HAWAII-BASED FISHERIES COUNCIL MODIFIES CLOSURE

News Release

Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council Honolulu, Hawaii Oct. 19, 2010

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council concluded its three day meeting in Honolulu on Friday with recommendations regarding federal management of US Pacific Island pelagic fisheries and marine protected species as well as program planning and administrative matters.

Council actions included modifying the American Samoa large pelagic fishing vessel area closure to minimize incongruence with the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (MNM) while returning available fishing area to the long line fleet that was lost due to the establishment of incongruent boundaries of the Rose Atoll MNM with the Council’s large vessel prohibited area.

The preliminary preferred alternative would maintain protection of the various banks and seamounts important for the American Samoa troll and sports fisheries and temporarily reduce the large pelagic vessel area closure around Swains Island to 25 nautical miles. The Council is expected to take final action on this measure in March 2011 in American Samoa.

To address the overfishing status of Pacific big-eye tuna, the Council reiterated its June 2010 recommendations that stricter measures should be applied to the catch of the species by purse-seine vessels.

Pacific big-eye tuna are managed internationally by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC).

The Council recommended that the United States (US), which is party to the WCPFC, transmit draft management proposals to the Commission for consideration prior to its Dec. 6 to 10, 2010, meeting in Hawaii that would establish big-eye tuna catch limits for purse seiners, mandatory port sampling, effective fish aggregation device (FAD) fishing closures, evaluation of the use of a vessel day scheme for big-eye conservation, rolling three-year catch limits for long line fisheries and mandatory gear marking for all for fishing vessels in the WCPFC convention area.

Although not its target species, the US purse seine fleet (which falls under the auspice of the US Department of State) catches twice as much big-eye tuna as the Hawaii long line fleet. The overfishing of big-eye tuna coincides with the increasing use of FADs by US and other purse-seiners, which target skipjack tuna to be canned. The purse-seine FADs also attract juvenile big-eye and yellow fin tuna, species that are targeted in their adult stage by long liners, including the Hawaii-based fleet, for the fresh fish and sashimi markets.

The Council also recommended that the US request that the WCPFC evaluate the use of catch limits for pelagic fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. A similar study is being conducted by the IATTC for the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The WCPFC big-eye tuna catch limit for the US long line fleet, which consists of the Hawaii fleet plus one vessel operating out of the West Coast, is 3,763 metric tones annually through 2011. In 2009, the Hawaii quota was reached at the end of December. This year it is expected to be reached in mid-November. 

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