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Western Pacific Council Sets Bottomfish Limit, Recommends Restricted Area Removal

Sustainability Politics +2 more

HAWAII, US - The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council concluded its four-day meeting in Honolulu with recommendations on the management of bottomfish and other species in offshore waters surrounding Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the remote US Pacific Island areas.

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The Council reaffirmed the main Hawaiian Islands bottomfish annual catch limit (ACL) and annual catch target of 325,000 lbs for the 2012-2013 bottomfish season, which begins on 1 September, 2012.

The Council, after hearing an evaluation of the State of Hawaiis Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas (BRFAs), recommended their removal in federal waters. The Council will work with the State of Hawaii and NMFS to develop a research plan for the remaining BFRAs in State waters, incorporating existing information and new technologies being developed.

The Council commented at length on the proposal to list 82 corals under the Endangered Species Act, noting that the petition is a response to climate change but would do nothing to assuage the impacts of increasing ocean temperatures and acidity. At the same time, it would increase federal government control of the coastal zones of the US flagged Pacific Islands and further disenfranchise the rights of Pacific Islanders over their traditional reef fishing grounds and coral reefs.

The Council took final action to implement a 100-nautical mile area closure around the Mariana Archipelago for fishing vessels >120-feet in length. The intent is to protect the important commercial and subsistence small-scale tuna troll fisheries in Guam and CNMI.

The Council took final action to provide the US Territories of American Samoa, Guam, and CNMI the authority to use, assign, allocate and manage catch limits of highly migratory fish stocks, or fishing effort limits, established by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) through arrangements with US vessels permitted under the Councils Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan (PFEP).

The Council also established a mechanism whereby the US Territories, for the purposes of responsible fisheries development, may assign up to 1,000 mt of their bigeye allocation to US vessels managed under the Councils PFEP on an annual basis. These limits will be reviewed on an annually by the Council for purposes of consistency with WCPFCs tuna conservation and management measures and provisions for small island developing states and participating territories, which include the US Territories.

The Council directed its staff to form a working group with the State of Hawaii to look at the 3-pound minimum size limit for yellowfin and bigeye tuna catches and the impacts of increasing the size limit.

Council recommendations are transmitted to the US Secretary of Commerce for final approval. The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council was established by Congress to manage fisheries in offshore waters around Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, CNMI and the US Pacific remote island areas.