Monday, June 15, 2009

Hawaii's Sea Turtles: increasing threat from longlines

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) has been hard at work for many years getting government decision makers and commercial fishermen to take steps to protect the several species of sea turtles. They are currently concerned with proposed changes in federal regulations regarding turtle, false killer whales, and humpback whales in Hawaiian waters.

Apparently, commercial longline fisheries' desire to increase their take of dwindling swordfish stocks is the motivating force behind the changes. Potentially, the number of turtles that can legally be killed in the process of fishing could be tripled from the current limit of 17.

Longline fishing is controversial because the technique - miles of long fishing lines with hundreds of baited hooks attached along the lines - is very indiscriminate in what it catches, from sharks to sea birds, to turtles: a tremendous amount of bycatch that is tossed aside.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has not responded to issues regarding whale deaths from long lines (in addition to the loss of Pacific loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles). The STRP has filed a lawsuit to get the NMFS to respond in keeping with the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

To learn more about the turtle's predicament and what you can do, check out the Sea Turtle Restoration Project web site.

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