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NWHI response.....


Tony Beeching <[log in to unmask]>


Scientific forum on fish and fisheries <[log in to unmask]>


Mon, 7 Mar 2005 15:12:51 -1000





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Dear Lance,

Thank you for your reply to my posting.

My email was in protest over what I consider to be an ill-informed
invitation to spam, rather than to enter a debate the many possible
alternatives to protect the NWHIs. However I would like to take this
opportunity to briefly respond to your comments if I may.

1. Lobster Fishery. The lobster fishery was closed by NMFS due to
uncertainty in the model. The court subsequently ordered that the fishery
not reopen until the completion of the EIS and biological opinion that would
address the fishery's potential impact on the Hawaiian monk seal. The
lobster fishery was/is closed. There is no fishing and so there is no
overfishing. Models were inadequate at that time and hence the closure while
appropriate models were developed. A new model will be reviewed by PIFSC
(Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Centre) in September. Whether or not the
fishery is reopened should be decided following appropriate analysis of
reliable data. It is to be hoped that NMFS will continue lobster tagging and
population demographic research cruises in the NWHI. A managed fishery with
good data collection and analysis, with coordinated NMFS research can
provide a wealth of information on the fishery and the ecosystem.

2. Para 2 the 1989 stat is used for the Mau zone but then the 1992 stat is
used for the Hoomalu zone. Using the 1989 data for the Hoomalu zone we find
that CPUE lbs/trip was 5481 in 1989 compared to 4638 lbs/trip in 2002. If we
switch the other way and keep the 1992 stat for comparison, then for the Mau
Zone then in 1992 CPUE lbs/trip was 1273 and in 2002 it is 1416 lbs/trip. I
suggest that it is much more useful to look at an entire data set rather
than pull figures from individual years. The bottom-fishery in the Mau and
Hoomalu zone is currently operating well below MSY.

3. Monk Seals. The Monk seal population is stable at 1400 animals in the
Hawaiian archipelago. The Hawaiian monk seal is an opportunistic feeder. The
importance of lobster in its diet has not been determined, despite research
in this area. The monk seal recovery team states that bottomfishing should
be allowed to continue in the NWHI. The team determined that the real
threats to monk seals lay elsewhere. There have been suggestions that there
is a link between poor Monk Seal pup survival and low lobster stocks. Monk
seal populations are increasing in the main Hawaiian islands where pups are
found to be robust and healthy despite a heavily fished lobster stock. The
greatest increases in Monk Seal populations are in the heavily (human)
populated Main Hawaiian islands, where haul-outs on tourist beaches are
widely reported. Until more data is available, conclusions concerning
correlation between lobster and monk seal stock declines are premature and

4. Armorhead. This is the only MUS (management unit species) under US
Federal Management which is actually overfished in the region. It was
fished/overfished by foreign vessels prior to the Magnuson Act and the
creation of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. Through
the fishery management plan promulgated by the Council, the fishery is
closed to US fishing vessels as well as foreign fleets. It remains closed
under the current management regime.

5. Yes the NWHIs has large numbers of apex predators including ulua (giant
trevally) and shark, partly because there is a high risk of the jacks being
ciguateric. The large numbers of apex predators occur under the present
management regime - which by the way excludes pelagic longliners from
fishing within 50 nm of the NWHIs. The current management system works. One
unfortunate consequence of having a large number of apex predators is that
the sharks take monk seal pups, green sea turtles and fledgling seabirds!!

To follow a somewhat different thread but linked to Lance's comments - There
do appear in retrospect to have been downward trends in some fish stocks in
the U.S.A. and yet the management response is not immediate. In my view
timeliness is a very real issue in fishery management in the USA. It is very
difficult to respond with effective management in the current US litigious
environment. Wary of legal action from every side, a tremendous amount of
time is spent to ensure that the "Science" is correct and current - even
though a problem may be self evident. The MSA (Magnuson-Stevens Act)
requires that typical fishery actions going through the Fishery Council
process take at least two meetings. The NEPA process, which requires an EIS,
is typically even longer, taking a year or more, by which time the problem
may have gone away, gotten worse or changed.




Tony is also misleading us with his comments. The revised number concerning
coral reefs is as Tony reported, but he wrongly suggests overfishing is not
an issue. Only one fishery (bottomfish) currently exists in the NWHI
because the other main fishery, lobster, has been closed due to overfishing.

There are also plenty of indications that the bottomfish fishery is in
trouble. Catch per unit effort has significantly decreased in the two
management zones of the NWHI: the Mau zone (from 4463 lbs/trip in 1989 to
1416 lbs/trip in 2002) and the Ho'omalu zone (from 9464 lbs/trip in 1992 to
4683 lbs/trip in 2002). Additionally, spawning potential ratio (SPR) has
been decreasing for a decade.

The spiny and slipper lobster fishery started in the late 1970s, was
overfished and promptly collapsed in the early 1980s. The fishery collapsed
a second time in the late 1980s and was finally closed in 1993. Reopened
for several months, an emergency closure was imposed in 1994, again in 1995,
and most recently in 2000. Harvest of up to 500% of the MSY for spiny
lobster was allowed as CPUE declined from 3.37 in 1983 to a mere 0.36 in

All of this has occurred on a species identified as a major ecosystem and
dietary component of the severely endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Survival
rates of the juvenile monk seals most dependent on lobsters have declined
from 90% in the mid-1980s to a "catastrophically low" 10-20%. "The accepted
hypothesis is that juveniles were not getting sufficient nutrition."
Hawaiian Monk seal numbers are currently around 1300; roughly 60% below
their mid 1950's level when counts began.

Additionally Russian and Japanese fishermen began targeting seamount
bottomfish (Pelagic armourhead) in the NWHI in the 1960s. The seamount
fisheries were so depleted after only ten years of heavy fishing, that the
fishery was closed in 1986. A series of five-year closures have been
passed, based on a finding that there is no indication of a recovery, even
after almost twenty years of closure.

Fishery management is the main issue in the NWHI and the Sanctuary
designation process. There are a lot of interesting stories concerning the
NWHI ecosystem; for example it is one of the only apex-predator dominated
ecosystems left in the world.

I encourage any with an interest in NWHI Sanctuary process to get informed.

Lance Morgan
Marine Conservation Biology Institute

-----Original Message-----
From: Scientific forum on fish and fisheries
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tony Beeching
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 6:26 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Misleading post on the NWHI

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Hi Everyone,

I live in Hawaii and I have a problem with this letter.

This is indeed a rare opportunity - to spam after reading a misleading post.

NWHI has 70% of the coral reef under the US Control? No it doesn't. The old
70% figure is an inaccurate extrapolation - recent NOAA surveys, as
presented at the NWHI Scientific Symposium, Honolulu, November 2004, give a
figure of less than 10% live coral reef habitat in the NWHI. The greatest
amount of coral under US control is in FACT in Florida.

As for damage inflicted to date - 3 separate surveys over the last 30 years
have shown the NWHI to be pristine, what isn't stated below is that it is
pristine under the current management regime. The reference to damage
already inflicted should indicate that the cause of much of that damage has
been ascribed to marine debris - mitigation actions are in progress for what
is not a purely domestic issue - impacts from marine debris are an
international problem.

A comparison between other Sanctuaries and this oceanic system are
inappropriate - tourism and over-fishing are not issues here. The history of
these islands is one of declining human habitation, with the closure of
military bases, coastguard stations and ecotourism operations. The last
tourist operation closed 3 years ago and was largely confined to Midway. The
only fishery that operates in the NWHI is a highly regulated specialist
fishery for snappers on the deep reef slope which catches about 1% of the
total coastal fish catch from the entire Hawaiian archipelago.

Whilst I agree that it is important to protect marine resources - I am
opposed to the posting of misleading information which is likely to lead to
spamming by those who have been misinformed.

Thank you for caring enough to determine the facts.

Tony Beeching

ReefDispatch! wrote:

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* March 4, 2005 *

* R E E F D I S P A T C H *

* _________________________ *

* How Much Protection *

* for the Coral Reefs of *

* the NW Hawaiian Islands? *

* *

* -- learn more at -- *



Dear Friend of Coral Reefs,

You have a rare opportunity to help protect the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands -- one of the last large, intact coral reef ecosystems in the world
-- by going to and clicking on the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands public comment letter link.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands stretch across more than 1,200 nautical
miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands, and encompass almost 70
percent of the coral reefs under United States control. They may be
America's last opportunity to protect a nearly intact coral reef ecosystem,
and to repair the damage inflicted to date.

Right now, plans are being drafted to establish the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands as a National Marine Sanctuary. Sadly, however, many of the
existing U.S. national marine sanctuaries have so far proven insufficient to
protect the species and habitats within from the adverse effects of
overfishing, pollution, poorly managed tourism, and other activities. If the
same approach is taken in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, damage to this
nearly pristine coral ecosystem is virtually inevitable.

To let the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) know
how much and what type of protection you would like to see given to the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands coral reef ecosystem, please go to and click on the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands public comment letter link.

Thanks for caring,


ReefGuardian International

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