Scientists to set acceptable biological catch for American Samoa bottomfish
HONOLULU — Scientists from throughout the Pacific will meet Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, 2020, to discuss fishery management issues and make management recommendations for fisheries in the Western Pacific Region. The meeting of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will be held virtually and is open to the public.
The full agenda, background documents and instructions for connecting to the meeting and providing oral public comments are available at www.wpcouncil.org/event/138th-scientific-and-statistical-committee-meeting. Among the agenda items is the following:
AMERICAN SAMOA BOTTOMFISH
The SSC will set the acceptable biological catch for the American Samoa bottomfish fishery for fishing years 2021-2022. The best scientific information available for fishery management decisions is the 2019 stock assessment from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) with catch projections to 2025. Based on this information, the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is estimated to be 20,800 pounds and the overfishing limit in 2022 is 5,000 pounds. A panel of fishermen, fishery scientists and managers evaluated the scientific uncertainties associated with the assessment and quantified a risk level for the SSC to consider.
The 2019 benchmark stock assessment found the American Samoa bottomfish fishery to be overfished and subject to overfishing. The Council, in consultation with its SSC, must develop and implement within two years a plan that would rebuild the overfished stock within 10 years. At the same time, the Council must immediately end overfishing. The current projection from NMFS shows the stock could rebuild within 10 years with an annual catch limit ranging between 0 to 1,500 pounds. NMFS has issued a final rule to implement an interim catch limit of 13,000 pounds that would reduce overfishing and allow biomass to increase while minimizing socio-economic impacts to fishing communities. At the end of the 2020 interim measure, NMFS will review the performance of the fishery and could extend the measure for an additional period not to exceed 186 days in 2021.
The SSC may provide scientific advice on potential options that could simultaneously rebuild the bottomfish stock and end overfishing.
Recommendations made by the SSC on this and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets Dec. 2-4, 2020, virtually with host sites at BRI Building, Suite 205, Kopa Di Oru St., Garapan, Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI); and Tedi of Samoa Building, Suite 208B, Fagatogo Village, American Samoa.
Instructions on connecting to the web conference, agendas and briefing documents will be posted at www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars. Host sites are subject to local and federal safety and health guidelines regarding COVID-19; check the Council website for updates.