The National Oceanic and Atmospheric recently approved Amendment 7 to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region, which in part allows participating U.S. territories to sell part of their bigeye tuna quota to Hawaiian fishing vessels.
With the rule, the National Marine Fisheries Service sets a catch limit of 2,000 metric tons for longline bigeye tuna caught in the CNMI, American Samoa, and Guam. It also allows the CNMI to allocate 1,000 metric ton of that limit to eligible U.S. longline fishing vessels annually.
According to a West Hawaii Today report, the U.S. quota is set by international law at 3,763 metric tons for longline-caught bigeye tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean, but with the new rule the territories can “sell their rights” to half of their quota and in effect give the U.S. fleet an additional 3,000 metric tons to work with.
But according to the news outlet, National Marine Fisheries Service does not anticipate the overall catch of bigeye to increase by 1,000 metric tons, as U.S. vessels can only enter into one fishing agreement with a territory at a time, and fishing limits will be reviewed every year.
The final rule was effective Oct. 24.
In the rule’s summary, National Marine Fisheries Service called the action “consistent with international objectives of ending overfishing of bigeye tuna.”
The final rule also implements a management framework for specifying catch limits and accountability measures in the U.S. Pacific territories.
According to the West Hawaii Today story, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schwatz cited the “threat of shortage” of ahi during the holiday season as one reason why he pushed for the rule.
It was reported that Schwatz worked with National Marine Fisheries Service, the Hawaii Longline Association, and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to get this done.
“For many years, the threat of a shortage during the holidays has caused higher prices for families and less productivity for our fishermen. That’s why I am so pleased we were able to work with both NOAA and the Hawaii longliners…ensuring families won’t experience any shortage of sashimi when ringing in the New Year,” Schatz said in a statement.
However, environmental groups like Earthjustice and the Center of Biological Diversity reportedly disapprove of the rule, with some calling it a “cynical workaround” and “mockery” of international law, according to the West Hawaii Today report.