PEIS for Deep-set Tuna Longline Fisheries

 


Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Pelagic Deep-set Tuna Longline Fisheries in the Pacific Islands

Longline fishing vessels in Honolulu, Hawaii

Longline fishing vessels in Honolulu, Hawaii

Public Scoping and Development of Alternatives

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, or NOAA Fisheries), in coordination with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), intends to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The PEIS would evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the continued authorization of U.S. Pacific Island deep-set tuna longline fisheries, as managed under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific and other applicable laws.

The PEIS would evaluate elements of the longline fisheries based in Hawaii (including those operating from the U.S. west coast), American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The PEIS would describe the fisheries and current management measures. Specifically, NOAA Fisheries is seeking public input on the management of the deep-set tuna longline fisheries, including impacts to target and non-target stocks; protected species; and other management issues.

Deep-set Tuna Longline Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries and the Council manage domestic longline fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ or federal waters; generally, 3–200 nautical miles from shore) around the U.S. Pacific Islands and on the high seas. The longline fisheries operate in two distinct modes based on gear deployment: Shallow-set vessels target swordfish near the surface and deep-set vessels target tunas deeper than 100 meters. The deep-set tuna longline fisheries have greater levels of vessel participation, fishing effort, catch, and revenue than the shallow-set fishery. NOAA Fisheries previously evaluated the effects of the shallow-set fishery, so it will not be included in this PEIS.

The primary deep-set tuna longline fisheries are the Hawaii and American Samoa longline fisheries. Access to the Hawaii longline fisheries is limited to 164 vessel permits, of which about 140 vessels are active. Of these active vessels, about 20 may also shallow-set during any given year. Most vessels in the Hawaii deep-set tuna longline fleet homeport in Hawaii and about 10 operate from ports on the U.S. west coast. These vessels target bigeye tuna.

Tuna at auction, Pier 38, Honolulu, Hawaii

Tuna at auction, Pier 38, Honolulu, Hawaii

Access to the American Samoa deep-set tuna fishery is also limited, with a maximum of 60 permits divided into four classes based on vessel size. About 30 vessels are active in the American Samoa fishery, mostly Class D (vessels over 70 feet), and they target albacore tuna. Historically, a few deep-set tuna longline vessels operated out of Guam and CNMI, but this fleet has been inactive since 2011.

Management provisions governing deep-set tuna longline fisheries include, but are not limited to, the following requirements:

  • Limited entry/access programs;
  • Vessel size limits;
  • Mandatory permits and reporting of catch and effort;
  • Areas where fishing is prohibited;
  • Monitoring by on-board observers;
  • Satellite-based vessel monitoring system;
  • Catch limits or prohibitions for some fish species;
  • Gear configuration requirements; and
  • Specific methods for handling and releasing bycatch.

Purpose and Need

The purpose of the proposed action is to maintain viable domestic deep-set tuna longline fisheries while ensuring the long-term sustainability of fishery resources, and the conservation of protected species and their habitats. The need for the proposed action is to manage deep-set tuna longline fisheries under an adaptive management framework that allows for timely management responses to changing environmental conditions, consistent with domestic and international conservation and management measures.

Longline fishing vessels in American Samoa (Photo courtesy Council)

Longline fishing vessels in American Samoa (Photo courtesy Council)

Action Area — Federal Waters of the Pacific Islands Region

The action area includes the EEZ around the islands of American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the CNMI, the Pacific Remote Islands (which include Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef, Jarvis Island, Baker Island, Howland Island, Johnston Atoll, and Wake Island), and the high seas where deep-set tuna longline vessels operate.

U.S. EEZ in the Pacific Islands shown in light blue.

U.S. EEZ in the Pacific Islands shown in light blue.

Click to enlarge photos


Potential Management Issues

  • Territorial bigeye tuna specifications and transfers
  • Changes to permitting programs
  • New gear requirements to further reduce bycatch

Potential Environmental, Social, and Economic Issues

  • Catch of target tuna species
  • Catch of non-target species, such as sharks
  • Interactions with protected species
  • Impacts on the pelagic ecosystem
  • Gear conflicts
  • Catch competition

Previous Environmental Analyses

Council Management Documents


How Can I Submit Comments?

Comments must be submitted by April 14, 2017.

  • Online:
    1. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0010 via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.
    2. Click the "Comment Now!" icon and complete the required fields
    3. Enter or attach your comments

  • Mail or hand-delivery: Submit written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1845 Wasp Blvd, Bldg 176, Honolulu, HI 96818

  • Public Meetings: NOAA Fisheries invites the public to learn more about the public scoping and alternative development and to provide comments in person.

    • February 21, 2017, 6-9 p.m.
      Edith Kanakaole Hall, Room 122, University of Hawaii at Hilo, 200 W. Kawili St., Hilo, HI 96720
    • February 23, 2017, 2016, 6-9 p.m.
      Nuuanu Elementary School Cafeteria, 3055 Puiwa Ln., Honolulu, HI 96817
    • February 28, 2017, 6-9 p.m.
      Sadie's By the Sea, Upstairs Conference Room, Utulei Beach, Rte. 1, Pago Pago, AS 96799
    • March 1, 2017, 6-9 p.m.
      NOAA GMD/PIFSC Compound Tafuna (West Location), 8043 Tasi St., Tafuna, AS 96799
    • March 2, 2017, 6-9 p.m.
      PC Mauga Tasi Asuega Fale Tele (East Location), Village of Pago Pago, AS 96799
    • March 7, 2017, 6-9 p.m.
      Pedro P. Tenorio Multipurpose Center, Beach Rd., Susupe, Saipan, MP 96950
    • March 9, 2017, 6-9 p.m.
      University of Guam, CNAS 127, University Dr., Mangilao, GU 96923

Contact Information

For more information, contact Ariel at (808) 725-5182 or Ariel.Jacobs@noaa.gov