Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hawaii's Longlines: new regulations stir up controversy

I recently posted some information about improvements in the U.S. regarding marine by-catch. While there may be some overall improvements, specific issues come up from time to time that require consideration and action.

One such issue is taking place regarding the Hawaiian swordfish longline fisheries and new proposed regulations that would allow an increase in the number of sets (fishing gear deployments) in addition to an increase in the number of legally-allowed sea turtle entanglements.

To meet the industrial-strength demands for seafood, longline fishing has grown over the years, but it is a very indiscriminate method of fishing, generating tremendous levels of by-catch ranging from sharks to whales and dolphins to sea turtles and even sea birds. The vast majority of the by-catch is wasted as it does not have sufficient economic value to the boats. While some improvements in methods and hooks have been made, many conservation groups look to the statistics as to their ultimate effectiveness: the continued drop in overall populations of many of these accidentally-caught species and the growing numbers seen caught, entangled, and/or killed in longlines as recorded by federally-mandated observers.

The proposed new regulations has been making the rounds of the local Hawaiian press and several NGOs, including Oceana and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project have been pushing hard with campaigns to make the National Marine Fisheries Service reconsider the proposed new regulations, which came about as a recommendation from the commercial fishery group, Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Look into it and let your voice be heard.

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