Here’s how this has played out:
Starting about a week before the National Marine Fisheries Service anticipates the WCPFC quota will be reached (usually this occurs mid-November), NMFS begins attributing to whatever territory is participating in a given year the bigeye tuna caught by those vessels that participate in a catch-allocation arrangement with the Hawai`i Longline Association. Those few vessels that are not members of the HLA can continue to fish with their bigeye tuna counted against the Hawai`i quota, but the catch of these boats does not significantly run up the tonnage.
Because of this bookkeeping maneuver, NMFS is able to say that the catches of the Hawai`i fleet are below what is allowed under the WCPFC quota. In 2011, the claimed catch was 3,565 mt, 190 mt below the quota. In 2012, the claimed catch was 3,654, or 109 mt below the quota. Amounts attributed to American Samoa in those years were 628 mt and 771 mt.
In fact, the total haul of the Hawai`i fleet during that time was 4,193 mt and 4,425 mt, respectively, amounts that exceed the quota by 11 percent in 2011 and 17 percent in 2012. (Figures are not available for 2013, when the allocation agreement was with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.)
Total catch of bigeye attributed to American Samoa in 2012 was 1,505 metric tons. The tonnage taken by the Hawai`i longliners that was charged to American Samoa’s account represents 51 percent of that.
According to the draft environmental assessment prepared in association with the rule change that would allow this arrangement to continue, “the difference between 700 mt of bigeye tuna caught or not caught by U.S. longline vessels … is negligible (less than 1 percent) to stock status of bigeye tuna.”