sarah Malloy (acting), NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (nonvoting): Colin Brinkman, U.S. Dept. of State; Brian Peck, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and RADM Mike Day, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.

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