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Summary of Action Items for American Samoa at the 184th meeting of WestPac

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council logo
Source: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council,

Honolulu, HAWAII — The 184th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will convene December 2-4, 2020, by web conference (Webex) with host site for American Samoa at the Tedi of Samoa Building Suite 208B


The Council will consider specifying multi-year harvest limits for the American Samoa bottomfish management unit species complex for fishing years (FYs) 2021-2022. This action would satisfy the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requirements to end overfishing. The best scientific information available is the 2019 benchmark stock assessment with catch projection to 2025. Based on this new information, the maximum sustainable yield was estimated to be at 28,800 pounds, and the overfishing limit (OFL) in 2021 and 2022 is 5,000 pounds. The Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) at its 138th meeting deliberated on the acceptable biological catch (ABC) and utilized the phase-in approach to mitigate the sudden drop in the harvest limits. The ABC for 2021 is the OFL at 5,000 pounds and 2022 at 2,000 pounds.

The Council will consider the following options:

1.         No Action/Status quo. No harvest limits will be specified for FYs 2021-2022.

2.         Specify the annual catch limit (ACL) equal to the SSC recommended ABC using the phase-in approach where: FY 2021 is at 5,000 pounds and FY 2022 is at 2,000 pounds.

3.         Specify the ACL immediately at 2,000 pounds for FYs 2021-2022.

4.         Establish a temporary prohibition on bottomfish fishing in federal waters around American Samoa.

The Council will also consider accountability measures (AMs) to prevent overfishing from occurring. The Council will deliberate the feasibility of an in-season accountability measure where the expanded catch will be tracked on a monthly level and close the federal waters once the limit is projected to be reached.


The Council will consider taking initial action on the American Samoa Bottomfish Stock Rebuilding Plan. At the 180th Council meeting in October 2019, the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center presented the 2019 benchmark stock assessment for the bottomfish stock, indicating that the stock is overfished and subject to overfishing. The MSA requires the Council to implement a rebuilding plan within two years of notification that a stock is overfished. The rebuilding plan must allow the biomass to increase back to the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) level within ten years. The current biomass level described in the assessment is very low; thus, it will take a low harvest level and a long time before the biomass reaches MSY.

The Council will consider the following options:

1.         No Action/Status quo. No rebuilding measures.

2.         Set the ACL at 1,500 pounds and rebuild in 10 years.

3.         Establish a temporary prohibition on bottomfish fishing in federal waters around American Samoa.

4.         Establish additional measures to control and monitor the catch like federal permit and reporting and bag limits.


The Council at its 181st meeting in March 2020 reiterated its recommendation to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that it works with the Council to develop any necessary reasonable and prudent measures (RPMs) and/or reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) under the ongoing Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 consultations for the Hawai‘i deep-set longline fishery and the American Samoa longline fishery to ensure that such measures are appropriate and practicable to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries. Prior to the 182nd meeting in June 2020, NMFS Pacific Island Regional Office (PIRO) Protected Resources Division indicated to Council staff that it is not yet in a position to discuss development or RPMs or RPAs but encouraged the Council to work with PIRO Sustainable Fisheries Division on the following:

•           Consider any actions that the fishery could take to avoid adversely impacting listed species and, if impacts cannot be avoided, work to minimize impacts of incidental take.

•           Start with Hawai‘i shallow-set longline RPM applicability and offer new measures.

•           Focus on leatherback turtles (concern with species status), oceanic whitetip sharks (taken in large numbers) and giant manta rays (demographic units poorly understood).


At its 182nd meeting, the Council reviewed available information regarding leatherback turtles, oceanic whitetip sharks and giant manta rays and recommended a range of considerations for the initial development of any draft RPMs and/or RPAs. The Council further directed staff to continue working with PIRO, PIFSC, advisory group members and industry to develop any necessary RPMs and to provide a report and options, if applicable, to the SSC and Council at the September meetings.

The Council at its 184th meeting may consider new information from the ongoing consultations, if available, and may consider initial action on mitigation measures under the Pelagic Fishery Ecoysystem Plan (FEP) consistent with potential or draft RPMs/RPAs.

(Source: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council)