Sept. 1, 2012 started the new Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) bottom fishing year. The Annual Catch Target (ACT) for seven deep water species (Deep 7) was again set at 325,000 pounds.
This past fishing year was the first time the bottomfish fishery did not close since the quota-based management regime started in 2007.
The bottomfish landings at the end of the 2011-12 fishing year that ended on Aug. 31, 2012 represented about 70 percent (225,000 pounds) of the allocated ACT of 325,000 pounds.
In prior years, the MHI bottomfish fishery reached its annual quota before the fishing year ended, which resulted in the closure of the fishery during the summer months.
Concern was raised by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council regarding the shift in targeting and landing of uku (gray snapper, a non-Deep 7 bottomfish) during that time.
The council has asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center to conduct a stock assessment on uku as a result. The council is looking forward for the uku stock assessment to be completed.
The NMFS and council have also been working to update the Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) designations for bottomfish as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
The council took final action on the Hawaii bottomfish EFH and HAPC designations based on the NMFS review and subsequent independent scientific panel recommendations.
In summary, the EFH designation for Hawaii bottomfish will remain unchanged as 0-400 meters (1,312 feet).
However, new HAPC designations are being proposed for seven areas in the MHI, including Kaena Point, Makapuu and Kaneohe Bay off Oahu; Penguin Banks off southwest Molokai; Pailolo Channel off Maui; North Kahoolawe; and waters off of Hilo on the Big Island.
The MSA defines EFS as "those waters and substrates necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity."
The MSA requires federal agencies that authorize, fund or undertake actions that may adversely affect EFH to consult with NMFS.
The agency must provide conservation recommendations to federal and state agencies regarding actions that would adversely affect EFH.