GUAM (Pacific News Center)—The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council has issued a reminder to the Department of Defense and Joint Region Marianas of the concerns that fishermen have over the expansion of the closure around Farallon de Medinilla testing range, which is a prime bottomfishing area.
WCPFC decided that its staff will review the current CNMI bottomfish fishery and its existing management regime and develop an options paper for Council consideration that would remove the large vessel area closure for bottomfish in the southern portion of the archipelago.
WCPFC concluded a four-day meeting in Honolulu Friday. It was established by Congress to manage fisheries in offshore waters around Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Pacific remote island areas. It serves as a bridge between the local communities, fishermen, and the federal government.
At their meeting, the Council also expressed concern about the military’s plans for the expansion of activities around the islands of Tinian and Pagan, which may hurt fishing in those areas as well.
They agreed to also remind NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries that, regarding the Billfish Conservation Act, the intent of Congress was to maintain the ability of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, and CNMI fisheries to send billfish to the U.S. mainland for sale as well as allow billfish landed in American Samoa, Guam, and CNMI by foreign vessels to be sold in Hawaii. And the U.S. Coast Guard is also being asked by the council to prioritize patrols of the U.S. exclusive economic zone to detect foreign fishing violations and acquire or direct additional patrol assets for the Western Pacific Region.
The Council also decided to form a Fishery Data Collection and Research Committee to be composed of the heads of the Council, the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Guam Department of Agriculture, CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans, and NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, as well as a representative from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The NMFS will also be notified of the Council’s concurrence with the positive 90-day finding in response to the petition to delist the North Pacific humpback whale population under the Endangered Species Act.
The Council reiterated its previous recommendation to recognize the recovery and delist the North Pacific humpback whales and looks forward to a timely 12-month finding from NMFS.