Wespac Science Advisors Endorse Hawaii, Guam Bottomfish Stock Assessments

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Science advisors to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac) have endorsed two bottomfish stock assessments for the main Hawaiian Islands and Guam as the best scientific information available.

The council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) accepted the stock assessments on March 14. The assessments found that main Hawaiian Islands deep-seven stock is not overfished and not experiencing overfishing and that Guam stock likely is not overfished and likely not experiencing overfishing relative to reference points.

The SSC endorsed the 2023 benchmark stock assessment and recommended that the council initiate the process for setting an updated acceptable biological catch and specifying annual catch limits.

The council noted that significant improvements were made to catch data evaluation and standardization techniques, resulting in a robust modeling flatform known as Just Another Bayesian Biomass Assessment (JABBA).

The SSC suggested that upcoming assessments explore age-based models and conduct tests to check the accuracy of date standardization methods.

The updated stock assessment includes data from 2018 to 2023 and highlights changes in species composition, notably an increase in onaga (longtailed red snapper, Etelis coruscans).

The assessment indicates that the stock is not currently overfished or experiencing overfishing, and that it hasn’t yet reached sustainable yield levels, necessitating continued adherence to the rebuilding plan.

The SSC also determined that available scientific information on the false killer whale management area was not suitable for estimating abundance of false killer whales in areas outside of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In 2023, the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center defined a new management area for the offshore pelagic stock known to inhabit areas inside and outside of the EEZ around Hawaii. The SSC adopted the report and recommendations from a working group tasked with reviewing the pelagic false killer whale management area approach.