For Bigeye Tuna, Current Measures Need Evaluation Before More Restrictions Enacted, Write Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Local Fishing Associations

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The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has written to Federal officials in opposition to proposed harvest cuts for Pacific bigeye tuna. According to their letter to a senior official at NOAA, current management measures must first be evaluated before any further restrictions are pursued.

Without any formal inquiry of the results of current regulations, the WPRFMC objects to additional and substantially restrictive measures until the WCPFC establishes with certainty that current regulations are not working.

In a letter made public today, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) writes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries Russell Smith expressing opposition to proposed harvest cuts on Pacific bigeye tuna. New measures under consideration at a meeting this week of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), of which the United States is a member, would cut bigeye tuna harvests by 36 percent of average landings from 2008-2011.

Writing that existing measures are both recent and without statistical and scientific analysis of their effects so far, the WPRFMC encourages the WCPFC to examine current management measures before enacting further restrictive regulations. The letter, submitted on November 18, is also signed by the Hawaii Longline Association and American Tunaboat Association.

The WPRFMC is one of several fishery management councils in the United States tasked with ensuring the sustainable harvest of commercialized marine species. It was created in 1976 by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Current measures regulating the species (CMM 2013-01) require the rules to be examined annually for successes and possible shortcomings, but as the WPRFMC’s letter notes, these measures have not yet been in place for even one year. The same existing measures also note that, “It is anticipated that significant new information will enable a further review in 2014.” Without any formal inquiry of the results of current regulations, the WPRFMC objects to additional and substantially restrictive measures until the WCPFC establishes with certainty that current regulations are not working. According to the WPRFMC, it is not possible to reevaluate the CMM 2013-01 with respect to eliminating bigeye tuna overfishing as the scientific information for the basis of that reevaluation is not available.

The WPRFMC’s letter makes clear the Council’s opposition to additional WCPFC restrictions on U.S. tropical tuna fisheries until an evaluation of current measures under CMM 2013-13 have been conducted and analyzed. The WPRFMC notes that the Commission is unable to create meaningful regulations without full knowledge of the performance of CMM 2013-01.

Since its founding, the WPRFMC has successfully implemented groundbreaking innovations in fisheries management and conservation, including ecosystem-based fishery management plans and vessel monitoring systems. The WPRFMC emphasizes public participation and the involvement of local communities in science-based fisheries management.

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Sylvia Spalding
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
+1 (808) 383-1069
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