Interim rule proposed for American Samoa bottomfish limit
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing a temporary rule for an interim catch limit (ICL) of 13,000 pound of American Samoa bottomfish for fishing year 2020.
NMFS, which is seeking public comments for submission by Sept. 28th — next week Monday on the proposed measure — said it would monitor 2020 catches, and if the fishery reaches the ICL, “we would close the fishery in federal waters for the remainder of the calendar year,” according to the federal agency, which has posted details and other information of the interim proposed rule on federal portal (www.regulations.gov).
“This temporary action is necessary to reduce overfishing of American Samoa bottomfish while minimizing socio-economic impacts to fishing communities. This proposed rule supports the long-term sustainability of American Samoa bottomfish,” said NMFS.
(To file a comment electronically, go to www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2020-0099, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.)
NMFS said it discussed — going back to last year — potential alternative management options for the interim measure at public Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council meetings, and during meetings with managers from the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR).
Fishermen and Council members from American Samoa commented at public Council meetings that a catch limit of zero-pound, 8,000 pounds, or even 13,000 pounds would have social, cultural and economic effects.
In a June 15th letter to the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office, the DMWR expressed concerns that the ICL of 13,000 pounds is “too low for their fishermen to subsist, and that a closure of offshore banks in federal waters to bottomfish fishing would deprive fishermen of important fishing grounds for deep-water snappers that are critical for cultural ceremonies,” according to NMFS.
NMFS says this interim ICL provides a balance between regulatory requirements to reduce overfishing, and the need to mitigate impacts of fishery management on communities in American Samoa. Furthermore, the best scientific information available projects that 13,000 pounds is the greatest level catch that would allow stock biomass to increase during the interim measure, as required by federal regulations.
As of yesterday morning only three “anonymous” public comments had been posted to the federal portal. One commentor said the “proposed rule would still have positive impacts on American Samoa bottomfish populations while not completely inhibiting the lives of American Samoan fishermen and residents.”
Another commentor believes the proposed rule is “reasonable” to address the overfishing issue, but questions the calculation methods used to retrieve the current data of this fishing community. The commentor claims that the calculation methods “are not accurate” and suggested a new method to calculate data more accurately is needed to move forward.