Profits From Sale Of CNMI’s Tuna Quota To Benefit Conservation

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Fisheries management, marine programs get $525,000 from deal

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 16, 2015) – The $525,000 that the CNMI earns from selling half of its big eye tuna quota will go to marine conservation programs and development of fishery management, Variety learned.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service or NMFS gave the CNMI a 2,000 metric ton catch limit for big eye tuna for the year 2015, and allowed the commonwealth to sell half of it to a group of long-line fishermen in Hawaii.

NMFS allowed the CNMI to allocate a 1,000-metric ton catch limit to Hawaii long-liners in a specified fishing agreement.

In his email to CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Richard B. Seman, NMFS Regional Administrator Michael D. Tosatto said: "As an accountability measure, NMFS will monitor, attribute, and restrict (if necessary) catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna, including catches made under a specified fishing agreement. These catch limits and accountability measures support the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands."

In his Oct. 9 letter to Gov. Eloy S. Inos. Tosatto said he has reviewed the agreement between the CNMI government and Quota Management Inc. and determined that it is consistent with the requirements of the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries and the Western Pacific, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other applicable laws.

Quota Management Inc. is a group of long-line fishing vessels in Hawaii which has reached its 3,502-metric ton big eye tuna catch limit for 2015.

Seman, in an interview on Thursday, said it is first time that the CNMI was able to make the best use of its fishing quota.

"It is also good that we are able to assist the fishing community in Hawaii," he added.

The NMFS attribution to the CNMI of 1000 metric tons of big eye tuna catch, he said, "shows that we have a fair share of resources and, as a result, we are also able to benefit from it even though we are not actually catching the fish in our area."

Under the agreement, Seman said the CNMI will get $150,000 for the first year, $175,000 for the second year and $200,000 for the third and final year of the allocation.

Seman said this revenue will go to marine conservation projects which include fishery management.

"We are now able to realize financial means that can help us develop our fishery management here,’" he said.

The catch attribution began on Oct. 9.

In his letter, Tosatto also told Inos and Quota Management Inc. president Khang Dang that "if and when NMFS determines the fishery will reach the 1,000 metric ton allocation limit, we will restrict retention of big eye tuna caught by a vessel identified in the CNMI/QMI agreement, unless the vessel is included in a subsequent specified fishing agreement with another U.S. territory."

The American Samoa and Guam Coastal Management Programs, Tosatto added, are reviewing the NMFS action.

"So that we would implement the territorial limits in a timely fashion, we are issuing the first of two separate final 2015 specifications: one that implements the 2015 limits for the CNMI (which is this action), and then possibly followed by one that considers the American Samoa and Guam reviews of our federal consistency determination under the Coastal Zone Management Act," Tosatto said.

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