April 24, 2017 — SEAFOOD NEWS — The National Marine Fisheries Service has notified regional councils that five species are subject to overfishing and/or are overfishing or overfished, requiring measures be put in place to remedy the situations.
Bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific and South Atlantic golden tilefish are subject to overfishing, according to NMFS. South Atlantic blueline tilefish remains subject to overfishing. Pacific Bluefin tuna in the North Pacific Ocean and South Atlantic red snapper are both overfished and also subject to overfishing.
NMFS determined the bigeye tuna stock is subject to overfishing based on a 2014 stock assessment update conducted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, which was accepted by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international body composed of more than 35 member countries, participating territories and cooperating non-members.
Both the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and the Pacific Fishery Management Council are charged with addressing the international and domestic impacts to bigeye tuna. Actions to address international recommendations must be forwarded to the Secretary of State and Congress.
NMFS acknowledged that overfishing of the bigeye stock is largely due to international fishing pressure. Regardless, Hawaii longliners are concerned that U.S. fleets will bear the brunt of the regulations.
Hawaii Longline Association President Sean Martin said any regulations likely won’t have a short-term effect on the year-round fishery. However, it seems like NMFS was premature in its decision and used an old stock assessment to make the determination, he said.
“I’m not sure why they did that, prior to the new stock assessment,” Martin said.
The SPC currently is working on an updated bigeye tuna stock assessment to present to the Commission in August. The assessment may show the stock in better shape than the 2014 assessment — or it may not.
Regardless, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council is required to take into account the relative impact of the longline fleet — which is pretty small in the scope of international fishery management, Martin said. “So it complicates the issue because we are so small,” he added.
Hawaii already imports bigeye tuna from other Commission countries as demand for bigeye and poke has increased in restaurants.
Further constraints on the domestic fishery will likely be filled by other countries. The U.S. takes conservation seriously, Martin said, but at the international level, discussions frequently center more around allocation rather than conservation.
“We’re suffering the consequences of others who want access to our markets,” Martin said.
NMFS’ notice about the status of the bluefin tuna in the North Pacific also must be dealt with by both the Western Pacific and Pacific fishery management councils.
The overfishing and overfished condition of Pacific bluefin tuna in the North Pacific Ocean is due largely to excessive international fishing pressure and there are no management measures (or efficiency measures) to end overfishing under an international agreement to which the United States is a party, NMFS said in its notice.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has been notified it must take action immediately to end overfishing of golden tilefish and continue to work with NMFS to end overfishing of blueline tilefish and red snapper and rebuild the red snapper stock.
This story originally appeared on SeafoodNews.com, a subscription site. It is reprinted with permission.