In early March, just before the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Sacramento, CA, NOAA Fisheries informed the council that it had resumed funding to implement its West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. As we reported in early February, the fishery agency’s budget didn’t contain money for the council to participate in implementation of its new FMP for tunas, marlin, sharks and swordfish, putting a number of issues on hold, including how to regulate the California-based longline fishery outside of U.S. waters (where longlining is prohibited). Now that funding has been restored, the council will be convening its advisory bodies and plan development team to work with NOAA on new fishing regulations, data collection and stock assessments, including setting of priorities.
Other news from the March 7-11 council meeting, which NCMC attended: NOAA notified the Pacific Council in December 2004 that bigeye tuna is being overfished and that, under the Magnuson Act, the council must “take appropriate action to end overfishing.” Although the U.S. catch of Pacific bigeye is a tiny portion of the overall catch, the council will be looking at several management options, in addition to working with NOAA on the west coast element of the international rebuilding strategy (e.g., through the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission). Domestic conservation measures consistent with international recommendations will likely include limits on U.S. longline effort on the high seas to keep catches at recent levels.