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Federal fishery managers develop regulations for proposed Hawaiʻi National Marine Sanctuary

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File image courtesy of Brad Ka‘aleleo Wong/OHA.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will develop fishing regulations as part of the proposed Northwestern Hawaiian Islands sanctuary designation. The information was shared at a meeting on Monday.

The NOAA sanctuary designation process includes a formal consultation with the regional fishery management councils on fisheries regulations at the start of the process.

The Council will include options for permitting and reporting requirements for commercial (outside current monument boundaries), noncommercial, Native Hawaiian practices and research fishing within sanctuary boundaries.

Several Council members noted that since the proposed sanctuary boundaries are still undefined, the Council response and draft regulations should be kept broad. Matt Ramsey, Council member from Hawai‘i, remarked, “It’s important to have a clear understanding of what is being proposed for the sanctuary boundary. If it expands beyond the area that already restricts commercial fishing that is a completely different story.”

“I support moving ahead,” said John Gourley, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands vice chair. “We have enough areas closed to fishing and should develop fishing regulations under Magnuson-Stevens Act when allowed.”

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The Council will amend its Hawai‘i Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan to analyze fishing alternatives in parallel to the sanctuary fishing regulations.

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After reviewing recent data, the Council recommended rolling over the current annual catch limits for the main Hawaiian Islands deepwater shrimp (Heterocarpus laevigatusand H. ensifer) and precious corals for fishing years 2022-2025.

The Council also requested the National Marine Fisheries Service provide information to the State of Hawai‘i legislature regarding HB 1988 that proposes to prohibit the harvest, sale, import or export of coral products. Exceptions would be allowed for noncommercial harvest or research purposes. Included in the bill’s list of species are the Council’s precious coral managed species (pink, red, bamboo and black). The language may be inconsistent with federal regulations that allow commercial harvest of precious corals, and would essentially close the sustainably managed fishery.

The Council meeting continues today with discussions on a new Pacific strategy to address international fisheries issues and implications of a false killer whale weak hook study, among other topics. Instructions on connecting to Webex, agendas and briefing documents are posted at www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars

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