Wespac Plans Action on Bottomfish, American Samoa Marine Conservation Plan

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Wespac) is scheduled to meet at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu from June 24 through June 26, to consider initial action on specifying annual catch limits on Deep 7 bottomfish and a plan for a new Marine Conservation Plan for American Samoa.

The council’s Risk of Overfishing and SEEM (Social, Economic, Ecological and Management Uncertainty) working groups and Scientific and Statistical Committee evaluated the uncertainties in May and recommended a risk level to the council. Options before the council range from no action to specifying an allowable catch limit.

The current conservation plan for American Samoa expires in July. The council is considering a Pacific Insular Area Fishery Agreement (PIAFA) to allow foreign fishing within the 200-mile U.S. exclusive economic zone around American Samoa, Northern Marianna Islands, Guam or the Pacific Remote Island Area in the Central Pacific.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act authorizes the Secretary of State, with concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce and in consultation with the council, to negotiate and enter into PIAFA agreements and to develop a three-year plan on details for uses of any funds collected under the PIAFA.

This would include fines and penalties of violations by foreign vessels occurring within the exclusive economic zone around the Pacific Insular Areas, including money collected from forfeiture and disposition or sale of property seized by the federal government.

Magnuson-Stevens legislation provides for those funds to be used by the Western Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Fund to implement marine conservation plan projects.