Wespac Science Advisors Caution Against Repercussions From Fishing Regulations

Image: Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Science advisors to the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC, Wespac) are expressing concern about what they view as potential negative unintended consequences of adding more fishing limits in the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands (PRI).

Wespac issued its comments in a Nov. 29 statement after the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) was tasked with evaluating current fishing regulations in the PRI.

SSC members reaffirmed their recommendation from the September meeting that existing regulations are sufficient to meet objectives of the proposed PRI National Marine Sanctuary. The SSC found no scientific evidence to support additional fishing regulations and cautioned that further limits on the U.S. fleet could have negative impacts on the region.

SSC member Debra Cabrera, an associate professor with the University of Guam, said the burden of conservation would continue to fall on the shoulders of the Pacific Island communities and additional regulations may limit future economic opportunities.

Another SSC member, Sea State Inc. data and policy analyst Steve Martell, said further restrictions could displace fleets into areas that may have higher bycatch rates or limits, thereby causing a larger adverse impact on protected species populations.

The NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center published a memorandum recently estimating the economic contributions of U.S. commercial fisheries to American Samoa. It states that hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs are directly or indirectly supported by commercial fisheries.

SSC members emphasized a loss of fish supplying the cannery could be devastating and closing waters from 50-200 nm will only further disadvantage the U.S. fleet that’s already on shaky footing.

SSC members had significant concerns about the equity and environmental justice implications that the proposed sanctuary and existing marine national monuments impose on the underserved community of American Samoa and the broader Pacific Islands Region.