The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has voted to retain the annual catch limit of 31,000 pounds set for Guam starting in fishing year 2022.
During its meeting Honolulu Wednesday, the council noted the National Marine Fisheries Service's observation in February 2020 that the federally managed Guam bottomfish stock complex was "overfished but not experiencing overfishing."
The council noted that while a new alternative emerged during the rebuilding plan development, it would only add 500 pounds while extending the rebuilding timeline by two years.
The limit set for Guam corresponds to a 41-percent risk of overfishing and would allow the stock to replenish in eight years, and the council said this option poses the least chance of the fishery exceeding the catch limit and considers fishing community needs.
The annual average bottomfish catch over the past several years is about 27,300 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 annual catch limit is projected to be reached.
For American Samoa, the council voted to defer action on the rebuilding plan for the federally managed bottomfish.
In February 2020, the NMFS informed the council of a change in stock status for American Samoa bottomfish to overfished and experiencing overfishing.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires the Council to develop a rebuilding plan within 15 months of notification and rebuild the overfished stock within 10 years.
During plan development, a new alternative of 5,000 pounds emerged that would rebuild the stock in 10 years with a 27 percent risk of overfishing.
While the council opted to consider this alternative at its September 2021 meeting, members expressed their dismay that it was the best choice available.
They noted the disparities in catchability between using hand-cranked reels, common among local bottomfishermen, and electric reels.
Kitty Simonds, the council's executive director, said changes in fishing power through time would be a good topic for fishermen to discuss with the NMFS scientists at the data workshops planned for the fall.