Fisheries Council Recommends Rules to Offset ELAPS Impacts

At last week’s meeting of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reported that the American Samoa fisheries and canneries were impacted by closure of the American Samoa based purse-seine fishery due to implementation of the WCPFC-developed Effort Limit Area for Purse Seine (ELAPS).

The Council recommended that NMFS continue to develop rulemaking to address disproportionate impacts to the economy of American Samoa from high seas effort limits applicable to US purse seine vessels.

It also recommended that a study be undertaken on the impacts of the ELAPS closure on the American Samoa economy as a whole.

American Samoa’s Council members at the Honolulu meeting were Christinna Lutu-Sanchez and Taotasi Archie Soliai.

The governor’s fisheries adviser, Vaamua Henry Sesepasara and Nate Ilaoa, the Council’s local staff member also attended.

The Council also recommended that the US Participating Territory longline-caught bigeye tuna limits remain at 2,000 metric tons (mt) per Territory for 2017.

Pending approval by the Secretary of Commerce, the Territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands (CNMI) are authorized to allocate up to 1,000 mt of their limit to US fishermen through specified fishing agreements as authorized under Amendment 7 of the Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Western Pacific Region.

The amendment, which has been in place since 2014, requires that the Territory longline-caught bigeye tuna limits be reviewed and recommended on an annual basis.

Transference of a portion of their quota provides the Territories with funding for fisheries development projects in their respective Marine Conservation Plans.

These plans are developed by the respective governors, in consultation with the Council and approved by the Commerce Secretary.

“The transfers also help to stabilize Hawai’i’s local fresh tuna market,”said Council Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds.

Hawai’i longline vessels are subject to US longline-caught bigeye tuna quota, based on Hawai’i’s 2004 catch and incrementally decreased per the conservation and management measures developed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), of which the United States is a member.

In recent years, Hawai’i has reached the US quota progressively earlier in the year. NOAA analysis presented a the Council meeting last week indicates that this is due to increased size and higher catch rates of bigeye tuna in the fishery.

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