Republished from Undercurrent News, 21 June 2019

The scientific and statistical committee (SSC) for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) has recommended that no catch limits be set for longliners pursuing bigeye tuna near the three US territories in Pacific Ocean — American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — from 2020 until 2023. 

The panel also recommended that each of the territories be allowed to allocate up to 2,000 metric tons to federally permitted Hawaii longline vessels.

The SSC’s recommendations came during a three-day meeting concluded in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Thursday, and preceded a meeting by the WPRFMC to be held in the same city, June 25-27, where bigeye tuna catch and allocation limits will be on the agenda.

Small, developing states in the Pacific don’t have longline-caught bigeye quotas, the council explains on its website, but under an amendment to its pelagic fishery ecosystem plan, the US’ National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has the authority to specify annual catch and allocation limits for the three US territories. In recent years, each US territory had a 2,000t limit and authority to allocate up to 1,000t.

Prior to making its decision, the science panel reportedly reviewed stock projections through 2045, which showed that catch limit and allocation scenarios of up to 3,000t per territory were not significant enough to cause the stock to go over any limit reference points adopted by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international regional fishery management organization that develops quotas and other management measures for tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. 

The SSC this week also set the acceptable biological catch for the main Hawaiian Islands Kona crab commercial fishery at 30,802 pounds for 2020 to 2023. The decision accounted for the scientific uncertainties with an estimated risk of overfishing of 38%, the press release stated.

Catch limits and options for specifying annual catch limits on Kona crab also are to be on the council’s agenda next week as well as a presentation from Global Fishing Watch, an organization that uses technology to visualize, track and share data about global fishing activity.