The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, a U.S. regional council established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, is considering a proposal to request that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issue an emergency rule prohibiting the use of bottom longlines at a depth of 50 fathoms or less. The primary purpose of the prohibition is to limit the negative impact on loggerhead turtles that are often caught in the nets as they drag across the bottom to catch snapper and grouper.
Loggerhead turtles are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Nearly 1,000 turtles were caught in this fishery in just 18 months - eight times the federally authorized level.
"Under the ESA, immediate changes in this fishery must be taken to protect loggerhead sea turtles," said Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana.
The emergency closure would last for five months while the NMFS pursues a permanent solution. The council is expected to make its final review and approval today. Read entire press release from Oceana.