Fisheries council give details on Am Samoa’s bottomfish rebuilding plan
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In February 2020, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) informed the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council about a change in stock status for the American Samoa bottomfish management unit species complex — from not overfished and not subject to overfishing to overfished and subject to overfishing.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and National Standard 1 requires the Council to develop a rebuilding plan and submit the amendment package within 15 months of notification.
This is the first rebuilding plan for American Samoa. For one year, the Council has worked with NMFS and the territory of American Samoa to develop a rebuilding plan to comply with MSA section 304(e)(3) and implementing regulations at 50 CFR 600.310(j)(2).
An interim catch limit was implemented in the American Samoa bottomfish fishery through an interim measure emergency rule-making to curb the impact of the change in stock status and sudden drop in the annual catch limit (ACL) (85 FR 73003, Nov. 16, 2020). This level of catch is 13,000 pounds, with the possibility of extension if this is not reached.
The biomass projection is now based on the most recent catch data in the American Samoa Fishery Ecosystem Plan Annual Stock Assessment Fishery Evaluation Report published in June 2021. The catch for 2020 was below the interim catch limit and is no longer based on an estimate as it was in the January 2021 projection.
The Council at its 188th meeting will consider taking final action on the American Samoa Bottomfish Rebuilding Plan and will consider the following alternatives:
- Status quo – continue to utilize an ACL of 13,000 pounds with an in-season accountability measure (AM).
- Implement an ACL of 1,500 pounds with an in-season AM and higher performance standard that would close the federal waters until measures are in place to control the additional source of fishing mortality. If the total catch is maintained below this level, the bottomfish stock will be rebuilt in 9 years.
- Apply a temporary moratorium on bottomfish fishing in federal waters. If the territory is able to apply a similar moratorium in territorial waters, the bottomfish stock will be rebuilt in 8 years.
- Implement an ACL of 5,000 pounds with an in-season AM and higher performance standard that would close the federal waters until measures are in place to control the additional source of fishing mortality. If the total catch is maintained below this level, the bottomfish stock will be rebuilt in 10 years.