Honolulu conference to discuss bottomfishing, bigeye catch limits for Guam and the CNMI

Photo courtesy of James Borja.
Scientists from throughout the Pacific will meet March 3 to 5 in Honolulu to discuss acceptable catch of bottomfish in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and catch and allocation limits for longline-caught bigeye tuna in Guam, CNMI and American Samoa.
The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will convene 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400. The meeting is open to the public.
Guam and CNMI Bottomfish Fisheries
The SSC is scheduled to set the acceptable biological catches (ABCs) for the Territories of Guam and CNMI bottomfish fisheries for fishing year 2020-2023. The ABCs will be based on the 2019 stock assessment of the fisheries, which is the best scientific information available.
The assessment found the Guam bottomfish to be overfished but the fishery is not experiencing overfishing, and the CNMI to be neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing.
The ABCs will be based on the overfishing limit (OFL) reflected in the stock assessment minus any scientific uncertainties and will be used by the Council to set the annual catch limits (ACLs) for the fisheries. The Council is scheduled to meet March 10 to 12 in Honolulu to recommend the ACLs and address other matters.
Guam, CNMI and American Samoa Longline-Caught Bigeye Tuna: Conservation and management measures for Western and Central Pacific bigeye tuna are developed by the international Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The WCPFC has developed specific national quotas for longline-caught bigeye tuna for six member countries, including the United States. However, no quotas are specified for small island developing states (SIDS) and territories (including American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI) in recognition of their aspirations to develop their fisheries. Although not required by the Commission, the Council developed quotas for the US Pacific Territories. Also established was a management framework that allows the US Territories to allocate a portion of their catch limits through Specified Fishing Agreements with US vessels permitted under the Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the purposes of responsible fisheries development in the Territories. The current catch limits are 2,000 metric tons (mt) per Territory of which up to 1,000 mt can be allocated. The SSC will review the bigeye longline catch and allocation limits and may make recommendations to the Council to adjust them.
Other items on the SSC agenda
    • American Samoa, Guam and CNMI Bottomfish Management: The original Bottomfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Western Pacific Region listed 20 fish species that dominated the landings, which included both shallow and deep-water species. The bottomfish were grouped into a single complex for management purposes. In 2009, the bottomfish management unit species (BMUS) were amended as part of the restructuring of the Council’s FMPs into place-based Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs). American Samoa, Guam and CNMI each had its own BMUS list, which continued to be treated as a complex for management purposes. The BMUS lists for the territories were most recently revised in 2018 when some MUS were designated as Ecosystem Component Species, which do not require ACLs.  The territory bottomfish fisheries have evolved over time, which may warrant further amendments of the BMUS.
    • Rebuilding Plan: The release of the 2019 benchmark stock assessment for the territory bottomfish fishery triggered the development of a rebuilding plan for the American Samoa and Guam bottomfish that were considered overfished. This is the first rebuilding plan that will be developed for the region. The SSC is scheduled to discuss its role in the rebuilding plan development process and determine the scientific information needed to develop the plan.
  • Electronic Reporting: The SSC will review and make recommendations to the Council on reporting requirements, cost allocation, and data management of electronic reporting in the Hawaii longline fishery.
Recommendations made by the SSC on these and other matters will be considered by the Council when it meets March 10 to 12, 2020, at the YWCA Atherton Hall, 1040 Richards St., Honolulu. For agendas and briefing documents for the SSC, Council and related advisory body meetings, go to http://www.wpcouncil.org/public-meetings/ or contact the Council at info@wpcouncil.org or call (808) 522-8220.
Scientific and Statistical Committee: James Lynch (K&L Gates LLP) (chair); Debra Cabrera (University of Guam); Frank Camacho (University of Guam); Milani Chaloupka (University of Queensland); Erik Franklin (University of Hawai’i, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology); Shelton Harley (Minister of Fisheries, NZ); Ray Hilborn (University of Washington); Justin Hospital (NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center); David Itano (fisheries consultant); Donald Kobayashi (NMFS PIFSC); Steve Martell (SeaState Inc.); Domingo Ochavillo (American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources); Ryan Okano (Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources); Graham Pilling (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); Kurt Schaefer (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission); Craig Severance (University of Hawai`i at Hilo, retired); Michael Tenorio (CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife; and Michael Seki (ex-officio) (NMFS PIFSC).
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawaii governors: Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa) (chair); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Edwin Watamura, Waialua Boat Club (Hawai’i) (vice chair); Howard Dunham, commercial fisherman (American Samoa); Monique Genereux, business owner (Guam); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawai’i); McGrew Rice, charter boat captain (CNMI). Designated state officials: Raymond Roberto, CNMI Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources; Suzanne Case, Hawai’i Dept. of Land & Natural Resources; Chelsa Muña-Brecht, Guam Dept. of Agriculture; Henry Sesepasara, American Samoa Dept. of Marine & Wildlife Resources. Designated federal officials (voting): Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office. Designated federal officials (non-voting): RADM Kevin Lunday, USCG 14th District; Michael Brakke, US Department of State; Brian Peck, USFWS.