Panel nixes giant nets
Purse seine fishing is now illegal off Guam and other Pacific isles
The advisory body responsible for managing fishing in U.S. waters in the Western Pacific voted yesterday to restrict fishing by giant nets off Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.
The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council expressed concern the fishing by large boats with massive nets, called purse seines, will deplete local fish stocks, particularly skipjack and yellowfin tuna.
The action will entirely prohibit purse seine fishing in federal waters off Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Off American Samoa, purse seine fishing will be banned within 75 nautical miles of the shore.
Kelly Finn, the council's fishery analyst, told the meeting the nets have much greater capacity than longline or troller vessels.
In 2006, vessels caught 1.3 million metric tons of skipjack tuna in the Western and Central Pacific. It was the highest amount ever, and 85 percent was caught by purse seine vessels.
Finn said the purse seine fleet around American Samoa was growing, with vessels increasing to 26 from 15 this year. An additional 10 vessels could join the trade in a few years, she said.
The council voted on the same matter last month. But members belatedly discovered their votes were invalidated because notice of the meeting had not been placed in the Federal Register with enough time before the gathering.
Yesterday's meeting was held at the council's Honolulu office, with participants from outside Oahu joining by teleconference so members could recast their votes.
The meeting was the council's first since the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, said last month it would probe the council in response to allegations it misused federal funds.
Members did not talk about the investigation at the meeting, and the probe was only briefly mentioned by one member of the public during a discussion of public access to the council's budget records.
The GAO said its investigation would start around August, when it has qualified people on staff to start the study.