Category Archives: Western Pacific

Interior Department Releases List of Monuments Under Review, First-Ever Formal Public Comment Period for Antiquities Act Monuments

The Department of the Interior today (5-5-17) announced the first ever formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906, and the Department released a list of monuments under review under the President’s Executive Order 13792, issued April 26, 2017. A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act; however, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that local input is a critical component of federal land management. Comments may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. Marine Monuments under review are, Papahanaumokuakea, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Rose Atoll, Marianas Trench. click here to read the press release, 18:03

Crews battle 2-alarm boat fire at Pier 38 in Honolulu

Firefighters were called to Pier 38 at Honolulu Harbor Thursday afternoon for a report of a boat fire. The first call for the 2-alarm fire was shortly before 2 p.m.  Fire officials say smoke and flames were coming from the forward section of the 79-foot-long fishing vessel “Elizabeth.”  The Coast Guard is assisting with the fire. No injuries were reported. click here for photo’s and video 15:35

Marine National Monument Pushback: The Fight Over Papahanaumokuakea Just Escalated

Government officials from the United States and three of its territories are working to undermine President Barack Obama’s marine conservation legacy less than four months after he left office. Obama used his executive authority in August to dramatically expand protected areas in the Pacific, the largest being the four-fold expansion last summer of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which now covers 583,000 square miles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. But with the Trump administration taking over in January, commercial fishermen and others who vehemently opposed the expansion of that monument and other marine preserves have renewed the fight.,, Leaders of the eight councils followed up with a March 1 letter to Trump explaining why they thought it was bad policy to keep American fishing vessels out of the monuments, saying it has “disrupted” the councils’ ability to manage the fisheries and eliminated the vessels’ ability to act as “watchdogs” over U.S. fishing grounds threatened by foreign fleets. click to continue reading the story here 08:17

Congresswoman appeals the prohibition of American fisherman in National Marine Monuments

Congresswoman Aumua Amata has stressed  to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross the importance of removing the prohibition of American fisherman to fish in the waters of the National Marine Monuments. Aumua reports from Capitol Hill, “My conversation with Secretary Ross was about the need for American fishermen to be able to fish in waters that have been designated as Marine Monuments.“ While I think we can all agree about the importance of the National Marine Monuments, how they protect our pristine waters and coral reefs; the lack of consultation with the local American Samoan community and the fishing industry at large, has created detrimental effects on our economy. Read the rest here 08:28

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council seeks to Reopen Papahanaumokuakea to Fishing

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council concluded its three-day meeting in Honolulu with a suite of recommendations, many of which are focused on keeping U.S. fishing grounds open to sustainably managed U.S. fisheries. The council includes the local fishery department directors from Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI, fishing experts appointed by the Governors and federal agencies involved in fishing-related activities. Marine national monuments, national marine sanctuaries, other marine protected area designations and Department of Defense training are among the uses that are increasingly closing off fishing grounds in U.S. waters. Council Chair Edwin A. Ebisui Jr. clarified that council communications to the administration about impacts of marine national monuments on fisheries are not lobbying. Some environmental activists recently made misleading statements about this in regards to a letter to President Trump prepared on March 1, 2017, by the Council Coordination Committee or CCC. The CCC includes the chairs of the nation’s eight regional fishery management councils. The letter details the impact of designations of Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and was submitted to the president after conferring with the NOAA Office of General Counsel. To address the impacts of ever increasing fishing grounds being closed, the council agreed to the following: continue reading the story here 06:09

American Samoa wins suit against NMFS over Large Vessel Prohibited Area rule change

American Samoa has won its lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service over the Large Vessel Prohibited Area  rule change. Hawaii Federal District Court Judge, Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi issued her ruling in the Territory of American Samoa’s case against NOAA ruling in favor of the Territory and vacating and setting aside NOAA rule 81 Fed. Reg.  5619 (Feb. 3, 2016) which shrunk the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) from 50 to 12 miles. This  allowed long-line vessels larger than 50 feet in length to fish closer to the islands. The Court reached this decision after concluding that NOAA failed to consider the Deeds of Cession. Specifically the Court ruled that, “the Deeds of Cession require the United States to preserve American Samoan cultural fishing practices and that the deeds constitute “any other applicable law” for purposes of the [Magnusson Stevens Act].” continue reading the story here 11:10

Trump policies could mean big boon for Hawaii’s commercial fishermen and the enviro’s are upset!

The debate over fishing regulations at the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is heating up again. The council that helps outline rules for fishing in the federally protected area says it wants to work with the Trump Administration to ease restrictions there, making it easy for Hawaii’s commercial fishermen to work in waters around the monument. Environmental groups are demanding protections remain in place. Some are even calling for an investigation.  The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council – known as Wespac – is meeting at the Ala Moana Hotel through Thursday. At the same venue as the Wespac meeting, a coalition of environmentalists and conservationist came together on Tuesday to challenge the council’s position. Watch the video, read the story here 08:46

Your Winter 2017 Pacific Islands Fishery Newsletter is here!

Aloha, enjoy our new web-friendly newsletter format. Click here to download the entire newsletter as a printable PDF. Or click here to read entire issue online. Some issues included in the newsletter: Thousands of Species Slated for Ecosystem Component Designation, Comprehensive Tuna Management Stymied in the Pacific, Council Director Weighs in on Marine Protected Area Discussion, and others. Click here to read the newsletter 10:10

Rare Hawaiian seal drowns at NOAA-funded fish farm site

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal has died after wandering into a net pen and becoming trapped at a fish farm that was partially funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Hawaii. Officials with NOAA said Thursday the death of the 10-year-old monk seal happened at Blue Ocean Mariculture, the same fish farm that NOAA’s National Marine Fishery Service has been using for research in conjunction with a plan to expand aquaculture into federal waters around the Pacific. Ann Garrett, the service’s assistant regional administrator for protected resources, confirmed the farm was the same one used for the NOAA-funded research, but could not comment further on the agency’s involvement. NOAA is working on a plan to expand aquaculture into federals waters despite concerns by some environmental groups who say the industrial-scale farms could do more harm than good to overall fish stocks and ocean health. continue reading the story here 08:16

Oversight Hearing on Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:00 AM

Oversight Hearing on: “Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries”  Click here to read the memo  Witnesses and Testimony: Dr. John Bruno Professor, Department of Biology University of North Carolina, Mr. Chett Chiasson Executive Director Greater Lafourche Port Commission,  Mr. Brian Hallman Executive Director American Tunaboat Association, The Honorable Jon Mitchell Mayor City of New Bedford Click here @ 10:00am and listen to the hearing. 19:05

Trump asked to remove all marine monument fishing prohibitions established by the past two administrations

The request is from the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Congressman Rob Bishop, and American Samoa’s Congresswoman Aumua Amata. The letter says prohibitions on commercial fishing in marine monuments, or reserves, has impacted the US fishing fleet as well as forcing one cannery operation in Pago Pago to close. According to the two Republicans, closing US waters to domestic fisheries is federal overreach and obstructs well managed, sustainable US fishing industries in favour of foreign counterparts. The letter says over half of US waters in the Pacific have been closed to commercial fishing by a stroke of the pen without specific evidence, socioeconomic analysis, or a deliberative and public process. Link 08:10

Questions raised about Coast Guard armed boarding

Pago Pago – Some new information is emerging about the Coast Guard operation in which the purse seiner Jeanette was boarded by armed Coast Guard personnel at the main dock late last week, Bill Sardinha, whose company Sardinha & Cileu Management, provides services for the Jeanette said in an email to KHJ News, the Jeanette came into port on its own, and not ordered to return as we reported. He said a helicopter pilot on board has fallen ill and this required the vessel o return to Am Samoa for medical care Sardinha explained that the Jeanette was required to notify the US Coast in advance 96 hours, less if an emergency or if circumstance warrants exception, an illness qualifies. So the Coast Guard was well aware of its arrival. Sardinha reports that upon entering port on February 23rd, the Jeanette was surprised to find US government agents waiting to board the vessel with guns. He said the agents boarded the vessel, posted guards, isolated the crew and interrogated them for 12 hours. continue reading the story here 21:50

American Samoa: Coast Guard comments on armed boarding of purse seiner Jeanette

As we reported this morning, armed Coast Guard agents who arrived on a C-130 aircraft boarded the purse seine Jeanette apparently looking for drugs. The Jeanette had been out at sea but was ordered to return to port. A fishing boat owner who was at the dock said that friends on the Jeanette said the agents were looking for drugs but didnt find any. More than half a dozen Coast Guard men from Honolulu were involved in the operation. Lt. Kevin Whalen, head of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unit in Pago Pago, sought permission from Coast Guard Public Affairs in Honolulu to respond to our questions about the operation. This is the statement he was authorized to give KHJ News: “The Coast Guard was engaged in an active law enforcement in American Samoa. “It is the policy and standard practice of the Coast Guard to conduct law enforcement boardings, armed. The Coast Guard is committed to public safety.” Link 14:24

National Marine Fisheries Service Policy Directive – Catch Share Policy

PURPOSE The purpose of this policy is to encourage well-designed catch share programs to help maintain or rebuild fisheries, and sustain fishermen, communities and vibrant working waterfronts, including the cultural and resource access traditions that have been part of this country since its founding.  DEFINITION “Catch share” is a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific portion of the total allowable fishery catch to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities. Each recipient of a catch share is directly accountable to stop fishing when its exclusive allocation is reached. The term includes specific programs defined in law such as “limited access privilege” (LAP) and “individual fishing quota” (IFQ) programs, and other exclusive allocative measures such as Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) that grant an exclusive privilege to Continue reading this here 15:50

Stunned chopper pilot finds castaways lost at sea on two seperate boats from Kiribati

The pilot, operating the chopper from a trawler off the Marshall Islands, came across the boats by chance last week, leading to the rescue of three fishermen and a teenage boy, the Marshall Islands Journal reported. It said both boats had set off from Kiribati, about 650 kilometres (400 miles) away. The one with three fishermen aboard had been adrift for 28 days, while the lone 14-year-old in the other had been lost for 11 days. Ocean currents had brought both boats within eight kilometres of each other but they were unaware of the other’s existence until they were spotted and rescued. The trawler Kwila888 picked up the drifters and cut short its tuna fishing trip to drop them in the Marshalls’ capital Majuro last weekend, the Journal reported. Link 15:53

Hawaii bill would ban licenses for some foreign fishermen

A bill in the Hawaii Legislature aims to change rules for how fishing licenses are issued to foreign crew members that make up the majority of the state’s commercial fleet. Now, boat owners or captains bring foreign crew members’ passports and customs documents to a state agency to get their licenses – without the fishermen present. A federal legal loophole allows foreign fishermen to work off the coast of Hawaii, but they are technically not allowed to enter the country. The bill would require anyone seeking a commercial fishing license in Hawaii to appear in person. State Sen. Karl Rhoads says he wants to change the law so people who are not permitted to enter the U.S. cannot get a license to fish on American-flagged boats sailing from Honolulu. The Hawaii Longline Association opposed the bill, saying the industry is already regulated and additional requirements are unnecessary. Read the story here  16:00

Saving the whales – 19th-century hunting techniques now used to help, not kill humpbacks

To save whales tangled in netting and debris, rescuers take a page right out of the 1850s whale-hunting playbook. To catch and kill the animals, 19th-century whalers would harpoon the creatures, add a barrel to the line to slow and force them to surface. Then they’d lance captured whales and let them bleed out. Now, rescuers follow similar but nonviolent steps — tossing a hook to catch the debris on a whale, adding a buoy to slow it and using a knife rigged on a pole to cut away entangled fishing gear or other marine debris. Instead of a barrel of oil, their reward is watching the whale swim free. “We stole it from whalers in the 1850s,” said Ed Lyman, large whale entanglement response coordinator with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “Here we are using their technique to actually save whales.” Continue reading the story here 09:58

Anti-Fishing Lies Exposed: Attorney General Releases Point by Point Debunk of Kaniela Ing

News Release from Hawaii Attorney General, Feb 13, 2017 HONOLULU – Attorney General Doug Chin today released a letter dated December 29, 2016, with the permission of the legislator who originally received it, responding to several questions regarding labor conditions in the commercial fishing industry at Honolulu Harbor. PDF: A copy of the letter is attached. (Must read: AG responds to 9 questions from Ing.  Short version of response: “No.”) Latest Anti-Fishing Hype from AP: Hawaii may be breaking law by allowing foreign men to fish Last Year’s Anti-Fishing Hype from AP: Hawaiian seafood caught by foreign crews confined on boats Read the news release here, with links to the AP articles. 16:21

American Samoa: Local fishing fleet shocked at killing of navigator

The apparent murder of a navigator on board a vessel docked in Pago Pago Harbor has come as a shock to the close knit fishing fleet. Commissioner of Public Safety Le’i Sonny Thompson would only confirm the death of a fisherman on board a boat, but information gathered from KHJ News shows that the deceased was found dead on board the vessel American Eagle. It’s believed that his neck had been slashed. Nearly all of the crew of the vessel, mainly Vietnamese and Taiwanese, were taken in for questioning at the police station yesterday. The local agents for the vessel is KS Shipping. A veteran stevedore agent was shocked to hear about the apparent killing. He said such a heinous crime is uncommon for this port which is  relatively peaceful and friendly. link 12:20

North Pacific council director a possibility for Assistant Administrator position at NMFS replacing Eileen Sobeck

Chris Oliver, the executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for the past 16 years, didn’t ask for a consideration as the new assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service; rather, the most powerful fishing industry voices in the nation’s most profitable region asked. He doesn’t know if the new administration will offer it or if he’d want it if it did. Still, looking at his history, knowledge and reputation, he seems in many ways a natural fit. Oliver said when it became known that the current administrator, Eileen Sobeck, won’t be staying with the new administration, parts of the fishing universe aligned. In the North Pacific and elsewhere, catch share systems are a contentious issue; Oliver said in an interview he’s already had fisheries stakeholders from other regions probing for what his intent would be with their respective fisheries. Oliver’s answer sums up both his attitude and in part that of the new administration. “It’s not my call,” he said. “What makes sense in the North Pacific…may not make sense in New England, or in the Gulf of Mexico. Read the story here 10:47

American Samoan Governor Lolo Moliga gets tough with NOAA

American Samoan Gov. called a spade a spade when he met with officials from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation visiting the territory last week. Speaking at Friday’s cabinet meeting, the first for the new administration, the governor said he told officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that their local office, is just that — an office, and it cannot dictate what American Samoa can and cannot do. He said it’s not that American Samoa is against conservation, but it’s the way that the federal government has gone about the takeover of local waters included in the sanctuary that he has a problem with. The governor said he told the feds that American Samioa is prepared to fight for ownership of its resources in the lawsuit now before the U.S. District Court of Honolulu, which goes to trial this week. Link 09:38

American Samoa Governor Lolo Moliga – US Sanctuary Program cannot dictate how territorial government uses local waters

The governor said he met with officials of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and explained to them the position of the legislature and the executive branch concerning federal oversight of areas included in the Sanctuary of American samoa. He said it’s not that American Samoa is against conservation, rather it’s the way that the federal government has taken over jurisdiction of local waters included in the sanctuary that he has a problem with. Waters included in the marine Sanctuary of American Samoa are not open for commercial fishing, and there are also restrictions on take for subsistence fishing. Speaking at a cabinet meeting the governor also said that the Attorney General will fight American Samoa’s lawsuit against the US government to take back control of local waters. link 09:20

Silver Bay Seafoods recruits in American Somoa for Alaska Fish Processing Jobs

The demand for jobs was evident Saturday when about 300 people responded to a company from Alaska’s call for workers. Silver Bay Seafoods is looking to hire 250 employees for the salmon season which runs from June to September. Two officials of the company including Shannon Grant, the Hiring Manager, explained the types of jobs that were on offer, the work schedule and the pay. Many of those who turned up Saturday said they wanted to give it a try and were attracted by the $10-$12 per hour wage, and working in Alaska. Hiring Manager Shannon Grant was quite pleased with the response. Link 16:01

How False killer whale’s remove bait from longline fishing gear captured on video for first time

How Hawaiian false killer whales remove fish from longline fishing gear has for the first time been observed by a team of researchers and fishermen. The team, coordinated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego scientist Aaron Thode, used video and audio recordings to observe false killer whales removing fish from a longline fishing hook, a behavior known as depredation. They gained new insight into a behavior that has caused false killer whales to entangle with fishing gear at rates deemed unsustainable by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. To observe false killer whales removing fish from hooks, the Alaskan and Hawaiian research team deployed an underwater camera, sound recorder, and vibration detector on long-line fishing gear deployed by fishing vessels off Hawaii. Read the article here 16:40

Western Pacific territories will have a voice in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence met after the election with Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen—the only Republican delegate to Congress. It was there, that Radewagen’s expertise on island issues and possible role as an adviser to the transition team became clear. Reports of that role began surfacing last week, but it wasn’t until the middle of the weekend, here, that Radewagen issued a statement. Radewagen says she and the Vice President-elect discussed an advisory role, and she later spoke with the transition committee’s vice-chair, Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. American Samoa’s freshman Congresswoman made clear at the Pence meeting, that President-elect Trump needs to rescind some of President Obama’s executive orders, including creation of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument… audio, read the rest here 13:22

Congressmen Seek Investigation Of Hawaii Fishing Practices

Four Democratic congressmen have written to officials at the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claiming that Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet is operating illegally by employing — and in some cases possibly abusing — foreign fishermen. The congressmen said fishing boat owners who are not in “compliance with the law” should not be allowed to sell their products. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva’s staff convened a forum about the matter on Capitol Hill last week. Activists at the event, who described what was happening as modern-day slavery, advocated a boycott of tuna until the alleged abuses stop. “This illegal activity does not represent American values and has dealt a blow to U.S. credibility as a global leader in fighting (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing and human trafficking,” the congressmen wrote. WHERE IS THE PROOF! Read the rest here 10:41

Wespac Still Pushing Obama To Lift Marine Monument’s Fishing Ban

With President Barack Obama set to arrive Friday for vacation on Oahu, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is making another push for his administration to ease the anticipated impacts of the newly expanded on Hawaii’s $100 million commercial fishing industry. Wespac Executive Director Kitty Simonds and Chair Ed Ebisui Jr. have asked the president to delay implementation of the commercial fishing prohibition for five years, pointing out how there’s a precedent for phasing in such bans. Using his executive authority under the Antiquities Act, Obama signed a proclamation in August to quadruple the size of Papahanaumokuakea around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The commercial fishing ban took effect immediately. Read the rest here 13:07

Fishery Council Sends Letters to Obama on Impacts of Marine National Monuments

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is hopeful that when President Obama arrives in Honolulu tomorrow, he will acknowledge the $100 million commercial fishing industry in Hawai‘i and the impacts on that fishery by his expansions of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (MNM) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) and the Pacific Remote Islands MNM, which includes nearby Johnston Atoll. The value of the Hawaii longline fishery is excess of $300 million when factoring in retail markets and support industries and their employees. “The push for the monuments was driven not by popular demand but by a Washington, DC-based environmental organization, the Pew Environment Group, which has had the ear of successive presidents,” explains Council Chair Edwin Ebisui Jr. Now there is talk about overlaying the monument status with a National Marine Sanctuary designation.” Read the WPFMC press release here 09:41

US Signs South Pacific Tuna Treaty Amendments

tuna-seiners-265x300The United States and 16 Pacific Island governments initialed amendments to the Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries at a ceremony in Nadi, Fiji on December 3, 2016. According to the US State Department, the revisions to the Treaty will generate higher economic returns from fisheries for Pacific Island countries, while supporting the continued viable operation of the US fishing fleet in the region. “The positive outcome reflects strong commitments to the Treaty by the parties and relevant stakeholders, including the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the US fishing industry, and a further enhancement of political and economic ties between the United States and the Pacific Island region,” the US State Department said in a press statement. Read the rest here 09:07

Coast Guard conducts medevac from fishing vessel off Oahu

coast guardThe Coast Guard medevaced the master of the 70-foot fishing vessel Lady J3 about 41 miles north of Oahu Saturday morning. An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point safely medevaced the 36-year-old man to Queens Medical Center in Honolulu for treatment. He was reportedly suffering from swelling to his lower extremities and was unable to stand. Coast Guard watchstanders at Joint Rescue Communications Center Honolulu received a request for the medevac from the NOAA Fisheries observer aboard the Lady J3 mid-morning Friday. The vessel was 176 miles north of Kauai at the time, heading toward Oahu and maintained a six-hour communications schedule with Coast Guard Sector Honolulu watchstanders. By the evening the master’s condition had deteriorated and he was having trouble breathing. At the recommendation of the Coast Guard flight surgeon the vessel continued to make best course and speed toward Oahu to close the distance and bring them into range of the Coast Guard Dolphin crew. The medevac was conducted at first light to bring the master to a higher level of medical care. Weather conditions at the time of the hoist were reportedly 12 mph winds with seas to 7 feet, haze and showers. link 09:26