Hawaii fisheries group asks to delay Am Samoa longline landing rule
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In light of the ongoing pandemic, the Hawaii Longline Association (HLA) have requested the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to delay the effective date of the landing requirement for large vessels in the American Samoa longline fishery program.
In a July notice, NMFS announced that it proposes to modify the American Samoa longline fishery limited entry program to consolidate vessel class sizes, modify permit eligibility requirements, and reduce the minimum harvest requirements for small vessels.
It says the intent of this proposed rule is to reduce regulatory barriers that may be limiting small vessel participation in the fishery, and provide for sustained community and indigenous American Samoan participation in the fishery. This proposed rule also makes several administrative updates to remove outdated regulations.
NMFS sought public comments by Sept. 2nd at which time only HLA had submitted a comment saying that on behalf of the 24-Hawaii based longline vessels that have American Samoa longline limited entry permits, it requests a delay in the effectiveness of the landing requirement.
“HLA makes this request in light of the ongoing pandemic and to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19 from Hawaii to American Samoa,” the association said.
HLA said there have not been any documented cases of Covid-19 in the Hawaii fleet, and approximately 75% of crew are estimated to be fully vaccinated from HLA coordinated vaccine opportunities beginning in March 2021.
“HLA believes there is a need for an abundance of caution during these difficult times,” it says noting that the proposed action was developed by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council prior to the pandemic and public health and safety with regards to vessel landings was not considered.
HLA said it supports the implementation of the other provisions of the proposed rule NMFS, but requests NMFS delay the effectiveness of the landing requirement and associated 3-year period indefinitely and until a well-considered future date is identified. (Details of the notice on federal portal - www.regulations.gov)