Fisheries council prepares to consider LPVA options
Among the issues to be considered by the 172nd Fisheries council are the following of particular interest to American Samoa, plus any comments from the public on the issues.
AMERICAN SAMOA LARGE VESSEL PROHIBITED AREA
In the early 2000s, the American Samoa longline fleet included about 40 small vessels (alia) and 25 larger vessels (more than 50 feet in length) targeting albacore for the local canneries.
In 2002, the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) was established to separate the large and small longline vessels to prevent potential gear conflict and catch competition. Subsequently, the alia longline fleet dwindled to fewer than three in 2006 and to one in 2010. About 15 larger longline vessels continue to operate out of Pago Pago Harbor but under severe economic stress.
At its 172nd meeting, the Council will consider taking final action on LVPA options (see Table 1) that may improve economic efficiency of the larger longline vessels while taking into consideration, among other things, the need to prevent overfishing, impacts on small vessels and protecting American Samoa cultural fishing practices.
This action addresses continued poor economic performance in the American Samoa longline fishery and regulations that may unnecessarily restrict fleet movement and harm fishing efficiency.
AMERICAN SAMOA SWORDFISH TRIP LIMIT
In 2009, the Council recommended Amendment 5 to the Pelagic FEP to require gear modifications in the America Samoa longline fishery to promote hooks to be set below 100 meters in depth in order to minimize the incidental catch of green sea turtles. NMFS implemented this measure in 2011, and green turtle interactions appear to be less frequent based on the estimated total number of interactions.
Amendment 5 also included a limit of 10 swordfish per trip to discourage fishermen from setting their gear shallow to target swordfish. The limit mirrored regulations applicable to the Hawai 'i deep-set longline fishery.
In 2012, the swordfish limit for the Hawai 'i deep-set longline fishery was modified to 25 swordfish per trip not carrying an on-board observer and unlimited with an observer on the fishing trip.
Currently, American Samoa longliners are unable to shallow-set for swordfish, unlike the Hawai 'i shallow-set longline fishery, which is managed under a suite of Pelagic FEP regulations.
The American Samoa longline fishery primarily targets South Pacific albacore for the Pago Pago cannery, with a smaller amount of sales of other species (e.g., yellowfin, skipjack) to the cannery and into the local market.
American Samoa longline fishery participants do not ship fishery products for export markets. Poor economic conditions have persisted in the American Samoa longline fishery for several years due to reduced albacore catch rates, high operating costs and relatively low fish prices.
At its 172nd meeting, the Council will consider taking final action on management options “to modify or remove the limit on the maximum number of swordfish that can be landed on a per” trip basis by vessels holding an American Samoa limited entry longline permit that operate south of the Equator.”
The intent of the proposed action is to optimize fishery resources by reducing regulatory discards of swordfish and increase efficiency of the fishery while maintaining safeguards for sea turtles and other protected species.
AMERICAN SAMOA MARINE CONSERVATION PLAN
The Marine Conservation Plan (MCP) for American Samoa expires March 31,2018.
At its 172nd meeting, the Council will review the proposed new American Samoa MCP for concurrence and approval. After review by the Council, the MCP will be transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for approval. If approved by the Council and Secretary of Commerce, the MCP will be valid for a period of three years; however, an MCP can be modified at any time and resubmitted for approval.
The MCP is required under the MSA Section 204(e), which authorizes the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce and in consultation with the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, to negotiate and enter into a Pacific Insular Area Fishery Agreement (PIAFA).
A PIAFA would allow foreign fishing within the 200-mile US EEZ adjacent to American Samoa, CNMI, Guam or the Pacific Remote Island Areas with the concurrence of, and in consultation with, the applicable governor.
According to the MSA, the governor, with the concurrence of the Council, must develop a three-year MCP providing details on uses for any funds collected by the Secretary under the PIAFA.
In addition to PIAFA funds, the MSA provides that fines and penalties of violations by foreign vessels occurring within the EEZ around the Pacific Insular Areas, including sums collected from forfeiture and disposition or sale of property seized by the federal government, are to be deposited into the applicable local government's treasury and to be used to implement the respective MCP.
Also authorized by the MSA is the Western Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Fund, which allows the Council to use funds to implement MCP projects.
The MSA requires the MCPs to be consistent with the Council's FEPs and include, but not be limited to, the following conservation and management objectives:
(i) Pacific Insular Area observer programs or other monitoring programs that the Secretary determines are adequate to monitor the harvest, bycatch and compliance with US laws by foreign fishing vessels that fish under the PIAFA.
(ii) Marine and fisheries research, including development of systems for information collection, analysis, evaluation and reporting.
(iii) Conservation, education and enforcement activities related to marine and coastal management, such as living marine resource assessments, habitat monitoring and coastal studies
(iv) Education and training in the development and implementation of sustainable marine resources development projects, scientific research and conservation strategies.
(v) Western Pacific community-based demonstration projects under section 112(b) of the Sustainable Fisheries Act and other coastal improvement projects to foster and promote the management, conservation and economic enhancement of the Pacific Insular Areas.
2018 US TERRITORY LONGLINE BIGEYE SPECIFICATION
Bigeye tuna comprises a Pacific-wide population that is internationally managed and assessed as separate stocks in the Western and Central Pacific (WCPO) and Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter American Tropical Tuna Association (IATTC), respectively.
Stock assessments conducted in 2017 for the WCPO and 2017 in the EPO indicate that both stocks are not subject to overfishing nor are they overfished, according to the stock status determination reference points in the FEP for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region.
At its 172nd meeting, the Council will consider taking final action on options related to the specification of the annual Territory bigeye longline limits applicable for 2018 for American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI.
The Council will also consider limits on the amount of catch that could be transferred under Specified Fishing Arrangements by the US Participating Territories to vessels permitted under the Pelagic FEP.
The Council will consider the following limit options:
1. No management action: No specification of catch or allocation limits
2. Status quo: Specify for each US Participating territory, a 2,000-metric ton (mt) catch limit and 1,000-mt allocation limit in 2018
3. No total longline bigeye limit per US Participating Territory, but a limit on the amount of bigeye each territory can allocate under annual Specified Fishing Agreements:
a 1,000 mt allocation limit per territory
b. 1,500 mt allocation limit per territory
c. 2,000 mt allocation limit per territory
Written public comments should be received by the Council 's executive director by 5 p.m. (Hawai'i time), Friday, March 9, 2018, by postal mail, FAX or email as indicated below. After March 9, it is the submitter's responsibility to provide at least 40 copies of the written comment to Council staff at the Council meeting.
Mail: Ms. Kitty M. Simonds, Executive Director
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
1164 Bishop Street, Suite 1400
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
FAX: (808) 522-8226
E-mail: info.wpcouncil @noaa.gov