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U.S. Fisheries issues temporary rule on interim bottomfish management

Nat'l Marine Fisheries Service logo
To support long-term sustainability of Am Samoa bottom fish for local fishermen

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has issued a temporary rule  implementing an interim catch limit (ICL) of 13,000 pounds of American Samoa bottomfish for fishing years 2020 and 2021 - from Nov. 16, 2020 to May 17, 2021.

“These interim management measures are necessary to reduce overfishing of American Samoa bottomfish while minimizing socio-economic impacts to fishing communities,” said NMFS in an announcement via federal portal (

“This temporary rule supports the long-term sustainability of American Samoa bottomfish,” according to NMFS, which announced the proposed rule on Sept. 11th and sought public comments, that closed Sept. 28th.

ASG’s Department Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) was among the handful of comments submitted to NMFS. In support of DMWR, the approved a Senate Concurrent Resolution calling on NMFS “to suspend or vacant the interim measure” imposed on the limitation of bottomfish caught in federal waters immediately outside of territorial waters around American Samoa. (See Samoa News edition Oct. 2nd for details.)

In the public announcement of the decision, NMFS also responded to certain issues raised by the commentors, including DMWR which believes that the 13,000 lb ICL is too low for American Samoa fishermen to subsist on, and does not support closing Federal waters to bottomfish fishing, especially the productive offshore banks, which the DMWR argued are important fishing grounds for deepwater snapper that are critical for American Samoan cultural ceremonies and fa`alavelave.

DMWR proposed to develop a territorial bottomfish management plan in coordination with NMFS and such a plan that includes data workshops to fully understand local fishery and incorporate the cultural aspects of the fishery. DMWR also requested flexibility in the national guidelines.

“The best scientific information available indicates that the fishery is subject to overfishing and is overfished,” was the response from NMFS. “This temporary action, which includes a potential closure of Federal waters to prevent the fishery from exceeding the limit, is needed to reduce overfishing” while the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Council and NMFS develop a plan that ends overfishing and rebuilds the stock.

NMFS said it expects that the level of catch under this temporary action will still allow American Samoan bottomfish fishermen to continue to provide enough fish for subsistence, cultural, and religious purposes.

“Overall, the interim action provides a balance between the statutory requirement to reduce overfishing and the needs of the fishery and dependent communities for continued access to bottomfish,” said NMFS.

According to the federal fishery agency, NMFS is committed to working with DMWR and the Council to address the condition of the fishery, which may include consideration of a bottomfish management plan for territorial waters.

Read story elsewhere in this issue for agenda on issues affecting American Samoa at the December Western Pacific Regional Fishery Council meeting.

[Full details on the interim rule and comments on]