File image courtesy of Brad Ka’aleleo Wong/OHA.

The Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council will develop fishing regulations as part of the proposed Northwest Hawaiian Islands sanctuary designation. The information was shared during a meeting on Monday.

The NOAA sanctuary designation process includes formal consultation with regional fisheries management councils on fisheries regulations early in the process.

The Council will include options for permits and reporting requirements for commercial (outside current monument boundaries), non-commercial, Native Hawaiian, and research fishing practices within sanctuary boundaries.

Several Council members noted that, since the proposed boundaries of the sanctuary are still undefined, Council’s response and draft bylaw should remain broad. Hawai’i Council Member Matt Ramsey noted, “It is important to have a clear understanding of what is proposed for the sanctuary boundaries. If it extends beyond the area that already restricts commercial fishing, that’s a whole different story.

“I support moving forward,” said John Gourley, vice president of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. “We have enough areas closed to fishing and should develop fishing regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act where permitted.”

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The Council will amend its Fisheries Ecosystem Plan for the Hawai’i Archipelago to analyze fishing alternatives alongside the sanctuary’s fishing regulations.

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After reviewing recent data, the Council recommended renewing the current annual catch limits for major deep-sea shrimp in the Hawaiian Islands (Heterocarpus laevigatusand H. ensifer) and precious corals for the fishing years 2022-2025.

The Council also requested the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide information to the Hawaii State Legislature regarding HB 1988 which proposes to prohibit the harvesting, sale, import or export of coral products . Exceptions would be allowed for non-commercial harvesting or for research purposes. The bill’s species list includes the Council’s valuable coral species (pink, red, bamboo and black). The language may be inconsistent with federal regulations that allow commercial harvesting of precious corals and would essentially shut down sustainably managed fisheries.

The Council meeting continues today with discussions on a new strategy for the Pacific to address international fishing issues and the implications of a study of false killer whale weak hooks, among other topics. Webex login instructions, agendas, and backgrounders are posted at www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars.