Western Pacific Council calls on Trump to ease fishing restrictions in the Pacific marine monuments

A regional fishery management council sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump late last week urging his administration to ease limitations on fishing in the nation’s Pacific marine monuments, saying the restrictions hinder American tuna fishing.

The letter, penned by Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council Chair Archie Taotasi Soliari and Executive Director Kitty Simonds, was dated Friday, 8 May, a day after the administration released details of how it would allocate the USD 300 million in funding to the seafood industry from the CARES Act. At the same time, White House officials held a call with fishery management officials to discuss other aspects of Trump’s executive order that outlined improving the country’s competitiveness as a seafood producer, a key economic policy for the administration since it came into office more than three years ago.

During the call, White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro urged stakeholders to identify regulatory barriers, which prompted the letter from Soliari and Simonds. In the memo, they note that more than half of the waters in America’s Pacific Ocean exclusive economic zone is protected by monument declarations.

“[T]he fishing restrictions in the Pacific marine national monuments are impeding America’s three main tuna fisheries in the Pacific and the StarKist tuna cannery in American Samoa from operating at optimal levels and these fishing restrictions are unnecessary as they have no proven conservation benefit,” they wrote.

The monuments were created over a series of proclamations between June 2006 and August 2016 to protect the biodiversity of the areas, which includes threatened and endangered species. The council, though, was critical of expansions the Obama administration made to the monuments, adding that Hawaiian fishermen now have to venture out of U.S. waters and compete against foreign fishing boats.

China, the council leaders noted, has expanded its fleet in the region substantially over the past two decades and accounted for nearly half of the South Pacific albacore tuna caught in 2017.

“American fisheries in the Western Pacific Region face an unfair playing field, with strict restrictions on protected species interactions, gear requirements, vessel size limits, fleet size limits, observer and vessel monitoring requirements, etcetera, that are not required of the fisheries of other nations,” the letter stated.

The letter also asks the Trump administration to address regulations concerning fish aggregating devices (FADs).

“Harmonization of U.S. regulation between the eastern and western Pacific regarding fish aggregation devices would be of immediate relief,” it said.

Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons


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