Comment period closes on proposed removal of swordfish retention limit
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has proposed to remove the swordfish retention limit in the American Samoa deep-set longline fishery and deadline for public comments was yesterday, July 14th.
However, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council raised a concern with NMFS’ summary of the proposed rule, which mentioned interaction with green sea turtles, that the Council believes is a bit misleading.
According to the NMFS summary of the proposed rule, NMFS originally implemented the limit as part of a suite of gear and operational requirements intended to discourage shallow-set fishing, thus reducing interactions with green sea turtles.
“The gear requirements have reduced green sea turtle interactions, and the swordfish retention limit is not needed,” according to NMFS, which says that the proposed rule would remove the unnecessary restriction that results in the discard of small amounts of marketable swordfish that could otherwise be supplied as seafood.
“The proposed rule is intended to promote efficiency in the fishery,” it says.
In a July 9th letter to NMFS Pacific Islands regional administrator, Michael D. Tossato, the Council’s executive director Kitty M. Simonds points out that with this regulatory amendment to Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) and its associated proposed rule, both criteria have been met, and there is no reason not to implement these regulations.
“The purpose of this regulatory amendment is to support the American Samoa longline fishery by eliminating regulatory discards of swordfish and increasing efficiency,” Simonds wrote.
She said that the summary provided in the proposed rule should note this purpose rather than the green sea turtle interaction reduction as the Council's intention for removing the limit was based on the fact that low levels of swordfish catch indicated that a swordfish fishery was not developing.”
She explained that it was the intent of the Council in Amendment 5 to the Pelagic FEP that the limit on swordfish be instituted in order to dissuade shallow-set longlining, which has a higher interaction rate with sea turtles.
“The data shows that swordfish continue to be incidentally caught by the American Samoa longline fishery; therefore, to reduce waste and regulatory discards, the Council recommends removing the limit,” she explained. “While this is reflected in the supplementary information, the summary may be a bit misleading.”
“As we both know, it is our responsibility to manage fisheries sustainably so as to provide continued opportunities for U.S. fishermen to achieve optimum yields for the benefit of the Nation,” she said. “We do this based on the best available scientific information as well as consistency with applicable law.”
Details of the proposed rule is found in the federal online portal www.regulations.gov