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Success Depends on Managers, Scientists and You! Fishery Ecosystem Management in the U.S. Pacific Islands

Are You a Fisherman, Diver or Ocean User? If you are and don’t help make fishery decisions, the decisions will be made for you. As fishermen, Divers and Ocean Users who are regularly out on and in the water know firsthand what is happening with our fisheries and our marine ecosystems and what needs to be done to keep them healthy. That is why Congress established a bottom-up approach for managing our nation’s fisheries—so your knowledge can be used with science to make management decisions. Congress realized that marine ecosystems, fisheries and communities are not the same everywhere. So it established eight Fishery Management Councils for the different U.S. regions. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has authority over fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters around Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and other U.S. Pacific islands. To manage fisheries in the U.S. Pacific islands, the Council developed separate Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) for each island archipelago under its authority. A hallmark of the ecosystembased approach is the ability of management to adapt and respond to changing ecological and environmental conditions and social goals. To adequately manage this way, there must be close communication and collaboration among the Council, scientists, fishermen, divers and other ocean users. The FEPs for the Western Pacific Region include the following objectives that address this need:

GET INVOLVED!

• To provide flexible and adaptive management systems that can rapidly address new scientific information and changes in environmental conditions or human use patterns.

Contact the Council at (808) 522-8220 or email info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov

• To improve public and government awareness and understanding of the marine environment in order to reduce unsustainable human impacts and foster support for responsible stewardship.

How YOU Can Get Involved

Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) for each island archipelago under its authority. A hallmark of the ecosystem-based approach is the ability of management to adapt and respond to changing ecological and environmental conditions and social goals. To adequately manage this way, there must be close communication and collaboration among the Council, scientists, fishermen, divers and other ocean users. The FEPs for the Western Pacific Region include the following objectives that address this need: • To provide flexible and adaptive management systems that can rapidly address new scientific information and changes in environmental conditions or human use patterns. • To improve public and government awareness and understanding of the marine environment in order to reduce unsustainable human impacts and foster support for responsible stewardship. • To encourage and provide for the sustained and substantive participation of local communities in the exploration, development, conservation and management of marine resources. • To improve the quantity and quality of available information to support marine ecosystem management. To help meet these and other FEP objectives, the Council has been funding fisheries research projects to better understand the archipelagic ecosystems of the U.S. Pacific islands. Besides this input from scientists, the Council needs to hear from you—who have observational knowledge about the local fisheries and ecosystem. Get involved! Become a part of the regional fishery management process.

• Contact the Council to get a copy of “Navigating the Western Pacific Council Process” • Subscribe to the Council’s newsletter and other mailings • Read documents and other materials on the Council’s website • Participate in the Council’s Fisher Forums and other activities • Request an expert from the Council’s Speakers’ Bureau to speak at your meetings • Provide written or oral comments on proposed Council actions • Share your thoughts at Council meetings • Serve on one of the Council’s advisory bodies


www.wpcouncil.org • Ecosystem-based Management of Fisheries in the US Pacific Islands

How Science Informs Management of the Hawaii Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has sponsored and supported the following projects to help develop, amend and implement fishery management measures for the Hawaii archipelago. As a fisherman, diver or ocean user, do you have more or different information than the scientist on these subjects? Management depends on the best available information. The Council would like to hear from you!

Parrotfish The Hawaiian Islands host seven species of parrotfish, three of which are native. Despite their ecological and economic importance, very little is known about the basic life history, reproductive biology and population dynamics of these fish. In 2004 and 2005, the Council funded the University of Hawaii to conduct life history, reproductive and basic biology research on Hawaii parrotfish. The research, centered mostly on Oahu reefs, focused on fish size, age distribution, density and habitat associations. The second phase included reproductive characteristics. The report indicated that parrotfish in Hawaii appear to be patchily distributed. In more than half of the underwater surveys, none of the seven species were found. The three species of primary fishery importance, including the redlip parrotfish, were encountered much less frequently than other species. Researchers also estimated that between 4.5 million and 8.5 million parrotfish inhabit the waters of Oahu. Finally, parrotfish in Hawaii waters appear to be reproductively active throughout the year, with peak spawning occurring in spring or early summer. For some species, a second, smaller spawning occurs in late fall or early winter. Sexual maturity and characteristics varied somewhat by species. The Council has identified parrotfish as one of the top 10 candidate species for annual catch limits in Hawaii, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources is looking to strengthen local regulations for the species.

Taape Competition Blue-line snapper (taape) is a non-native species that may be competing with other species for food and habitat. This non-native species was purposefully introduced to Hawaii in 1950 as a food and sportfish. Taape aggregate in large numbers on coral reef formations and are now residents of many of the Hawaiian Islands—including the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. In 2003 the Council supported a study that focused on dietary analysis of gut contents of taape and three native species of goatfish—the many bar goatfish or moano, the yellowfin goatfish or weke ula, and the white goatfish or white weke. The researchers found no clear evidence to indicate that taape routinely compete with other species for food, nor does it appear that taape eat young goatfish to an extent detrimental to the species. However, the Council continues to hear from fishermen that taape are competing with other species for food and habitat, indicating that further research may be needed.

Main Hawaiian Islands Lobster Assessment arrotfish The Council, in collaboration with the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, analyzed 21 years (1984-2004) of data from fisherman catch and dealer sales reports to provide a current assessment of the lobster resources of the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). Statewide annual commercial landings ranged between 7,000 and 12,000 pounds with the exception of a threeyear low of 2,000-3,000 pounds from 1993-1995. Based on available data, the MHI lobster fishery does not appear to be experiencing overfishing. The study indicates that the fishery as a whole reported relatively stable landings throughout the 21-year period and that mean weight for spiny lobsters also remained constant, fluctuating between 2.0 and 2.5 pounds on Hawaii and Maui and between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds on Oahu.

Green Sea Turtles Green sea turtles are an important cultural resource to native Hawaiians. This research project described Hawaiian green sea turtle population dynamics and examined the possible effects of various harvesting strategies on green sea turtle populations given the uncertainty of accurate stock assessments. The main finding from this assessment is that the Hawaiian green turtle population is well on its way to recovery and may be able to support a limited annual harvest.

Cultural Fisheries and Ecosystem Information Compilation In Hawaii, the traditional marine tenure system emphasizes social and cultural controls that are based on an intimate understanding of the factors that affected distribution and abundance of the various marine resources that are used. Under this system, harvest is not based upon the numbers of fish that could be taken, but rather on the specific times and places fishing for certain species could occur without disrupting the natural balance of the fish population, their habitats and other marine resources that are dependent on them. Today, such concepts are known as an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. The Council has developed a database that contains the names of Native Hawaiian lawaia (fisher) and mahiai (farmer) practitioners throughout the Hawaii Archipelago by land district (moku) in order to document place-specific information related to spawning cycles and abundance/density indicators for coral reef fishery resources as well as other traditional Native Hawaiian fishery management practices.


Project Deep Reef This project studied various aspects of the deep reef ecosystem in several areas of Hawaii. Bottomfish population abundance was assessed in the Kahoolawe Island Reserve (KIR) as a potential benchmark by which to interpret surveys within and outside marine protected areas. Bathymetric and habitat data of the deep reef coral reef ecosystem in the KIR and the southeastern coast of the Big Island were collected. Important bottomfish habitats were assessed, identified and characterized. The extent of the spread of the introduced soft coral Carijoa riisei was determined as well as its impact on precious coral beds.

three sites examined, the volume went from ‘quiet’ to very ‘loud’ within approximately 30 minutes of the sunset. The Council has also funded the development of a bottomfish camera, i.e., botcam, which requires low ambient light and has the potential to capture information on the bottomfish populations and fish types on deep reefs. At sunset

Impacts to Black Coral from Invasive Carijoa Riisei Black coral is harvested for jewelry in the Hawaii Archipelago and is important as a cultural resource. Surveys conducted between 2001 and 2004 indicated that over 50% of black coral colonies were overgrown by an invasive soft coral (snowflake coral, Carijoa riisei). In most cases black coral colonies were completely smothered. In 2005, the Council supported additional black coral surveys of the Auau Channel. This study determined that the situation had not worsened and in some areas of the bed the situation had apparently stabilized or even improved. The Council manages the fishery on a catch limit, which takes into consideration the status of the stock.

Just after sunset

Squid Fishery Assessment This project reviewed the Hawaii squid fishery data and recent research on the red flying squid (Ommastrphes bartramii) and the diamondback squid (Thysanoteuthis rhombus), two commonly harvested species. The report detailed various aspects of the fishery, including species, history, harvest methods and participants. The Council has since included squid as a managed species with permit, reporting, notification and observer requirements.

Deep Reef Fishery Resources Due to concerns about local depletion of some deepwater bottomfish species, an annual total allowable catch (TAC) for the seven major Hawaii deepwater bottomfish species is in effect for commercial fisheries in both state and federal waters. Non-commercial fishermen are subject to bag limits. All sectors of the MHI bottomfish fishery are closed if the commercial TAC is reached. The Council is exploring the feasibility and need for a limited access privilege program for the fishery, which would allocate specific amounts of the annual quota across individuals and/or sectors. However, scientists have a difficult time estimating populations and types of fish on deep reefs, like the important fishing grounds in Hawaii found on the slopes of Penguin Bank at a depth of 150 meters. Scuba diving at such depths is dangerous, requires special equipment, and is hampered by low visibility. The use of other methods, such as submersibles and remotely operated vehicles, is often cost-prohibitive. The Council has thus supported an acoustic study of fish and other marine life on deep reefs. The study deployed listening devices called EARs (ecological acoustic recordings) off Molokai, near Penguin Bank. These devices allowed researchers to record a variety of sounds and monitor biological activity by examining the complex mixture of sounds recorded. The results indicate that acoustic monitoring of the ambient sound field is a promising means of tracking biological activity, particularly at locations where traditional surveys are impractical. Researchers found that Hawaii’s deep reefs and seamounts are acoustically very dynamic habitats. Scientists believe that reef fish or even bottomfish are likely sources of these sounds. Long periods of relative quiet are punctuated by episodes of intense acoustic activity – especially in the evening. At the

Additional Projects The Council has supported or is in the process of implementing several other coral reef fishery-associated projects in Hawaii: • Collecting coral reef ecosystem associated species life-history data from Hawaii fishing clubs and tournaments • Assessing and monitoring of reef fish stocks • Investigating the reproductive characteristics of the Hawaiian black coral species and implications for future management • Further deep reef acoustic research • Coral reef and bottomfish fish stock assessment workshops • A workshop focused on ecosystem-based management • A Hawaii coral reef fish tagging project

Funding support for this display and these research projects provided by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program


www.wpcouncil.org Ecosystem-based Management of Fisheries in the US Pacific Islands


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