Press Release – Western Pacific Scientists to Discuss Research on Area-Based Management and “Weak Hooks” as a Mitigation Strategy (10 March 2022)

Managed Fisheries, News and Updates, Press Releases, Protected Species

HONOLULU (10 March 2022) Scientists across the Western Pacific Region will meet virtually March 15 to 17, 2022, to provide advice and comments to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on area-based management, a weak hook study, American Samoa bottomfish data workshops 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/143rd-scientific-and-statistical-committee-virtual-meeting.
 
Area-Based Management
The SSC will discuss recently published papers on area-based management (ABM) that investigate the balance of conservation objectives under new domestic and international policies. Council and SSC members have developed and contributed to several publications that investigate the trade-offs of closed areas for protecting biodiversity versus optimizing fishing yields with the smallest amount of bycatch. SSC members and Council staff also published works demonstrating the applicability of dynamic versus static ABM tools with respect to objectives and the dynamic nature of the pelagic ecosystems that dominate Council-managed waters.
 
Weak Hook Study
The SSC will weigh in on next steps for the False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan after considering a new study comparing the economic impacts of using relatively weaker hooks (4.2 mm diameter) to existing hooks (4.5 mm diameter) in the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery. The committee will advise the Council whether the study provides scientific evidence to adopt weaker hooks, which are intended to straighten to release accidentally hooked false killer whales, while retaining bigeye tuna and other fish species of market value.
 
The Council’s previous position on a preferred mitigation strategy was to focus on removing trailing gear from the animals as close to the hook as possible. Discussions will guide the Council in developing an updated position in preparation for the False Killer Whale Take Reduction Team meeting, which is expected to take place later in 2022. The Team includes representatives from the Council, various government agencies, and fisheries, academic and environmental groups.
 
American Samoa Bottomfish Data Workshops
The SSC will hear a report on data workshops held with Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC), Council and American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources staffs and fishermen held in Tutuila and Manu‘a. Fishermen provided insights and input on data to be used in the next American Samoa bottomfish benchmark stock assessment to be completed in 2023. The workshops were the first in a series of steps to improve data collection in the U.S. Pacific Territories.
 
Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets March 22-24, 2022, 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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