Hawai`i Longliners Lose Challenge to Settlement over Loggerhead Turtles

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On June 14, U.S. District Judge David Ezra denied without prejudice the Hawai`i Longline Association’s (HLA) appeal of a January settlement between the National Marine Fisheries Service and environmental groups regarding interactions between the shallow-set longline fishery and threatened loggerhead sea turtles.

Unless the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reverses Ezra’s decisions, it’s likely the Hawai`i fleet, which targets swordfish, will have to limit itself to 17 loggerhead interactions annually at least until some time next year.

With the swordfish season winding down, HLA president Sean Martin says he’s not as worried as he was a month ago about the fishery closing this year, even though at mid-June, the fishery was just five loggerhead interactions short of the limit allowed by the NMFS.

Still, Martin says, he remains concerned because a single boat can take two or three turtles in one trip. What’s more, with the fishery so close to hitting its loggerhead cap, “someone who might have decided to do shallow-set fishing will instead fish bigeye [tuna], which could lead to a closure of that fishery in November,” he says. (Western and Central Pacific bigeye are subject to overfishing and annual catches by the Hawai`i fleet are limited to 3,763 metric tons. In the last two years, longliners reached that limit late in the year during the holiday season, when demand for tuna is especially high.)


In 2009, at the request of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, the NMFS loosened restrictions on the Hawai`i fleet, completely lifting the cap on the number of hooks set annually and nearly tripling the number of allowed interactions with loggerheads. 

To the Center for Biological Diversity, KAHEA: the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the move made no sense, especially in light of data that they said showed that the North Pacific loggerhead population was in trouble.

Shortly after the groups sued the NMFS over the new rules, the NMFS itself proposed listing the North Pacific population of loggerheads as endangered. Within months, the two sides were ready to settle the matter, despite opposition from the HLA, an intervenor in the case.

Under the settlement, the NMFS vacated all of the 2009 rules and portions of its biological opinion on the fishery’s impacts that related to loggerheads and endangered leatherback sea turtles. In particular, the settlement repealed a 2009 rule that increased the cap on turtle interactions from 17 to 46.

At the time the deal was struck, the NMFS was expected to issue by March 16 a rule on whether to create nine distinct population segments (DPS) of loggerheads and list them as endangered. A proposed rule published more than a year ago included the establishment of a DPS of North Pacific loggerheads, which would be listed as endangered.

The settlement required the NMFS to issue a biological opinion (BiOp) on the North Pacific DPS and an incidental take permit for the longline fishery no later than 135 days after up-listing the turtles. Had the NMFS met its projected deadline, it would have had to produce a new BiOp by the end of this month, but issues regarding the North Atlantic population postponed its completion. 

In March, the NMFS announced it would issue a final decision on loggerhead stocks in mid-September.

Upset by the delay, the HLA immediately filed an appeal of the settlement. Specifically, the HLA asked Ezra to insert language that would require the NMFS to complete its BiOp by July 31.

In its court filings, attorneys for the NMFS and the Department of Commerce argued that the HLA had its chance to help develop the settlement agreement and propose terms necessary to protect its interests, including a date-specific deadline for the new BiOp.

“Despite being invited to participate, however, HLA chose to sit on the sidelines, and only now complains of the existence of a ‘significant change in circumstances’ that was, in fact, anticipated by the parties as a possible outcome. Having chosen to sit out of settlement talks, HLA should not now be allowed to defeat the express intentions of the settling parties,” they wrote.

They added that the court had already made clear that, even if the NMFS failed to finalize a BiOp and incidental take statement by July 31, 2011, the HLA would not be unreasonably harmed. 

“Even if NMFS does not complete the new biological opinion by its estimated deadline, the proposed consent decree still does not unreasonably extend the period of time during which the Fishery must operate under the 2004 levels. Finally, if the Fishery does reach the reduced incidental take limits for loggerhead sea turtles before NMFS issues the new biological opinion and the Fishery must be shut down, this result would be consistent with the goals of the ESA and in the public’s interest. At a time when NMFS is investigating whether to uplist the loggerhead sea turtle from threatened to endangered, it is a prudent measure to reduce the incidental take limits while NMFS is making this determination,” Ezra wrote earlier this year.

In his order denying the HLA’s motion, Ezra pointed out that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was evaluating similar issues and that he won’t have the authority to address the merits of the HLA’s request until subject matter jurisdiction is returned to his court.

He added that even if he had jurisdiction to grant HLA the relief it sought, he would not. His justification: “A district court has [the ability] to ‘efficiently and economically control its docket’ as it sees fit.”

At the June meeting of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, NMFS Pacific Island Regional Office chief Michael Tosatto reported that the NMFS is barred by statute from extending the September 16 deadline to decide on the nine proposed distinct population segments for loggerheads. While acknowledging that the agency has exceeded statutory deadlines in the past, he added that it was still his hope that by September 16, the determination on the DPS will be made.

Council Concerns

In a document titled, “Council problems and concerns,” distributed at last month’s meeting, the council criticized the proposal to list the North Pacific DPS as endangered. The proposal, the document states, flies in the face of “overwhelming scientific evidence that the nesting population in Japan has shown an increasing trend over ten years, and that many of the previously-existing threats to the population have been eliminated in the last several decades.”

It continues, “[T]he use and interpretation of scientific information by NMFS is questionable, leading to unduly pessimistic proposed rules regarding loggerhead turtles. … The court-ordered incidental take limits of 17 loggerhead and 16 leatherback sea turtles takes annually by the shallow-set fishery are not based upon the best available science or any science whatsoever. The willingness of NOAA General Counsel to seek a settlement and the unwillingness of NMFS to stand behind their science undercuts the rational [sic] and benefits of the conservation measures developed by the Council through the MSA [Magnuson-Stevens Act] process. Moreover, the failure to defend the fishery and [the 2009 rule raising the take limit] continues a climate of uncertainty in this fishery, which acts as a disincentive to investment in and discourages new entry into the fishery.”

When council chair Manny Duenas raised these concerns during the meeting, Tosatto did not directly respond to his arguments. He stated simply that his agency has determined that the North Pacific population warrants uplisting to endangered.

“Despite the fact that there is documentation that nesting [in Japan] has increased. … What? Do you think they’re all going to turn radioactive?” Duenas asked.

But even with the council’s claim that the fisheries and nesting data support an increa
se in the loggerhead take limit, council members apparently recognized that their case needed bolstering. The council voted to establish a method for evaluating the success of its turtle restoration projects throughout the Pacific and directed its staff to develop guidelines for estimating and reporting hatchling production.

* * *

Council Adopts New Limits on Hawai`i Bottomfish Catches

Under limits adopted by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council last month, Hawai`i bottomfish fishers may catch about 82,000 more pounds than they did last year.

The 25 percent increase is largely due to the fact that the most recent stock assessment suggests there are more bottomfish in the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) than previously thought.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, which the council advises, first placed limits on bottomfishing in the Main Hawaiian Islands in 2007, when its 2006 stock assessment suggested that the so-called Deep 7 bottomfish population here was being overfished. (Deep 7 species include `opakapaka, onaga, `ehu, gindai, hapu`u, lehi, and kalekale.) Based on the council’s recommendation, the NMFS set a total allowable catch limit, or TAC, of 178,000 pounds, which represented a 24 percent reduction from 2004.

The next year, even though a 2008 stock assessment found that the MHI population was no longer subject to overfishing, the council set a TAC of 241,000 pounds, which posed a 40 percent risk of overfishing in the MHI. The following year, the council pushed the limit a little further, to 243,050 pounds, posing a 39 to 44 percent risk of overfishing in the MHI. For the 2010-2011 fishing year, the council kept the status quo.

At the same time the council was trying to prevent overfishing of bottomfish in the MHI, it was also working toward meeting new requirements of the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act. Under the act, all fishery councils must prepare Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) for all fished species in their respective jurisdictions. The deadline to create ACLs for overfished species was last year. For all other species, ACLs must be in place this year. In the case of the Hawai`i bottomfish stock, the ACL would replace the TAC.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act states that the ACLs recommended by councils may not exceed the recommendations developed by their Scientific and Statistical Committees on what constitutes an acceptable biological catch (ABC).

To tackle the bottomfish ACL, two groups were set up, each composed of fisheries scientists and managers. The first would determine an acceptable risk of overfishing (not to exceed 50 percent) and a corresponding ABC. The second group, known as the Social, Economic, Ecosystem, and Management (SEEM) group, would determine how and whether the ACLs should be reduced given any social, economic, ecological and management uncertainty.

The first group determined 40.8 percent to be an acceptable risk of overfishing, which is close to the levels used in recent years to determine the TACs. Based on a 2010 stock assessment, that equates to 345,522 pounds.

The SEEM group then determined that the ACL should be set equal to an ABC of 345,522 pounds. To minimize the risk of exceeding the ACL, the group recommended establishing an annual catch target (ACT) six percent lower than the ACL, which is 324,790 pounds.

In June, the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee rounded up the groups’ recommendations, proposing an ABC of 346,000 pounds and an ACT of 325,000 pounds.

At the full council meeting that followed, the alphabet soup confused chair Manny Duenas, who wasn’t sure whether the proposal met Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements and what the purpose of the ACT was. Staff explained that the council needed to adopt the recommended ABC, decide that the ACL should equal the ABC, and set an ACT (optional under the act) of 325,000 pounds for the 2011-2012 bottomfish season.

“We were all confused about this. When drafting the recommendation … it took us half an hour to get through this. This ACT is really a quota for the fishery for the season,” council executive director Kitty Simonds told Duenas.

Although one member of the public, a fisherman, expressed concern about the general use of ACLs, the council unanimously approved the SSC’s recommendations.

* * *

Council Supports Downlisting of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

The Hawaiian green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and that status is not likely to change anytime soon, according to Mike Tosatto, Pacific Islands Region administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

What’s more, the turtles live and forage mainly within state waters.

So it seemed like merely a symbolic gesture when the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council voted last month to support efforts to remove Hawaiian green sea turtles from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The IUCN currently considers the global population of green sea turtles endangered, but the organization’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group is reviewing whether or not the population in Hawai`i, which is showing signs of recovery, should be down-listed.

Rookeries at the turtles’ primary nesting spot at French Frigate Shoals (FFS) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have increased from fewer than 100 in the 1970s to a few hundred, council protected species coordinator Asuka Ishizaki said at last month’s meeting.

She added that the prevalence of fibropapilloma tumors, which plagued the turtles in the 1980s and ’90s, has declined.

For these reasons, the IUCN is considering listing the Hawaiian population as “near-threatened,” which is just above species of “least concern.” Ishizaki said the main reason the turtles don’t qualify for “least concern” status is because so many of them — more than 50 percent — nest on East Island in FFS, a relatively small area.

When council chair Manny Duenas asked whether any studies had been done on the effects climate change and sea level rise might have on the turtles, Ishizaki said that carrying capacity studies at FFS suggest that even with sea level rise, a good chunk of East Island will remain. “If you have a seawall and an eroding beach, that’s an issue,” she said.

(Although research suggests that sea level rise will affect East Island the least of all the nesting sites at FFS, it also warns that nest destruction resulting from increased use of the island by turtles could limit population growth.)

At the council meeting, Tosatto reminded members that “the ICUN Red List does not equal the ESA.” 

He urged the council to support the science needed for the NMFS to create a distinct population segment (DPS) of Hawaiian turtles, which would be required before they could be removed from the federal endangered species list.

“The council should promote the conservation of these turtles and the science needed to make an informed status review. … The underlying science here is good,” he said.

The NMFS is planning to review the status of green sea turtles at the end of the year, but it’s a lengthy process, he said.

Council member David Itano, a fisheries scientist, said he as astounded that the Hawaiian turtles are not considered DPS.

Responding to Tosatto’s suggestion that concentrating on the ESA’s requirements is more beneficial than supporting actions before the IUCN, council executive director Kitty Simonds suggested she was perfectly aware of what needed to be done.

“We’re the last people you need to lecture, thank you very much,” she told Tosatto. Whether or not the NMFS will act anytime soon on the Hawai`i population of green sea turtles, Simonds said, initiating a public discussion on the possibility of de-listing and the status of the science on the turtles “does a service to the people of Hawai`i.” The night before, the council had held a
public forum on the possible de-listing of Hawaiian green sea turtles.

When it came time to vote on a motion to send a letter of support for the removal from IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Marine Species, Tosatto cautioned the council again.

“The [NMFS] horizon on decisions regarding green turtles is a long way off…. I can’t stress that enough,” he said.

Council chair Manny Duenas, however, who was eager to see the day when people in U.S. territories and states throughout the Pacific could catch and eat turtles again, said he thought the apparent recovery of the Hawai`i green sea turtle was a success story. 

“It’s been over 30 years [since the turtle was first listed under the ESA]…. This [vote] recognizes the effort…. I don’t think this opens to the door to decimation of stocks,” he said.

Like Tosatto, Hawai`i council member Julie Leialoha was uncomfortable with the proposed motion. She suggested that the council instead explore the possibility of allowing for cultural take in Guam, Samoa, and Hawai`i.

In the end, the motion passed, with Tosatto and Leialoha abstaining.

* * *

Council Grills NMFS Experts on Monk Seal Proposals

“It’s kind of a conundrum. We have the Northwest Hawaiian Islands protected and you’re bringing [monk seals] down here. The more intensely inhabited area is a better environment…. It’s an interesting change in thought pattern,” said Sean Martin of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Last month, council members and staff aired their concerns about the efforts that the NMFS is proposing to stabilize and increase monk seal populations in the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The seals may be critically endangered, but there is little evidence large numbers ever lived in the MHI and the 200 or so here now are already vexing fishermen, some council members said. They also questioned the NMFS’s rationale behind the proposed inclusion of deep sea slopes and exclusion of military and other sites, such as Waikiki Beach, in its proposed critical habitat designation.

In response to a July 2008 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, KAHEA: the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, and the Ocean Conservancy, the NMFS last month issued a proposed rule that would expand the current critical habitat to include coastal areas in the Main Hawaiian Islands and deeper waters in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Except for a handful of harbors, bays, and military sites, the proposed critical habitat encompasses coastal areas, from five meters inshore out to the 500-meter depth contour, around all eight main islands, as well as Kaula island near Ni`ihau.

Once the NMFS designates critical habitat, activities in those areas that have a federal nexus must be reviewed to determine their impacts on the seals and what mitigation measures, if any, are needed to avoid jeopardizing their existence. The NMFS expects the designation will likely affect marine and coastal construction, dredging and material disposal, energy development, aquaculture, fisheries, vessel groundings response and military activities, and other water-polluting activities.

The public has until August 31 to comment on the proposed rule.

In addition to revising the monk seal’s critical habitat, the NMFS is preparing a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to cover current and new efforts to protect the seals. 

In particular, NMFS scientists propose bringing baby female seals in danger of starving in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands down to the Main Hawaiian Islands, where there is less competition for food. The seals would be returned once they turn three, when they are more likely to compete successfully with the large tunas and sharks that dominate the waters in the NWHI.

A draft PEIS is expected to be completed next month, followed by public hearings in September. The NMFS plans to issue a final PEIS next March and complete a biological opinion in May.


Regarding the proposed critical habitat designation to depths of 500 meters, council member David Itano questioned the NMFS’s determination that monk seals forage in waters that deep in the MHI. He told Jean Higgins, the service’s project lead for critical habitat, that fishermen are concerned about the impacts the designation of waters below 100 meters would have on fisheries.

Higgins said tracking data indicates that seals dive just as deep in the MHI as they do in the NWHI. She also noted that regardless of critical habitat, the NMFS could one day determine that fishing is reducing the seals’ prey to the point that it jeopardizes their survival. 

Itano suggested that the deep diving may be relatively new and he questioned why waters in the 100-500 meter range were being targeted when they were “generally absent of anthropogenic disturbance.” 

“I don’t see why the designation has to go beyond the outer reefs,” he said.

Higgins said that the amount of habitat proposed for designation in the MHI is tied to the numbers of seals needed to meet recovery goals. 

“We have a lot of habitat available. They are increasing in number through births. If we want habitat to be ale to meet recovery goals, we should go with the same amount [of habitat] they use in the NWHI,” she said.

Council chair Manny Duenas suggested that the designation would significantly alter life in the MHI.

“It’s just going to condemn the MHI to become sanctuary. … I really hate to see the MHI become a police state…. If you’re having a family picnic [and a seal shows up], you’re S-O-L,” he said.

Although Higgins said it was her agency’s goal to have seals and humans co-exist, council executive director Kitty Simonds added, “The other thing is, the monk seal is a dangerous animal.” Simonds, Itano and Duenas said they doubted the seals were common in the MHI. 

Council member Julie Leialoha, who has worked with monk seals, countered that the monk seal is included in the Kumulipo (the Hawaiian chant on the origination of species) and that Hawaiian historian Samuel Kamakau identified them as a possible food source in the past. NMFS’s Jeff Walters added that a monk seal bone has been found in midden, possibly going back as far as the 1400s, at Lapakahi on the Big Island.

Regarding Simonds’s comments, Leialoha said, “They are dangerous, but they’re more afraid of us than we are of them. … Having spent a year and a half with them, the only time they were dangerous is [when there were] aggressive males. With all due respect, I have to disagree with some of the comments made.”

To those concerned about the seals’ impacts on fisheries in the MHI, Walters said that seals forage over a broad area. He added that he the NMFS does not expect the proposed translocation will increase the population right away. 

Because so few reproductive females remain and so few NWHI pups are surviving, the NMFS needs to fortify the species’ age structure to slow its decline, he said. The population of about 1,100 seals is currently shrinking at a rate of 4.5 percent a year.

With a translocation program in place, the French Frigate Shoals population would decrease over 10 years, but would end up with 100 instead of 80 females, Walters said. 

“That’s a big deal. Not all seals are created equal,” he said. “If we do translocation successfully, we would have more females with high reproductive value … and help the seals hold on.”

He added that before attempting to move seals, the NMFS needs to do more outreach with communities, including fishermen. 

“We think we have about 200 seals in the [MHI] now. Whether we do translocation or not, we need to … work with fishing community to minimize interactions,” he said, adding that bringing down 10 or 20 NWHI pups a year would be a relatively minor increase in the seals already here.

Although seal pups largely learn to forage on their own, Wa
lters said the NMFS will probably release pups relocated to the MHI in groups, so they’re not alone. 

Duenas said he thought the bottomfish and lobster fisheries in the NWHI influenced the seal’s predicament. He suggested that the seals fed on the offal discarded and “there was no need for competition. The fishermen were feeding them. … It was our fault we got rid of the fishermen. These animals are like trained animals in the zoo.” He added that keeping the seals in the MHI wild is going to be a daunting task. 

“I’m just concerned we’re playing god. We’re deworming, we’re changing habitats…,” he said.

Should interactions between the MHI seals and fisheries start to increase, Itano said he’d like the NMFS to try seal behavior modification rather than closing those fisheries.

Walters assured him that seeking deterrents would be a priority. 

“If one of these valuable females is making a living predating fisheries … it’s not going to be good. We don’t want to see that seal do that either,” he said.

To this, Itano warned, “You can almost guarantee that they will…. It seems to me, you could be putting these pups in peril by putting them down here.”

In the end, the council recommended that the NMFS work with fishermen to inform them of reporting systems for seal interaction issues and develop a process to deal with nuisance animals. It also instructed council staff to comment on the critical habitat proposed rule, expressing the council’s concern on potential fisheries impacts. Finally, staff were told to comment on the draft PEIS, relaying the council’s concerns about the translocation proposal and the potential increase in problematic interactions.

* * *

Bigeye Catch Skyrockets in First Quarter of 2011

Whether the January U.S. District Court settlement reducing loggerhead interaction limits had anything to do with it is unclear, but only a handful of Hawai`i longline vessels targeted swordfish in the first quarter of 2011, which is usually when most swordfish are caught.

Instead, most vessels fished for bigeye tuna and they caught a near record amount in the first quarter — 47,900 fish. At the same time in 2009, they had caught only 25,000 fish and last year, when the bigeye fishery had to close in late November because it was projected to reach the 3,763 metric ton limit set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), they had caught 33,000, according to Russell Ito of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC).

Chris Boggs, also with the PIFSC, told the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council last month, that based on the current catch rate, he predicts the Hawai`i bigeye fishery will have to shut down around November 11 — more than a week earlier than it did last year.

“I really need to double check all of this. The November date might move up earlier. From the auction data, fish are a little smaller this year than in the past couple of years. It certainly looks like we won’t get through year without a closure,” he said.

Council member Sean Martin, who is also president of the Hawai`i Longline Association, said that based on his own observations of the fleet’s activities, catch rates should plateau for a while. 

“We’re experiencing slower fishing than during the beginning of the year,” he said.

Given the fact that the fleet hit the limit last year and that it might hit it again, are vessels considering shifting effort, council member David Itano asked Martin. 

“Not so much the fleet, but there’s been some discussion among the market folks. They were anxious to have it spread out,” Martin said. 

Martin also reiterated his complaint that when the fishery closed in 2009 and 2010, bigeye catches were under the WCPFC limit and because the value of those last few fish can’t be recovered, “that translates into significant money [lost].” He said probably a couple million dollars have been left unavailable because projections by fisheries scientists missed the mark.

Boggs, whose agency is responsible for predicting whether and when the fishery will hit its limit, agreed that ending the fishing year four percent under the limit, as it did in 2010, is not a good thing. But he pointed out that the underage had less to do with the science behind the projection and and more to do with the change in the fleet’s behavior following the announcement of the closure date.

“Anything anyone can do to elucidate what happened would really help us,” Boggs said.

Plan of Action

At the end of the year, the WCPFC restrictions on bigeye fishing are set to expire, unless the commission devises a new set or decides to extend the deadline. Set in 2008, the restrictions — including catch and effort limits, closures, and management of fish aggregating devices (FADS) — were intended to reduce fishing of bigeye by 30 percent. For various reasons, the measures did not have their intended effect and bigeye are still being fished at an unsustainable rate. For one thing, the WCPFC’s science committee determined in 2009 that the conservation measures would not work. Compliance among the various countries associated with the commission was spotty, as well. (For more on this subject, see the cover story in the January 2011 issue of Environment Hawai`i.)

At last month’s council meeting, the WCPFC’s new chair, Charles Karnella, said achieving consensus among the commission members on new measures is going to be a struggle and predicted a lot of “head-banging.”

“We need to be focusing on how to make it work for bigeye. There is some possibility that it may be overfished…. I’ll leave that to the scientists,” he said.

Pacific yellowfin and skipjack tuna, which are mostly caught by purse seiners, are not yet subject to overfishing, but are headed “where you need to keep an eye on things,” Karnella said.

The commission has asked its members to do their own analysis and provide thoughts on what can be done to help bigeye. Karnella said he and his vice chair will devise an approach to enhance conservation measures, based on recommendations of its scientific committee, and present it at a technical compliance meeting this fall.

At last December’s WCPFC meeting, several countries proposed alternatives to the current scheme, known as CMM 2008-01. None were adopted. 

Whatever the commission decides, Karnella said, the new restrictions should have a measurable and credible conservation benefit, the burden should be distributed equitably, and the commission needs to develop the capacity for all its members to fully implement and monitor the measures. 

“We have some tools that are vastly under-used, including the observer program and VMS [vessel monitoring system],” he said. 

He added that it’s critical for the commission to adopt reference points regarding overfishing, overfished, and maximum sustainable yield determinations. 

If the WCPFC can’t craft a new measure by the end of the year, there will be no restrictions on bigeye catch, except for purse seiners fishing under what’s known as the Nauru Agreement. Parties to the agreement include the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. 

Karnella said that while some countries want to keep the current management scheme in place until the commission creates a new one, the Philippines, which has long opposed the measure closing a portion of the high seas to purse seining, could block the continuation of 2008-01.

“I believe we have a pretty daunting task,” he said. “We [need to] try to make that head-banging more productive instead of less productive.”

Council Questions

Council executive director Kitty Simonds asked Karnella about reports that Japan was sharing its quota with China and that China had exceeded its quota.

Karnella noted t
hat some countries had suggested going from a flag-based to a zone-based system and dividing quotas equally among members. 

“That’s something the commission has to deal with, [but] if people can just sell the rights to things they wouldn’t avail themselves of, it puts more pressure on the stocks. Right now I’m keeping my mind open,” he said. 

Regarding overages, Karnella said penalties should apply. 

“That’s something we need to give serious consideration to. If there’s no strong disincentive to going over their quota, people will go over their quota,” he said.

Council member Martin asked about efforts to set quotas on small island states trying to develop their fisheries. Right now, there are none and last year, Hawai`i-based vessels with permits to fish in American Samoa were able to supplement their catch in waters just outside the Hawai`i exclusive economic zone after the Hawai`i fleet met its quota.

“This is probably one of the hottest areas were going to have to deal with,” Karnella said “We can’t exclude small island developing nations from resources in their areas, but there needs to be some sort of balance. … My own view is it doesn’t make sense to allow an unlimited number of fish … particularly if the nature of that arrangement [with other countries or states] is that it doesn’t do anything to develop the capacity of the small island developing nations.”

Both Karnella and council members agreed that more needs to be done to reduce the number of small fish taken by FAD fishing and by purse seiners. Karnella noted that data indicates that the effect of bigeye catch by the purse seine fleet has increased to the point that it’s equal to the impact of longliners.

For Further Reading

This month’s articles on the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council deal with a number of issues that we have covered extensively in the past. The following is a list of some of our articles, old and new, that are available on our website:

On Loggerheads

•“Revised Turtle Restrictions Threaten to Close Hawai`i Swordfish Fishery,” April 2011;

•“Swordfish Rule Challenged,” New & Noteworthy, January 2010;

•“New Report Supports Lifting Annual Limit on Interactions between Loggerheads, Fishers,” December 2008;

•“Fishing Council Relaxes Turtle Limits, NMFS to Initiate New Biological Opinion,” August 2008;

•“Fishery Council Narrows Scope of Study on Expanded Longlining Effort in Hawai`i,” November 2007;

•“Swordfish Fishery is Shut Down After Reaching Limit on Loggerhead Takes,” May 2006;

•“After Eight Years, NMFS Finds Longliners Jeopardize Sea Turtles,” April 2001.

On Bottomfish

•“Open Hostility Among Members Apparent in Recent Wespac Meeting,” August 2010;

•“Council Once More Increases Quotas for Bottomfish in Main Hawaiian Islands,” September 2009;

•“Council Splits Difference on Bottomfish Limits,” Wespac wrap-up, December 2008;

•“Bottomfish Restrictions May Do Little for Stocks in Main Hawaiian Islands,” August 2007;

•“Council Plan for Bottomfish Takes Little Heed of State Efforts,” April 2007.

On Monk Seals

•“NMFS Proposes Main Hawaiian Islands as Critical Habitat for Monk Seals,” EH-xtra (Environment Hawai`i website);

•“Board Allows Shark Killing at French Frigate Shoals,” Board Talk, June 2011;

•“Fishing May Have Impacted NWHI Monk Seal Population,” Conservation Conference highlights, October 2010;

•“Board Approves NWHI Cruise, Seal Aid, Cetacean Sampling,” Board Talk, September 2010;

•“Experts, Managers Gather in Honolulu to Discuss Protection of Marine Mammals,” January 2010;

•“Groups Push Closure of Lobster Fishery to Promote Recovery of Monk Seals,” April 2000;

•“At French Frigate Shoals, Monk Seals Face Threats Both Man-Made and Natural,” April 2000.

Teresa Dawson

Volume 22, Number 1 — July 2011

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