By Susan Chambers
Like Hawaii-based longliners who will feel the sting of new rules from the December 2013 Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Australia, U.S.-based purse seine vessels are frustrated with rules that will force them to lose fishing days.
“We’re not talking about conservation decisions,” says Brian Hallman, the San Diego-based American Tunaboat Association’s executive director. “These were high seas restrictions for the [U.S.] purse seine fleet that were strictly economic issues.”
The association represents the entire U.S. purse seine fleet — about 40 vessels — that fish for skipjack and other tunas in the Western and Central Pacific on the high seas. Last year, the vessels fished a combined 2,588 days on the high seas and within the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Fishery managers were concerned about the impacts to bigeye tuna, which is caught in association with skipjack, the primary fish in canned tuna products. That concern resulted in limiting the U.S. fleet to a total of 1,270 days on the high seas this year.
NMFS has yet to determine the number of days the fleet can fish in the EEZ. But it still won’t be enough to make up for losses imposed on them at the commission meeting, Hallman says.
Some other countries’ fleets also will be regulated, but not to the extent the U.S. fleets will be. The Hawaii-based Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council notes that other Western and Central Pacific countries may not comply with the rules and the commission has no way of ensuring compliance.
Photo: U.S. purse seiners at dock in Pago Pago, American Samoa; NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center