Press Release- Western Pacific Scientists to Discuss NWHI Fishing Regulations and False Killer Whale Impact Studies Next Week (9 September 2022)

News and Updates, Press Releases

HONOLULU (9 September 2022) Scientists from throughout the Western Pacific Region will meet Sept. 13 to 15, 2022, to provide advice and comments to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on the fishing regulations in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), a false killer whale (FKW) analysis, uku essential fish habitat studies, American Samoa longline fishery performance and other topics.  

Public attendance for the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) meeting will be limited to web conference only. The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at www.wpcouncil.org/event/145th-scientific-and-statistical-committee-virtual-meeting.

Fishing Regulations in the NWHI
At its 192nd meeting in September, the Council will consider taking action on fishing regulations in the NWHI Monument Expansion Area. The SSC will consider the alternatives presented and may provide advice and recommendations on the definitions for non-commercial and subsistence fishing, as well as limits on fishing and any equity and environmental justice impacts.

FKW Interaction and Depredation Analysis
The SSC will discuss its input for an ongoing NOAA analysis evaluating how changes to fishing effort distribution during Southern Exclusion Zone closures may have affected the patterns in FKW interaction and depredation. The Council recommended this study at its March 2022 meeting to inform further Council discussion on managing FKW impacts from the Hawai‘i deep-set longline fishery.

Uku Essential Fish Habitat
The SSC will hear a report on the external independent review of essential fish habitat (EFH) models for uku (Aprion virescens, grey snapper, green jobfish) in the main Hawaiian Islands. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Council must describe EFH and provide maps of the geographic locations or define boundaries within which EFH is found. The independent reviewers analyzed two studies that were a great improvement over the existing literature-based description of uku EFH. The SSC will discuss if these products are the best scientific information available to delineate uku EFH.

American Samoa Longline Fishery Performance
The SSC will discuss fishery performance of all pelagic vessels fishing and reporting catch in American Samoa, including “large” longline vessels more than 50 feet long. In 2002, the Council developed a Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) to minimize competition between the large-vessel longline fleet and smaller longlining alia (traditional double-hulled catamaran) boats in American Samoa. The LVPA excluded large vessels from waters 0 to 50 nautical miles seaward of Tutulia, Swains and Manu‘a Islands.

Due to declining fishery performance of the American Samoa Longline fishery following establishment of the LVPA, the Council had recommended allowing some American Samoa longline vessels an exemption to fish waters beyond 12 nm within the LVPA. Litigation between the American Samoa government and the National Marine Fisheries Service led to a 2017 court order to halt these exemptions. In 2020, federal courts reversed the 2017 decision. The exemption to the LVPA was reinstated in July 2021 to allow certain U.S. longline vessels 50 feet and longer to fish in portions of the LVPA. This exemption included a provision for the Council to annually review the impacts of the exemption on catch rates and small vessel participation.

The SSC will evaluate fishery changes due to the LVPA and the 2021 reinstatement of the exemption.

Other agenda topics include discussing the scientific justification for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument expansion proposal, and reviewing the alternatives for establishing an Aquaculture Management Framework in the Western Pacific. The SSC may provide advice on potential environmental impacts from aquaculture to the Council before it takes final action at its September meeting.

Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets Sept. 20-22, 2022 in-person at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agendas and briefing documents are posted at www.wpcouncil.org/event/192nd-council-meeting-virtual.

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 (National Marine Fisheries Service (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, 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); 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: 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): 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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