WestPac council identifies priorities for US Pacific Island fisheries
HONOLULU — The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, meeting virtually this week, recommended actions the Federal Government could take to promote seafood competitiveness and economic growth and to provide regulatory relief to support economic recovery for the offshore fisheries of Hawai'i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and eight Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIAs). The Council member representing the Hawai'i State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) voted in opposition.
Samoa News points out the Council's recommendations respond to the president’s Executive Orders (EOs) 13921 and 13924 issued on May 7 and May 19, 2020, respectively, which continue the Trump Administration’s program of deregulation.
The purposes of EO 13921 include removing outdated and unnecessarily burdensome regulations and improving transparency and efficiency of environmental reviews, among others. Section 4 of EO asks for each of the nation's eight regional fishery management councils to provide a prioritized list of recommended actions that would reduce burdens on domestic fishing and increase production within sustainable fisheries.
The Council's list includes improving implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and removal of the fishing prohibitions in the four Marine National Monuments in the Pacific and returning management of federally regulated fisheries in monument waters to the MSA. The Pacific monuments comprise half of the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the region.
The Council also proposed exempting manmade and degraded environments, such as harbors, from being classified as essential fish habitat (EFH), i.e., waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity. The exemption would address lengthy delays and unreasonable conservation actions that hamper harbor improvements and maintenance as these waters are currently considered EFH.
Among other actions taken by the Council during the first half of this week's meeting is:
American Samoa Fisheries: The Council directed its staff to work with the Territory's Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources to assist eligible fishery participants with completing the requirements to submit CARES Act funding applications and provide updates on the proposal status to the fishing community.
The meeting continues and the public is invited to participate and to provide comments. The meeting agenda, briefing documents and instructions on connecting to the virtual meeting can be found online at www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars or by contacting the Council at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (808) 522-8220.