Catch limit set to rebuild overfished Guam bottomfish stock

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has voted to adopt a bottomfish annual catch limit of 31,000 lbs starting in fishing year 2023 to rebuild the overfished bottomfish stock in Guam.

The limit corresponds to a 35-40 percent risk of overfishing and would allow the stock to replenish in six years. This option poses the least chance of the fishery exceeding the catch limit and extending the rebuilding time.

The annual average bottomfish catch over the past several years is about 27,000 pounds. An in-season accountability measure will be implemented to track catch relative to the ACL. Federal waters will be closed to bottomfishing when the ACL is projected to be reached.

Manny Dueñas, president of the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (GFCA) and former council member and chair, said noted that there were four years that the catch exceeded the catch limit. “Why didn’t anyone go back and look at this—maybe the ACL is wrong," he added.

The GFCA was the only source of commercial fish dealer data for decades and the hub for the Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center (PIFSC) biosampling program. Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds said that staff will ask PIFSC to address Dueñas’s concerns.

The council concluded its three-day virtual meeting with the following recommendations on other matters, among others.

Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (MTMNM): The council recommended delaying the release of the draft MTMNM management plan for public review and comment until the Marianas Trench Monument Advisory Council (MTMAC) is seated and provides input.

The 2009 MTMNM Proclamation by President Bush established the MTMAC to “provide advice and recommendations on the development of management plans and management of the monument.”

With a draft management plan for the monument due to be release