Title: Notice of intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and hold public meetings for Deep-Set Tuna Longline Fisheries in the U.S. Pacific Islands

Docket ID: NOAA-NMFS-2017-0010

Agency: NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service

Comments Close: April 14, 2017



The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), in coordination with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, intends to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze the environmental impacts of the continued authorization and management of U.S. Pacific Island deep-set tuna longline fisheries. 

This is the second Notice of Intent regarding this PEIS, to let the public know that NMFS will be preparing a PEIS and to inform the public of a series of public scoping meetings to describe the management of deep-set longline fisheries. The original Notice of Intent can be found here.

The purpose of the PEIS is to maintain viable domestic deep-set tuna longline fisheries, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of fishery resources, and the conservation of protected species and their habitats. NMFS plans to do so by managing deep-set tuna longline fisheries under an adaptive management framework that allows for timely management responses to changing environmental conditions, consistent with domestic and international conservation and management measures. 



Publication of this notice begins the public scoping process to determine the scope of the environmental issues for consideration in the PEIS and allowing interested parties to suggest fishery management issues to be considered. For more on Environmental Impact Statements, visit our summary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council manage domestic longline fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone around the U.S. Pacific Islands and on the high seas, as authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Spatial extent of the Environment Impact Statement: The analysis would include certain longline fisheries based in Hawaii, the U.S. west coast, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The primary deep-set longline fisheries are in Hawaii and American Samoa. 

Fisheries Management Considerations: Access to the Hawaii longline fisheries is limited to 164 vessels, of which about 140 are typically active. Most vessels with Hawaii longline permits are based in Hawaii, and about 10 operate from ports on the U.S. west coast. Access to the American Samoa deep-set tuna fishery is also limited, with a maximum of 60 permits. 



In the current PEIS, NMFS and the Council will evaluate the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of U.S. Pacific Island deep-set longline fisheries. 

Management provisions governing deep-set tuna longline fisheries include, but are not limited to the following requirements: (1) Limited entry/ access programs, (2) Vessel size limits, (3) Mandatory permits and reporting of catch and effort, (4) Areas where fishing is prohibited, (5) Monitoring by on-board observers, (6) Satellite-based vessel monitoring system, (6) Catch limits or prohibitions for some fish species, (7) Gear configuration requirements, and (8) Specific methods for handling and releasing bycatch. 

NMFS is specifically requesting comment on:

  1. catch of target species (e.g., tunas) and non-target species (e.g., sharks)
  2. interactions with protected species
  3. impacts on the pelagic ecosystem. 

The progress of the PEIS and more information about the deep-set tuna longline fisheries can be found on the NOAA website.

See Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 665 for most of the regulations. There are additional requirements under other authorities, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, marine sanctuaries and monuments, international requirements, and other laws regulating shipping, pollution, etc.

Contributor: PhD Candidate, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences