HONOLULU - Renowned scientists from throughout the Pacific convened in Honolulu on March 8-9 to review a proposed system for determining which federally managed fish to regulate through annual catch limits (ACLs) and which to move into an ecosystem component category.
"In 2006, Congress required that federally managed species be regulated through ACLs," explained Kitty M. Simonds, council executive director.
"However, specifying ACLs for thousands of species in the Western Pacific Region has been impractical, burdensome and, in some cases, unfeasible."
The region includes coral reef fish, bottomfish, crustaceans, pelagic fish and deep-water corals. Some of these species lack the data needed to generate a stock assessment and/or have no near-real-time monitoring of catches.
Even bundling some species into their family complexes requires the generation of 115 ACLs for the region, which includes Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
To streamline the ACL process, the council will amend its five Fishery Ecosystem Plans to designate some species as ecosystem components. The council will continue to monitor these species, but it will not be required to specify maximum sustainable yield, optimum yield, ACL and essential fish habitat for them.
The council will meet March 21 to 23 in Honolulu, when it will consider the advice of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and its other advisory bodies.
During its meeting, the SSC of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is also scheduled to consider, and may provide advice, on the 2016 Hawaii coral reef fish stock assessment, fishing regulations for the monument expansion area in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center data confidentiality laws and policy, 2017 bigeye tuna stock assessment, Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission sea turtle mitigation, Hawaii deep-set longline Endangered Species Act consultations, false killer whales and much more.
"The Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) Report represents a major advance in the monitoring and evaluation of the pelagic fisheries in our region," said Simonds. "Besides the usual complement of fishery modules found in previous reports, the report has in-depth chapters on protected species, stock assessment summaries, socio-economics and human dimensions of pelagic fisheries, climate and oceanic indicators, essential fish habitat and marine planning."
The SAFE report provides the council and National Marine Fisheries Service with information to determine the annual catch limits for each stock in the fishery; to document significant trends or changes in the resource, marine ecosystems and fishery over time; to implement required essential fish habitat provisions; and to assess the relative success of existing relevant state and federal fishery management programs.
The report is intended to serve as a source document for developing fishery management plans (or fishery ecosystem plans) and their amendments and other analytical documents needed for management decisions.