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CNMI Bottomfish Handline Fishery

Current Classification on the 2017 LOF

Category III
Estimated Number of Participants 28
Target Species Bottomfish
Applicable Take Reduction Plans None
Observer Coverage Not observed
Marine Mammal Species/Stocks Killed or Injured None documented

^ Number of participants estimates are based on state and federal fisheries permit data.  The estimated number of participants is expressed in terms of the number of active participants in the fishery, when possible.  If this information is not available, the estimated number of vessels or persons licensed for a particular fishery is provided.  If no recent information is available on the number of participants, then the number from the most recent LOF is used.  NMFS acknowledges that, in some cases, these estimations may be inflating actual effort.  

*Observer coverage levels include the latest information reported in the most current final Stock Assessment Report (SAR)

(1) Indicates the stock or species is driving the classification of the fishery 

Note: Current classification based on final LOF, no proposed changes are reflected in this table.

Basis for Current Classification:  Based on the similarity of this fishery to the Hawaii bottomfish fishery, which was observed at 18.3-33.3% coverage from October 2003-December 2005 with no marine mammal interactions, this fishery is expected to have a remote likelihood of marine mammal interactions. Additionally, no mortality or serious injury of marine mammals has been reported or documented in the fishery.

Distribution:  Fishing is often conducted year-round during daylight hours, primarily in nearshore waters, although larger vessels (>40 ft) have the ability to make multi-day trips to offshore banks and to the islands north of Saipan. 

CNMI until recently did not have territorial waters. With the transfer of submerged lands (Presidential Proclamation 9077, January 15, 2014), most areas within 3 nautical miles (nm) are now under CNMI jurisdiction, except for certain areas where federal jurisdiction was retained, including portions of Tinian and Farallon de Medinilla where bottomfishing occurs. Available catch data are not spatially segregated to allow for quantification of catch in federal/territorial waters at this time, but a 2011 survey of small-boat fishermen indicates that a considerable amount of bottomfishing effort occurs outside of 3 nm (Hospital and Beavers 2014). 

Gear Description: Fishing from vessels using a vertical mainline with single or multiple baited hooks on short leaders and a terminal weight, used on or near the bottom. The line is retrieved manually, or by any other powered method. Chum bags are sometimes used.

Management: The commercial and non-commercial bottomfish fisheries of the Northern Mariana Islands harvest a complex of 17 species that includes both shallow and deep-water snappers, and several species of groupers, emperors, and jacks. The federal fisheries management regime under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Mariana Archipelago (Mariana FEP) and implementing regulations under 50 CFR 665.400 through 665.419 include vessel identification, permit, catch reporting, VMS, and at-sea observer requirements, and a prohibition on the use of bottom trawls, bottom-set gillnets, and poisons, explosives, or intoxicating substances to harvest bottomfish. The fishery is also subject to an annual catch limit to prevent overfishing. The catch limit is reviewed annually (unless the limit was specified under a multi-year specification) and published in the Federal Register. Currently, federal regulations also prohibit fishing vessels greater than 40 ft in length from fishing within 50 nautical miles (nm) around the southern islands of Rota, Aguijan, Tinian, Saipan, and Farallon de Medinilla and within 10 nm around the island of Alamagan. However, final action was taken at the June 2014 Western Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting to remove the commercial large vessel closure, and an FEP amendment is expected to be transmitted to NMFS for Secretarial review.

Federal regulations under 50 CFR 665.990 through 665.996 also prohibit all commercial fishing around the three northernmost islands, Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion, which together comprise the Islands Unit of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Non-commercial fishing for bottomfish is allowed within the Islands Unit subject to federal permit and logbook reporting requirements.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has not promulgated regulations specific to bottomfish fishing, but prohibits or regulates certain fishing gear and regulates fishing in certain areas (e.g., marine protected areas), which may also apply to bottomfish. 

Historical Information

Original Category (Year added to the LOF) III (1996)
Original Number of Participants < 50
Basis for Original Classification Listed as Category III because the fishery was expected to have a remote likelihood of incidental serious injury or mortality of marine mammals.  No observer, logbook, or stranding data were available.
Past Names None
Species/stocks historically documented as killed or injured (but not currently on the list) N/A


Timeline of Changes

  • Estimated number of participants changed from < 50 to 28.


Updated June 19, 2017