Honolulu – The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, today in Honolulu, concluded its four-day meeting on federally managed fisheries in the US Pacific Islands.
The final discussions focused on management of pelagic and international fisheries, especially recommendations for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). This international regional fishery management organization develops management measures for highly migratory species, such as tuna and billfish. It is scheduled to meet in Manila, Dec. 2 to 6, 2012.
The Council noted that the longline fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), including the Hawaii longline fishery, have reduced their catches of bigeye in compliance with the WCPFC Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) 2008-01. By contrast, CMM 2008-01 has failed to control total purse-seine fishing effort and fish aggregation device (FAD)-associated purse-seine catch of juvenile bigeye. Therefore, the Council reiterated its recommendation that a new CMM must address the substantial catch of juvenile bigeye by purse-seine fleets, especially in light of the continued increase in the number purse-seine vessels, fishing effort, purse-seine catch of juvenile bigeye and increasing prevalence of FAD sets. The Council recommended that no additional longline bigeye catch reductions be included in a new measure. Pacific bigeye tuna is experiencing overfishing, i.e., the current catch level is not sustainable.
The Council also recommended that the United States develop future proposals that may be more effective for the conservation of bigeye tuna, including individual purse-seine vessel bigeye catch limits, individual purse-seine FAD limits, spatial longline bigeye limits, and fishing capacity limits for purse-seine and longline fisheries.
The Council noted its support for a stronger CMM for South Pacific albacore due to the dependence of the American Samoa longline fishery on this stock. It tentatively supported the development of a CMM that includes high seas and exclusive economic zone (EEZ)-based catch limits.
The Council also recommended that the United States lead a working group to improve the WCPFC compliance and monitoring process and consider providing monetary and technical support to the Secretariat to enhance the process. The WPCFC currently relies on self-reporting by WCPFC member and cooperating non-member countries on implementing CMMs. For 2012, one-third of the WCPFC members did not submit their implementation reports on time.
With respect to domestic pelagic fisheries, the Council noted increasing importance of opah to the Hawaii longline fishery. It recommended that opah be added to the list of species described in the Hawaii quarterly report to the Council and that additional research be conducted on opah. The Council also recommended that tagging studies and catch rate analyses be conducted in the Marianas Archipelago by the National Marine Fisheries Service to help understand potential effects from WCPO skipjack range contraction.
The meeting concluded with election of new Council officers: Arnold Palacios (CNMI) as chair and William Sword (American Samoa), Richard Seman (CNMI), Michael Duenas (Guam) and Ed Ebisui (Hawaii) as vice chairs.
The Council was established by Congress to manage fisheries in offshore waters around Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, CNMI and the US Pacific remote island areas. Fishery management plans and regulations developed by the Council are transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval.
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council:
Appointees by the Secretary of Commerce from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawaii governors:, Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam); Richard Seman, education and outreach specialist (CNMI); William Sword, recreational fisherman/civil engineer/manager (American Samoa) (Vice Chair); Edwin Ebisui, attorney (Hawaii); Mike Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawaii); Julie Leialoha, environmentalist (Hawaii); and F. McGrew Rice, charter fisherman (Hawaii). Designated state officials: Arnold Palacios, CNMI Department of Land & Natural Resources (Vice Chair); Mariquita Taitague, Guam Department of Agriculture (Vice Chair); William Aila, Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources (Interim Chair); and Ray Tulafono, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. Designated federal officials: Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office; Don Palawski, U.S. Fish and Wildlife; RAdm Charles Ray, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District; and Bill Gibbons-Fly, US Department of State.