West Coast Longlining Banned Until Further Notice

Sept 9, 2004

High seas issues are still unresolved!

In February 2004 the Secretary of Commerce approved a West Coast fishery management plan for managing tunas, swordfish, billfish, sharks and dolphin. A prominent feature of this new plan is a prohibition on pelagic longlining anywhere within 200 miles of the California, Oregon and Washington shorelines. Although the Pacific Fishery Management Council wanted to permit West-Coast based longliners to fish for swordfish on the high seas - that is to say, beyond the U.S. 200-mile zone - the Secretary closed that fishery, too, because of excessive hooking of endangered sea turtles.

In April, Pacific coast managers met to explore whether there is an acceptable level of turtle interactions and then, if any fishing is to be allowed, how it might be managed to keep takes of leatherback and other sea turtles to a minimum. The fishery will remain closed indefinitely unless and until the council comes up with an alternative plan that satisfies the Endangered Species Act.

The National Coalition for Marine Conservation staff attended the April 2004 HMS Management Team and Advisory Subpanel meetings and we will attend the September council meeting, where NOAA Fisheries and the HMS Management Team will report on options for constraining the longline fishery, including the no-fishing option, to achieve turtle protection goals. At the September and subsequent council meetings, regulations may be developed that could allow the California-based fleet to resume fishing on the high seas. We anticipate that the regulatory process will continue through the summer of 2005. We will be active at the council level and working with NOAA Fisheries throughout this period.

The NCMC is actively participating in this process, because we are concerned about longline impacts on endangered turtles as well as bycatch of large ocean predators, fish such as billfish and sharks. We supported the council's ban on longlining in US waters, and we are pursuing the tightest possible constraints on the high seas longline fisheries because of the benefit to all pelagic species of concern. Moreover, the effective resolution of bycatch problems, including workable methods of minimizing bycatch, can be shared with other nations fishing the high seas and therefore lead to better protection of highly migratory species throughout their range.

This article is courtesy of Internation Big Fish Network.

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