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Fishery Council clarifies local bottom fishery data

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “There is currently no reliable measure of individual number of fishermen in the American Samoa bottom fish fishery,” wrote Kitty M. Simonds, executive director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

“The Council is working with the American Samoa Government to improve the quality of fishery data,” wrote Simonds in a Nov. 12th letter providing the Council’s comment on the NMFS proposed List of Fisheries (LOF) for 2020. (The proposed list was published recently on federal portal seeking comments)

“Specifically, the Council provides clarification on the source of information used to revise the number of vessels/persons for the American Samoa bottomfish handline fishery from 1,092 to 2,095,” Simonds explained.

She noted that NMFS cites the Council's Annual Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the fishery participation data in the 2019 LOF, which resulted in the number of vessels/persons revised from the previous 17 to 1,092 in the 2019 LOF, and the subsequent revision to 2,095 in the proposed 2020 LOF.

NMFS appears to cite the 2016 Annual SAFE Report for the 2019 LOF, and the 2017 Annual SAFE Report for the 2020 LOF, said Simonds. She explained that the method used in the Annual SAFE Report estimates participation for the American Samoa bottomfish fishery by multiplying the average number of fishers per trip by the number of trips per day, and then by the number of dates in the calendar year by gear type.

The estimates are based on data provided by the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. This method - among other things - does not generate a count of unique fishermen in the fishery, but rather results in an estimation of the cumulative number of fishermen participating in the bottomfish fishery in a calendar year, representing duplicate counts of fishermen throughout the year.

“In the interim, we recommend using information from the Environmental Assessment for the Specification of the 2016-2017 Annual Catch Limits for the American Samoa bottomfish fishery, which describes the fishery as a small scale fishery consisting of fewer than 30 part-time relatively small commercial vessels landing between 6,000-35,000 pounds annually,” the letter concluded.