Federal Fishery Council maintains draft measures for fishing in Marine National Monuments
TUMON BAY, GUAM — The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council today in Guam voted to maintain its initial recommendations regarding traditional fishing in the Marianas Trench, Rose Atoll and Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monuments.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had asked the Council to consider revising its initial recommendations to include:
a) limits on cash reimbursements under customary exchange practices,
b) bag limits for allowed fishing activities, and
c) a definitional timeframe for traditional indigenous fishing.
Regulatory recommendations made by the Council are transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval and then implemented by NMFS.
The Council stated that limiting cash reimbursements under customary exchange could change fishermen’s behavior and could be difficult to enforce as was the case for similar limits under federal Alaska subsistence halibut regulations.
The Council also noted that the anticipated level of non-commercial fishing in the Monuments would not jeopardize the sustainability of fish stocks and that existing recommendations requiring permits and logbook reporting for all non-commercial fishing activities in the Monuments would allow NMFS, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Council to closely monitor the amount of fishing and harvests. These permit and monitoring mechanisms would also ensure that customary exchange does not result in commercial fishing as well as provide a factual basis to modify the management measures in the future if they are warranted.
The Council recommended that the Monument fishing statistics be reviewed annually and that fishing vessels be prohibited from conducting commercial fishing outside the Monument(s) and non-commercial fishing in the Monument(s) on the same trip.
The Council also pointed out that the Presidential Proclamations that created the Monuments do not limit traditional indigenous fishing to a particular time-frame and that to do so would be inappropriate and culturally insensitive and represent a poor understanding of cultural change and continuity in the US Pacific Islands.
Among other matters, the Council addressed increased military activity in the Mariana archipelago that is negatively impacting fishing communities.
The fishing community would like the US Department of Defense to mitigate these impacts through direct compensation, support for fishery infrastructure development and access to fishing grounds.
The Council encouraged the military to conduct a public forum and engage the local communities to determine amicable solutions. The Council also supported better coordination between the government agencies and the military to enhance fisheries data collection at places such as Apra Harbor and Anderson Air force Base.
Regarding protected species, the Council agreed to request that NMFS ask the court to extend the deadline for making a proposed determination for 82 species of coral being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The delay would allow a greater opportunity for consultation with territorial governments, the Council and potentially affected fishermen and communities.
The Council also supported Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin’s request to have the Congressional Research Service review NOAA’s proposal to expand Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa.
The Council will take up management of insular fisheries in federal waters surrounding the Hawaii archipelago and pelagic fisheries for the Western Pacific Region when it reconvenes tomorrow 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hilton Guam Resort and Spa, Tumon Bay.
Source: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council media release