Closing a Loophole in the Billfish Conservation Act

Photo Credit: Brian Toney

Keeping Pacific Billfish Out of U.S. Continental Markets

The amended Billfish Conservation Act (BCA) passed Congress and was signed into law this month, August 2018.  The amended BCA prohibits Pacific billfish landed in Hawaii and in the U.S. Pacific Insular Areas (Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) from being imported into the continental U.S., a loophole in the 2012 BCA. Neither the 2012 BCA nor the 2018 amended BCA prohibits the landing, possession or sale of Pacific billfish by U.S. commercial vessels as is prohibited for Atlantic billfish.

Without prohibiting landings of Pacific billfish landed by U.S. commercial vessels, meaningful conservation benefits can only be realized if the 500,000 annual pounds imported into the U.S. continental markets from Hawaii and the Insular Areas, as reported by the federal Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC), are not landed and kept in Hawaii or in the Insular Areas or are not shipped to other nations.  The WPFMC reported the dockside value of the annual 500,000 pounds shipped into the continental U.S. was approximately $830,000 in 2017 and when expanded through markets was estimated to be worth $2.5 million.  Implementation of the BCA requires subsequent federal agency action, which never occurred with the 2012 BCA.  We will keep you posted when that is realized with the amended BCA.

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