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Scientists to advise on management of US Pacific Island fisheries

Source: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council


HONOLULU — Scientists from throughout the Pacific will convene in Honolulu Tuesday through Thursday to provide recommendations on managing fisheries in Hawai'i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the US Pacific Remote Islands Areas. The meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) is open to the public and runs 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Council office, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400.

Recommendations from the SSC and the Council's other advisory bodies will be considered by the Council at its 172nd meeting to be held March 14-17 at the Laniakea YWCA, Fuller Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu. The Council is expected to take action on nine items, including the following five actions that are being reviewed by the SSC.


In 2002, the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) was established to separate the large (greater than 50 feet) and small longline vessels to prevent potential gear conflict and catch competition. Subsequently, the fleet of small alia longline vessels dwindled from 40 down to one. About 15 larger longline vessels continue to operate out of Pago Pago Harbor under severe economic stress. Consideration will be given to LVPA options 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.


In 2009, the Council recommended Amendment 5 to the Pelagic FEP to require gear modifications in the America Samoa longline fishery to require 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. Amendment 5 also limited swordfish per trip to 10, which mirrored Hawaii longline regulations. 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. Consideration is thus being given 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.


The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) develops and agrees on conservation and management measures for highly migratory species caught by WCPFC members and Participating Territories in the Western and Central Pacific Official. In December 2017, the WCPFC agreed to a measure that restores the longline bigeye limits of six countries to 2016 levels, including the United States (3,554 mt). The measure does not establish an individual limit on the amount of bigeye tuna that may be harvested annually in the Convention Area by Small Island Developing States and Participating Territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI. The SSC and Council will consider a federal measure that limits the bigeye longline catch of the US Territories and the amount of catch they could transfer under Specified Fishing Arrangements to vessels permitted under the Pelagic FEP.


A proposed amendment to the Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) for the Hawai'i, American Samoa and Mariana Archipelagos would reclassify hundreds of species that are not readily caught by fishermen as ecosystem component species. Currently these species are classified as "species in need of federal management and conservation," which requires stock assessments, annual catch limits and other actions from which "ecosystem component species" are exempt. The ecosystem component species would remain in the FEPs and would continue to be monitored by the Council.


The Council will consider options for developing a framework for managing loggerhead and leatherback turtle interactions in the Hawaii shallow-set longline fishery. The management framework would provide responsive measures to help ensure year-round operations while addressing the needs for protected species conservation. Among these possible measures are a) specification of hard caps; b) a temporary in-season closure when a certain proportion of the loggerhead or leatherback limit is reached; c) real-time spatial management measures to monitor and respond to interaction hotspots and fluctuations; and d) a fleet communication program to facilitate real-time spatial management measures and disseminate interaction information to the fleet.

For the complete SSC and Council meeting agendas and associated documents, go to or email or phone (808) 522-8220.