FISHERIES EXPERTS TO DETERMINE PACIFIC CATCH LIMITS

News Release

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
Honolulu, Hawaii
June 18, 2010

The group of scientists who advises the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will meet on June 22-24, 2010, in Honolulu to make decisions that could have significant impact on the amount of fish that fishermen can catch in the U.S. Pacific Islands, including the CNMI.

The Scientific and Statistical Committee will consider methods to set annual catch limits, or ACLs, for fish species caught in the exclusive economic zone waters of the Western Pacific Region, which span 3 to 200 miles offshore of Hawaii, American Samoa and Guam and 0 to 200 miles offshore of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and eight U.S. Pacific remote islands areas.

The need to set ACL for all species in federal fisheries (both targeted and non-targeted stocks) by 2011 was established by Congress in the 2006 reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Species that are exempt are those managed internationally and those that are considered ecosystem species, i.e., species that are not caught or targeted.

The biggest challenge for the scientists is to meet these objectives for the thousands of fish species that are part of the coral reef ecosystems of the U.S. Pacific Islands, especially as the scientific data on the vast majority of these species is limited or lacking. Another hurdle is addressing species that inhabit waters that fall under the jurisdiction of both the federal government and the state/ territorial government.

Currently, there are two fisheries for which ACLs have been set: The main Hawaiian Islands bottomfish fishery, which is managed jointly by the federal government and the State of Hawaii, and the longline caught bigeye tuna fishery, which is managed by the federal government consistent with the measures of international regional fishery management organizations, such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Other major agenda items to be considered by the SSC and the council include Hawaii longline catch limit for bigeye tuna and trip catch limit for swordfish, Hawaii bottomfish essential fish habitat and total allowable catch, American Samoa longline limited entry program, marine national monuments, aquaculture management and WCPFC transshipment measures.