Fishermen Seek Belated Compensation for Exclusion from Marine Monuments

posted in: August 2012, Fisheries, Marine | 0

Two commercial fishermen who say they were displaced by the establishment of marine national monuments in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) and Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIAs) are finally speaking out against the disbursement of millions of dollars in compensation to former NWHI lobster fishers who had been banned from the area several years before either monument was created.

They, too, should have been compensated, they argue. But according to federal attorneys, their arguments have come too late.

In 2007, Congress appropriated $6.7 million to compensate NWHI bottomfish and lobster fishers who were going to be displaced when commercial fishing ended in the monument on June 15, 2011. Most of that money, $4.3 million, went to 15 former lobster fishers in late 2009/early 2010. None of it went to Joseph Dettling, a commercial fisher and pelagic troller who had fished the NWHI since the 1990s under a state permit.

Although the appropriation was narrowly construed to compensate bottomfish and lobster fishers only, Dettling argues in court documents that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration staff told him he could be compensated for being shut out of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. He also argues NOAA staff made similar assurances regarding the establishment in 2009 of the Pacific Remote Island Areas monument, where he and fellow commercial fisher and pelagic troller Robert Cabos had long fished.

On June 14, 2011, they sued NOAA and the U.S. Department of Commerce in U.S. District Court for $2.4 million. A hearing had been scheduled for August 7, but attorneys for the parties have agreed to reschedule.

Dettling and Cabos argue they are entitled to compensation for damages caused by the establishment of the Papahanaumokuakea monument and the PRIA monument, both of which prohibit commercial fishing.

Dettling seeks $1.2 million in compensation for lost fishing grounds in the NWHI and $300,000 for the PRIAs, which include Palmyra and Johnson atolls and Kingman reef. Cabos seeks $900,000 for lost grounds in the PRIAs.

Compensating fishermen displaced by federal fishing regulations is nothing new. Over the past several years, with court-mandated closures and the establishment of the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000 and the Papahanaumokuakea monument in 2006, the National Marine Fisheries Service has doled out more than $12 million in disaster relief to federally permitted NWHI fishers and Hawai`i longliners. And at the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in June, executive director Kitty Simonds suggested that the governor of American Samoa could make compensation of displaced fishermen “part of the package,” if and when the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary is expanded.

Dettling and Cabos appear to have fallen through the cracks, and their exclusion, they argue, has been intentional.

The Run-Around

Shortly before President George W. Bush established the NWHI monument in June 2006, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Wespac) was in the process of setting a cap (180,000 pounds) and issuing permits for non-longline catches in what would have been the NWHI National Marine Sanctuary. At the time, bottomfishers and commercial pelagic trollers were allowed to fish in the waters of the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. Lobster fishers were not, since the fishery was closed at the time the reserve was established. But after of the monument designation, Dettling claims, he found it impossible to access the NWHI monument. The NMFS did not issue him a fishing permit until 2010.

Immediately after the monument was established, Dettling and Cabos tried to get NOAA to adjust its boundaries to free up one of their best fishing spots, Buoy One, located 34 miles north of Nihoa Island.

According to their complaint, NOAA staff told Dettling in August 2006 that because he lacked a federal permit, he could no longer fish in monument waters and that he would be arrested if he tried to do so. NOAA then advised him of his right to file a claim for compensation for the loss of traditional fishing grounds, which he did on September 17, 2006, in an email to former NMFS Pacific Island Regional Office administrator William Robinson. It was also addressed to monument administrator `Aulani Wilhelm and copied to then Western Pacific Fishery Management Council staffer Jarad Makaiau.

Dettling claims he was told by NOAA staff that Congress was appropriating funds for displaced fishermen.

In an April 2007 letter, in response to his claim, NOAA’s William Hogarth informed Dettling that the monument’s proclamation actually allowed him to fish in the monument until June 15, 2011, under his state permit and that, consequently, there was no fishery failure to complain of, the lawsuit states. Even so, Dettling claims NOAA continued to threaten to arrest him if he fished in the monument.

Odd Men Out

Congress finally appropriated funds in 2007 to compensate fishermen displaced by the Papahanumokuakea monument, but it was limited to federally permitted NWHI bottomfish and lobster fishers. The way the compensation was structured, permittees were not required to file claims for damages. Instead, as part of a capacity reduction program, the NMFS paid bottomfish fishers who relinquished their permits the economic value of those permits. If they chose to keep their permits, they could fish until the monument became closed to commercial fishing on June 15, 2011. NWHI lobster permit holders, who had been prohibited from fishing in the NWHI since before the establishment of the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, were simply paid when they turned over their permits.

The NMFS published draft and final procedures for the program in 2009 and completed distribution of the funds in February 2010.

Dettling, who apparently had not been following the process, did not find out about the compensation until May 2010. His attorney, Harvey Nakamoto, says Dettling found out about the payments by talking to other fishermen. And when he did, court filings suggest he misunderstood what those funds were intended for. (The lawsuit incorrectly states that the 2008 appropriation was dispersed to fishermen displaced by the proclamations establishing the Papahanaumokuakea and PRIA monuments.)

“To plaintiff Joe Dettling’s surprise, federal permitted lobster fishermen who had their quota set at zero approximately 15 years ago and who already had received funds for being displaced in the past, were once again receiving additional funds,” their complaint states.

An amended complaint adds, “Until the May 2010 disbursement of Congressional funds, Dettling believed that he would be compensated for the loss of his traditional fishing grounds as NOAA had promised.”

When Dettling and Cabos complained that they were wrongfully excluded from compensation, NOAA employees initially told them it was an accident and assured them they would seek additional funds from Congress, the complaint states.

In 2008 and 2009, Wespac asked the NMFS and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to seek more funds for fishermen displaced by the monuments, but nothing came of it.

Tired of “empty assurances,” Dettling and Cabos submitted to NOAA on January 7, 2011, claims for a total of $1.2 million in property damages resulting from their exclusion from the PRIA monument. Dettling submitted a separate claim on February 14, 2011, for $1.2 million in property damages resulting from the loss of his NWHI fishing grounds.

On February 24, 2011, Russell Craig, chief of the Department of Commerce’s Office of General Counsel, informed Rory Soares Toomey, Dettling’s and Cabos’s attorney, that the claims he filed on their behalf were not torts pursuable under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and that they were also barred by the act’s two-year statute of limitations.

Toomey subsequently filed a complaint for damages in U.S. District Court on June 14, 2011.

“At all relevant times, plaintiffs were the most outspoken critics of NOAA’s actions within the national monuments. … NOAA intentionally harmed Dettling and Cabos when they failed to compensate them for their claims based upon NOAA’s blatant dislike of Dettling and Cabos,” the complaint states.

Too Little, Too Late

With regard to claims related to the PRIA monument, NOAA’s counsel Edric Ching and Florence Nakakuni stated in their April 10 motion to dismiss that the court lacks jurisdiction. First, they say, the claims Dettling and Cabos filed with NOAA came one day after the two-year deadline to file (the proclamation establishing the PRIA monument was dated January 6, 2009; their claims were filed January 7, 2011). Second, Ching and Nakakuni argue, statements that NOAA employees may have made are not actionable under the FTCA. Finally, the plaintiffs failed to name the United States of America as a defendant as required by the FTCA.

Ching and Nakakuni addressed the claims regarding the NWHI closure in a footnote:

“It is unclear if plaintiffs included this information for informational purposes or as bases for their respective causes of action,” they wrote, noting that no FTCA administrative claims were filed regarding the executive order establishing the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve or the proclamation for the Papahanumokuakea Marine National Monument. (Dettling’s February 14, 2011 claim merely details his effort to get a NWHI non-longline pelagic permit. He lists May 2010 as his date of injury.) What’s more, the preserves were established in 2001 and 2006, respectively.

“[H]ence, any claims based on these executive actions are well beyond the period permitted for the presentation of a FTCA administrative claim,” they wrote.

On June 8, attorneys for Dettling and Cabos filed a motion to amend their complaint. In addition to adding the United States to their list of defendants, they proposed to file their claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (which has a six-year statute of limitations), as well as the FTCA.

Nakamoto, who recently joined Toomey in representing Dettling and Cabos, told Environment Hawai`i that NOAA counsel has agreed to allow them to amend their complaint.

***

North Pacific Catches May Drop

As a Result of Climate Changes

Fisherman in the North Pacific could find their hauls shrinking over the next century, and it won’t be due to overfishing alone. It’ll be from climate change.

“It’s sort of like termites in your house. You let it go little by little, but eventually you’re going to have to deal with it,” says Jeffrey Polovina of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC).

Rising sea surface temperatures and weakening winds reduce the deep nutrients that mix into the surface ocean in the North Pacific. This may decrease phytoplankton densities, which may, in turn, reduce abundance of large pelagic fish in most of the North Pacific. These deep nutrients eventually come to the surface in the eastern Pacific California Current ecosystem, where they may increase phytoplankton and fish abundance. All of this is according to a study by Polovina and PIFSC’s Phoebe Woodworth, Julia Blanchard of the University of Sheffield, and John Dunne of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Dynamics Laboratory.

The researchers coupled a food web model with a climate change model that assumes carbon dioxide levels will reach 850 parts per million by 2100, which generally reflects the world’s current trajectory. They determined that densities of large phytoplankton throughout the North Pacific may decrease, particularly along the perimeter of the central North Pacific centered on Hawai`i. By the end of the century, large phytoplankton density is expected to decrease 61-83 percent along the perimeter, and 15-38 percent within the region, as well as in adjacent temperate and equatorial upwelling regions.

“A decline in large phytoplankton reduces the amount of energy available to larger size classes of consumers, thus limiting the number of large fish the ecosystem can sustain,” states a summary of the study by the PIFSC. As a result, they found, large fish abundance and catch may decrease 52-77 percent in boundary areas and up to 38 percent in interior areas.

While the overall outlook for the North Pacific seems rather bleak, the California Current region that hugs the west coast is projected to see phytoplankton density grow by 32 percent and fish abundance and catch grow by 43 percent by the end of the century.

“While this work only examined seven regions in the North Pacific, it showed a strong relationship between projected changes in the phytoplankton community and the abundance and catch of large fish over the 21st century,” the summary states. But it also cautions that only one climate model was used in this study and further work should include various climate models.

Paul Dalzell, senior scientist with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, says Polovina’s work is interesting in that it looks at both the top and the bottom of the food chain. But, he adds, it’s just one model. Another model, SEAPODYM, suggests that bigeye tuna abundance would shift eastward with ocean warming. That would be a benefit to fisheries here, he says.

In any case, fisheries are always dynamic, he says. “Fishermen will adapt to whatever circumstances prevail,” he says, adding that where climate change is at the root of stock decline, “there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Most pelagic tuna stocks globally are already either fully or over exploited. In the 1990s, annual landings of various tuna species harvested from the Western and Central Pacific totaled more than one million metric tons, which had a dockside value of $1.5 billion, according to Wespac. Hawai`i landings of pelagic species generate average revenues of about $60 million a year.

Polovina says he hasn’t received any feedback from fishermen or fisheries managers. Dalzell says its unlikely many, if any, fishermen have read Polovina’s study.

“This has a time scale of changes over the century. Fishers and manager look at things from a year-to-year basis. That’s one of the issues in trying to get managers to think about climate change. It’s a slow, but persistent trend,” Polovina says. “Eventually, target yields will have to adjust to this underlying trend.”

***

Council Argues NWHI Whales

May Be Part of Insular Stock

Should the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands population of false killer whales be considered a part of the insular population around the Main Hawaiian Islands?

Wespac and fishermen say yes. And if the NMFS agrees, any fishing restrictions imposed to protect the whales may be less stringent than if the agency makes a finding that the populations are separate.

In September 2009, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the NMFS to list Hawai`i’s insular population as an endangered distinct population segment (DPS). The whales historically numbered around 769, with a lower limit of 470, but over the past few decades, the population has dwindled to fewer than 200.

Reasons for the decline are unknown, but the NMFS has determined that reduced prey from overfishing, injury and mortality from fishing gear, contamination, climate change, and noise from sonar and seismic exploration threaten the species’ survival.

The most recent population estimate is 161 individuals. Such low numbers represent “a dramatic departure from historic abundance,” the NRDC has argued in court filings. In November 2010, the NMFS agreed and found that the insular population was in danger of extinction. The agency issued a proposed rule to list it as endangered, but failed to issue a final rule by November 2011, its deadline under the Endangered Species Act. On May 22, the NRDC sued the NMFS in U.S. District Court to force the agency to make a decision.

To sway the NMFS from listing the population as endangered, Wespac executive director Kitty Simonds recently asked Lance Smith, head of the NMFS’s protected resources division in the Pacific, to consider claims that the council is putting forward before he issues a final decision:

The NWHI stock — which is made up of 552 individuals — is more closely related, genetically, to the insular stock than are false killer whales found in Mexico, Panama, American Samoa, and even Hawai`’s pelagic waters. “It is uncertain whether the genetic divergence between the NWHI and MHI populations are discrete enough compared to other populations in the Pacific to warrant a separate DPS determination under the ESA,” Simonds wrote in a June 25 letter to Smith.

The NWHI stock is behaviorally similar to the Hawaiian insular stock in that NWHI whale movements are restricted mostly to nearshore areas.

NWHI whales, like the insular ones, appear to live in the same unique ecological setting: island-associated waters.

These points “suggest that the Hawaiian insular false killer whale DPS may not be restricted to waters around the MHI and that the insular population may be a combination of the MHI and NWHI populations, resulting in a much higher population than previously thought,” she wrote.

What’s more, a combined population of 713 individuals would likely have a much higher potential biological removal (PBR) level than the current insular population. The PBR level reflects what NMFS believes is a maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that can be safely removed from a stock. Under the NMFS’s proposed take reduction plan, the insular population has a PBR level of 0.61 whales.

At the council’s meeting in June, new member McGrew Rice, from Kona, also suggested that the NMFS include the NWHI stock in the insular population.

To false killer whale expert Robin Baird, yes, the NWHI and MHI insular stocks are the most closely related genetically, and they’re both island-associated. NWHI whales have even been found in waters off the main Hawaiian island of Kaua`i. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they part of the MHI insular stock, he told Environment Hawai`i.

Baird points to southern and northern resident killer whale populations found along the west coast of North America. Both are listed as DPS, even though their ranges overlap by hundreds of kilometers.

They are socially isolated and have different genetics and habitat ranges, Baird says.

“They’ve been clearly recognized as two distinct populations. There’s never been any suggestion they be lumped. That would be contrary to all the science,” he says.

The NWHI and MHI insular populations of false killer whales are not only genetically distinct from each other, there have been no photo identification matches between the two stocks, which is further evidence that they are socially isolated, he says.

Whether or not the genetic differences between the populations are great enough to warrant listing as a DPS is a decision the NMFS will have to make, he says, adding that he believes there would have to be much lower levels of genetic difference for them to be considered a single population.

He notes that the NMFS has designated separate stocks of bottlenose and spinner dolphins based on genetic differentiation of a similar magnitude. In addition to considering genetic differences, the NMFS considers a variety of things, such as the significance of a population, when deciding whether or not to designate a DPS, he says.

***

New Assessment

Of Pelagic Population

Of False Killer Whales

At the council’s June meeting, member and Hawai`i Longline Association president Sean Martin wanted to know how the NMFS planned to incorporate new abundance estimates of Hawai`i’s pelagic false killer whales into the take reduction plan, which is months overdue and based on an old, much lower, population estimate.

“I don’t have a good answer for that,” NMFS’s Lance Smith responded.

The fact that the plan was based on a much lower population estimate means that Hawai`i-based deep-set longliners, which mainly fish for bigeye tuna, may have to fish under much stricter conditions that could potentially cost them millions of dollars.

The new stock estimate, released in June, is based on visual line-transect detections during a Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Survey (HICEAS) in 2010. NMFS scientists are still analyzing acoustic data collected during the survey. The last HICEAS survey, done in 2002, produced a population estimate of 484 individuals. The NMFS now estimates there are 1,503, although the agency admits in its report that the estimate “can be considered positively biased to an unknown extent due to the effect of vessel attraction.”

Even so, the council’s advisory plan team recommended that the NMFS triple its proposed PBR number for the pelagic stock. As part of its take reduction plan, the NMFS has proposed a PBR level for pelagic Hawaiian false killer whales of 2.4. The level is based on the old estimate of 484 individuals. Under the proposed plan, if the deep-set longline fishery takes two or three whales, it must close for the rest of the year. (Whether the fishery would close after two or three individuals were taken would depend on the percentage of observer coverage.)

Tripling the proposed PBR level would mean the fishery could take 7.5 whales a year, which is roughly the fishery’s estimated annual take from 2004 to 2008.

“For years, the longline industry said the estimate of 484 false killer whales was inaccurate. … The Hawai`i longline industry doesn’t likely have an effect” on the whale population, said Michael Goto, a representative of the Hawai`i longline industry. (Goto has recently been appointed to the council to replace Martin.)

Whether or how the NMFS can incorporate the new estimate and the sentiments of the council and fishermen into the final take reduction plan is unclear, since the comment period on the draft plan ended on October 17 of last year. Final action was expected in January.

The draft take reduction plan proposed PBR numbers for the insular, pelagic, and Palmyra Atoll stocks of false killer whales. It also proposed gear requirements (i.e., weak circle hooks), longline prohibited areas, and training in marine mammal handling and release, among other things.

Frustrated with the delay, Earthjustice, on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court on June 25 seeking to force the NMFS into “promptly issuing a final take reduction plan for Hawai`i’s false killer whales and implementing regulations.”

Circle Hooks

If and when the NMFS requires longliners to use weak circle hooks to protect the whales, Hawai`i’s bigeye tuna fishery may lose some of its catch as a result, some fishers worry. The hooks are one of the main management measures identified in the NMFS draft take reduction plan. It’s thought that the hooks will be weak enough for the whales to shake loose from, but strong enough to hold most of the tuna. Although trials conducted in the fall of 2010 found no significant difference in catch with the weak hooks, they weren’t tested in the spring, when the largest bigeye are usually caught.

To provide an estimate of revenue losses that might occur if large tunas are also able to shake free of the weak circle hooks, Keith Bigelow of the PIFSC has developed a chart based on the economic value and catch percentage attributed to “marker fish.” Bigelow defines marker fish as those weighing 45 kg (about 100 pounds) or more.

Annual bigeye tuna revenue in Hawai`i averages $38.9 million, roughly two-thirds of which come from marker fish. Marker tuna make up about a third of bigeye catches.

While the potential reduction in catch rates due to weak hooks is currently unknown, Wespac has recommended that the trials be re-run to assess potential tuna escapement when the biggest fish are caught.

Based on Bigelow’s chart, if longliners catch 30 percent fewer marker fish as a result of weak hooks, the total economic revenue for the fleet would decline by about 19 percent, or nearly $8 million.

***

Council Suggests Removal

Of Bottomfish Reserves 

In Federal Waters

Some see the state’s bottomfish restricted fishing areas (BRFAs) as insurance against miscalculations and a buffer against overfishing. Others, namely the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council and many local bottomfishers, see them as unnecessary, and anathema to a sustainable fishery.

At the council’s June meeting, it reaffirmed the main Hawaiian Islands bottomfish annual catch limit (ACL) and annual catch target of 325,000 pounds for the 2012-2013 bottomfish season, which begins on September 1. With that target, there’s less than a 40 percent chance of overfishing bottomfish stocks, based on a NMFS model that ignored any influence the state’s bottomfish preserves might have.

Because the ACL poses such a low risk of overfishing, and because the scientist studying the efficacy of the BRFAs has said he needs five more years of monitoring, the council recommended that the portion of the reserves lying in federal waters be eliminated.

Fishermen are concerned that they are being double-regulated with the ACLs and the BRFAs, council member McGrew Rice said.

“If we’re going to have a catch limit, it’s extremely unfair to have protected areas,” council chair Manny Duenas added. Fishermen need to move around to avoid overfishing certain spots and BRFAs limit their ability to do that, according to Maui bottomfish fisher Layne Nakagawa.

University of Hawai`i oceanographer Jeff Drazen, who has been studying the BRFAs since 2007 using remotely operated cameras, told the council he has found that larger fish occupy the reserves, and in some reserves, bottomfish are more abundant. These results are based on an analysis of data from only one year, and it will take more time to determine whether the BRFAS are benefitting the stock, he added.

Council members were not impressed. Rice suggested that fishermen could assist Drazen in identifying the best study areas, and Duenas had concerns about the kind of bait used to attract fish to the cameras.

Duenas asked Drazen how long he needed to establish credibility of the information he was providing.

“That’s dictated by the life history of the species. They’re slow-growing. Increased sampling would help, but … we can’t change the fish. I’m thinking 10 years. We’re five years into it,” he said. Poaching in the BRFA’s complicates things, he added. “One of the major concerns is enforcement.”

Nakagawa testified that researchers have found no evidence so far that fish are spawning in the BRFAs. “I’m 110 percent opposed to BRFAs,” he said.

Fisherman Roy Morioka, a former council chair and consultant to the council, added that Drazen’s findings are no surprise. “The BRFAs were selected because there were more fish and larger fish – so, duh!” he said.

For council executive director Kitty Simonds, five more years of research was too long. “BRFAs are not part of the federal management plan,” she said, and went on to recommend they be removed from federal waters.

When it came time to vote, Francis Oishi, a biologist with the state Division of Aquatic Resources, opposed the idea because removing the BRFAs in federal waters could compromise the research done so far. NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office director Mike Tosatto agreed.

Oishi also pointed out that under the state constitution, the state claims ownership of the archepelagic waters surrounding the islands. That includes waters beyond three miles, which is generally considered to be where state jurisdiction ends.

Most of the BRFAs lie within the three-mile limit, but a few, including the one around Penguin Banks, extend into what are considered federal waters.

When the state revised its reserve system more than a decade ago, some reserves were removed and others were added or expanded.

“I’m not sure if anyone sat down and did the math of how much is in what are considered federal waters,” Oishi told Environment Hawai`i.

“If you ask me, the state owns it,” he says, adding that the state is bound by its constitution to protect those waters and the resources therein.

Across the nation, state jurisdiction over archepelagic waters beyond the three-mile limit is a longstanding issue. And where it’s been adjudicated, states have lost, Oishi says. Still, some states, such as Georgia, have jurisdiction over waters beyond three miles.

Despite Oishi’s and Tosatto’s opposition, the council voted to direct its staff to work with the state on removing the BRFAs from federal waters.

“The Council will work with the State of Hawai`i and NMFS to develop a research plan for the remaining BFRAs in State waters, incorporating existing information and new technologies being developed,” the council stated in a press release.

To Oishi, the council’s actions don’t require changes to the BRFA system and were merely recommendations to the state.

***

Council Would Give

Territories Ability

To Assign Tuna Quotas

The council voted to give American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands the authority to allocate their bigeye catch or fishing effort limits set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) through arrangements with U.S. vessels that are operating under permits issued pursuant to the council’s Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan.

Under the council’s proposal, the territories could assign up to 1,000 metric tons of their annual WCPFC bigeye allocation to U.S. vessels managed under the PFEP. Council staff had initially proposed allowing the territories to assign up to 750 metric tons of their bigeye allocation of 2,000 metric tons. Council member and bigeye longline fisherman Sean Martin, however, asked that staff replace that recommendation with the full amount — 2,000 metric tons. This would provide the maximum economic benefit for the territories, he said. Council members from American Samoa, however, expressed concern about keeping some of that allocation for tuna cannery boats.

“One-thousand metric tons would be a lot more palatable, in the spirit of conservation,” council chair Manny Duenas said.

If approved by the NMFS, the arrangements will allow the Hawai`i-based longliners to continue to fish after they reach the U.S. longline quota of 3,763 metric tons. Federal legislation allowed Hawai`i boats with arrangements with American Samoa to continue fishing last year after the quota was reached, but that legislation expires at the end of the year.

“The council will review the limits annually so they are consistent with WCPFC conservation and management measures and provisions for small island developing states and participating territories, which include the U.S. Territories,” a council press release states.

The WCPFC is scheduled to meet in December in Manila, where it is expected to adopt a revised conservation management measure for tropical tunas.

***

An Infraction 

In the NWHI

NOAA’s Pacific Islands enforcement office is investigating a recent U.S. longline vessel incursion into the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. NOAA vessel monitoring system (VMS) technicians and the Coast Guard identified a vessel operating in the monument on May 1. On May 2, a Coast Guard plane caught the vessel retrieving fishing gear in the monument and advised it to cease fishing in the closed area. Despite the warning, the vessel was detected in the monument the next day. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement then ordered the vessel back to port in Honolulu.

***

82 Coral Species

The Center for Biological Diversity’s petition to list coral species throughout the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean as endangered has been a hot topic at the council. Many of the coral species are found in waters around Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. A handful are found in Hawaiian waters.

At the council’s June meeting, chair Manny Duenas criticized the proposal and suggested it was a ruse simply to get mitigation money from the federal government.

“It’s an injustice against coastal communities,” he told PIRO’s Lance Smith, adding, “If you want to be Custer, there’s always Little Big Horn.”

A council member from American Samoa added, “It’s like NGOs are sending a message to the world to control global warming or they’ll keep petitioning. … [I]t prevents dialogue on a real issue.”

“At the same time, [the listing] would increase federal government control of the coastal zones of the US flagged Pacific Islands and further disenfranchise the rights of Pacific Islanders over their traditional reef fishing grounds and coral reefs,” the council stated in a press release.

The comment period on the proposed listing ended July 31 and the NMFS is expected to issue a finding on December 1.

For Further Reading:

  • “Feds Disburse Nearly $6.4 Million in ‘Relief’ to NWHI Bottomfish, Lobster Fishers” (May 2010);
  • “Council Seeks Monumental Payouts for Small, Even Non-Existent Fisheries” (December 2009);
  • “$6.7M Earmark May Compensate NWHI Bottomfish, Lobster Permittees” (June 2008);
  • “State to Dole Out Nearly $5 Million in Aid to Fishermen for Fisheries Research” (January 2007);
  • “Some Funds Go to Underwrite Litigation Costs” (January 2007);
  • “Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Research Subsidizes Commercial Bottomfishing Trips” (January 2007).

— Teresa Dawson

Volume 23, Number 2 August 2012

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