Fishery managers recommend removing Bigeye Tuna quota limit for US Pacific Territories
Honolulu, HAWAII — The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, this week in Honolulu, recommended removing the 2,000 metric (mt) annual catch limit for bigeye tuna caught by longline in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) for the US Pacific Territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Removal of the catch limit would bring parity between the US Territories and other Territories and Small Island Developing States (SIDs) in the region. The recommendation will go the US Secretary of Commerce for approval as part of Amendment 9 to the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) for the Western Pacific Region.
Besides removing the WCPO longline-caught bigeye limit for the US Territories, the Council on Thursday recommended that each US Territory be allowed to allocate up to 1,500 mt of its quota to federally permitted, Hawai'i-based longline vessels under specified fishing agreements for fishing years 2020 through 2023. Currently under Amendment 7 of the Pelagic FEP, the allocation level is set at 1,000 mt per Territory per year.
Fees paid by vessels to the Territories under these agreements are deposited into the Western Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Fund (WPSFF) for projects identified by the governor of each Territory in its respective Marine Conservation Plan (MCP). The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Pacific Islands Regional Office oversees the WPSFF, while the Council administers sub-awards from the fund to the Territories. The Council has recommended that fees from the agreements go directly to the Territories, which would require a revision to the section regarding the WPSFF in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Eric Kingma, executive director of the Hawaii Longline Association (HLA), noted during public comments that the allocation increase would provide "more flexibility in these agreements, as well as the utilization of a resource that is not experiencing overfishing or overfished, and the opportunity for Territories to benefit."
FAST FACTS ABOUT THE HAWAII LONGLINE BIGEYE TUNA FISHERY AND QUOTA
- Local longline fleet for bigeye tuna is the largest food producer in Hawai'i, landingabout 5,358 mt based on 2017 data. This better reflects the capacity of the fleet and the demand of its market.
- About 80 percent of the landings remain in the islands, yet the amount of imports of fish species targeted by the local fisheries has been increasing.
- The US quota of longline-caught bigeye tuna in the WPCO set by the WCPFC for 2018-2020 is 3,554 mt. This amount is based on the catch by the Hawai'i-based longline fleet in 2014 minus a few incremental decreases over the years.