Federal managers seek to retain US fishery access to US waters
News Release from WESPAC March 23, 2017
HONOLULU — The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council concluded its three-day meeting in Honolulu with a suite of recommendations, many of which are focused on keeping U.S. fishing grounds open to sustainably managed U.S. fisheries.
The council includes the local fishery department directors from Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI, fishing experts appointed by the Governors and federal agencies involved in fishing-related activities.
Marine national monuments, national marine sanctuaries, other marine protected area designations and Department of Defense training are among the uses that are increasingly closing off fishing grounds in U.S. waters.
Council Chair Edwin A. Ebisui Jr. clarified that council communications to the administration about impacts of marine national monuments on fisheries are not lobbying.
Some environmental activists recently made misleading statements about this in regards to a letter to President Trump prepared on March 1, 2017, by the Council Coordination Committee or CCC. The CCC includes the chairs of the nation’s eight regional fishery management councils. The letter details the impact of designations of Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and was submitted to the president after conferring with the NOAA Office of General Counsel.
To address the impacts of ever increasing fishing grounds being closed, the council agreed to the following:
• Direct the council chair to request that the president remove fishing prohibitions within the Marine National Monuments in the U.S. Pacific Islands, therefore reestablishing management of those fisheries under the authority of the council and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act or MSA.
The voting members of the council agreed to this action, with abstentions by the State of Hawaii and Michael Tosatto, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Regional Office.
Ebisui noted that MSA requires not only conservation and protection of marine resources but also their optimal use. The United States imports more than 90 percent of the seafood it consumes with an estimated 30 percent or more from illegal, unreported and unregulated or IUU fisheries. He noted the absurdity of U.S. actions that support these IUU fisheries by closing off U.S. fishing waters for regulated U.S. fisheries. Council executive director Kitty M. Simonds noted that the governors of American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI have already sent a similar request to the president.
• Communicate to the secretary of Commerce concerns related to the proposal to overlay a national marine sanctuary on the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, including the scope of the proposal, federal overreach, regulatory duplication and increased administrative costs. Council Member John Gourley of the CNMI noted that the two petitioners are the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Friends of the Marianas Trench, which was established by Pew in 2008. Council member Va’amua Henry Sesepasara, who directs the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, said the American Samoa government is considering to request removal of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, in part because of its fishing prohibitions.
• Request that the National Marine Fisheries Service analyze the potential impacts on protected species from effort redistribution related to fishery provisions to prohibit commercial fishing in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument expanded area, 50 to 200 miles offshore around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, encompassing waters twice the size of Texas.
• Work with National Marine Fisheries Service and NOAA general counsel to review the US District Court’s decision regarding Large Vessel Prohibited Area and to evaluate next steps, which could include requesting the court to stay the decision pending reconsideration or appeal of the court’s decision; and further, to provide regulatory relief for the American Samoa longline fleet because it continues to face dire economic conditions. Council member Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, an owner of American Samoa longline vessels, noted that the longline vessels being prohibited access from the area are owned and operated by local American Samoans. Council member Taotasi Archie Soliai of StarKist Samoa noted the importance of the albacore tuna caught by the local longline fleet and landed at the cannery. The cannery is the largest non-government employer in the territory. A second cannery in the territory closed earlier this year, in part due to difficulties with tuna landings.
• Request that the Guam Department of Agriculture and the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife report on the efficacy of the Guam Marine Preserves and CNMI MPAs to determine how they have met their management objectives.
• Reconvene the Bottomfish Working Group to develop a plan that provides options for opening the State of Hawaii Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas; and request the State of Hawaii develop guidelines for the closure of any area to fishing and consider, as a requirement of closing an area to fishing, the development of a plan that includes regular monitoring of the area and a periodic assessment to the determine if management objectives have been met.
• Request that the DOD and the CNMI, in their consultations on the continued use of Farallon de Medinilla for military training and testing, include the fishing community to determine appropriate compensation and mitigation for damage and loss of fisheries, noting that recent expansion of Federal Aviation Administration Restricted Airspace from 3 to 12 nautical miles around the island has further impacted the local fishing community through reduced access to prime fishing grounds and increased transit times.
Request that the CNMI government evaluate the impacts to trolling and atulai (mackerel scad) fishing operations due to the anchoring of military prepositioning ships off Saipan.
• Request that the DOD complete an inventory and assessment report of all military dump sites throughout the CNMI and surrounding waters.
Besides fishing ground access, the council also addressed, among other items, the newly introduced amendment to the Billfish Conservation Act that would limit the sale of billfish caught in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI to the U.S. mainland; the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission longline bigeye tuna catch limit for U.S. vessels greater than 24 meters in length in the Eastern Pacific Ocean; management options for the next Western and Central Pacific Commission tropical tuna measure; and local fishery development including fish aggregation devices, marina repairs, boat ramps, docks, training and loan programs.
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Federal Managers to Consider Regulating Fisheries in the Expanded NWHI Marine Monument, Designating Thousands of Species as Ecosystem Components
News Release from WESPAC, March 20, 2017
HONOLULU-- Developing new fishing regulations for the expanded marine national monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) and identifying marine species to be federally managed as components of the ecosystem are two key issues to be addressed at the 169th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. The meeting runs tomorrow through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Honolulu and is open to the public. The Council includes the local fishery department directors from Hawai’i, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), fishing experts appointed by the Governors and federal agencies involved in fishing-related activities.
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The Presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act that expanded the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument calls for closing offshore commercial fisheries from 50 to 200 miles around the NWHI, an area twice the size of Texas. The Hawai’i-based longline fleet is expected to redirect its fishing efforts to the high seas (beyond 200 miles from shore) or into the allowable longline fishing area 50 to 200 miles offshore around the main Hawaiian Islands. The Hawai’i longline fleet, which catches bigeye tuna and swordfish, is banned from 0 to 50 miles throughout Hawai’i.
While the Presidential proclamation prohibits commercial fishing around the NWHI, it allows regulated non-commercial and Native Hawaiian subsistence fishing. As part of its decision-making process, the Council will consider the results of public scoping meetings that were conducted throughout Hawai’i in December as well as the recommendations of its advisory bodies. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), which met March 7 to 9 in Honolulu, recommends that existing data be explored, for example those from the former sport-fishing operation at Midway Atoll in the NWHI and the Hawaii tuna tagging project. It also recommends that the potential impact on protected species be considered as fishing effort is redistributed. The Council advisory bodies made up of fishermen and indigenous experts, which met March 15-17 in Honolulu, jointly support the removal of fishing provisions in the NWHI as well as other marine monuments in the region: Rose Atoll (American Samoa), Marianas Trench (CNMI) and Pacific Remote Islands (the US atoll and island possessions of Johnston, Palmyra, Wake, Baker, Howland, Jarvis and Kingman Reef). The group recommends that the Council continue to express its concerns to the new Administration regarding the impacts to fisheries from the monument designations and their expansions as well from military closures and other marine protected areas in the region.
The second key item the Council will consider when it meets is determining which of the thousands of marine species in the region to manage using annual catch limits as targeted fish species and which to manage using other tools (for example, minimum sizes and seasonal closures) as ecosystem component species. The Council may endorse the SSC recommendation to form an expert working group to ensure the final listings take into account species of social, cultural, economic, biological and ecological importance.
As part of the Council meeting, a Fishers Forum on Using Fishers Knowledge to Inform Fisheries Management will be held 6 to 9 p.m. on March 22 at the Ala Moana Hotel, Hibiscus Ballroom. The free, family friendly event includes informational booths, panel presentations and public discussion. For the complete agenda and meeting documents, go to http://www.wpcouncil.org/category/upcoming-council-and-advisory-body-meetings/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (808) 522-8220.
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council: Secretary of Commerce appointees from nominees selected by American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawai`i governors: Michael Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam) (vice chair); Edwin Ebisui Jr. (Hawaii) (chair); Michael Goto, United Fishing Agency (Hawaii); John Gourley, Micronesian Environmental Services (CNMI) (vice chair); Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, commercial fisherman (American Samoa); McGrew Rice, commercial and charter fisherman (Hawaii) (vice chair); Dean Sensui, film producer (Hawaii); Archie Soliai, StarKist (American Samoa) (vice chair). Designated state officials: Suzanne Case, Hawai`i Department of Land & Natural Resources; Henry Sesepasara, American Samoa Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources; Richard Seman, CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources; Matt Sablan, Guam Department of Agriculture. Designated federal officials: Matthew Brown, USFWS; Michael Brakke, US Department of State; RADM Vincent B. Atkins, USCG 14th District; and Michael Tosatto, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office.