Protect Gulf of Mexico Wildlife from Longline Fishing

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Originally Posted: 4 Feb 2011

Protect Gulf of Mexico Wildlife from Longline Fishing

FROM  Animal Welfare Institute (AWI)


National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is accepting comments on its proposal until February 12, 2011.

Please send a short letter urging NMFS to provide a strong, long-term solution to protect bluefin tuna and other Gulf wildlife by closing the Gulf of Mexico longline fishery.

Atlantic Highly Migratory Species: Bluefin Tuna Bycatch Reduction in Gulf of Mexico Pelagic Longline Fishery (Document ID NOAA-NMFS-2011-0007-0001)!submitComment;D=NOAA-NMFS-2011-0007-0001


Turtles, whales and other wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico have struggled to recover from the extensive, long-term damage done to their ecosystem by last year's BP oil disaster. They have been fighting another threat for much longer, however. Surface longlines, used by fishermen in the open ocean to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna, also hook and kill large numbers of non-target species, including bluefin tuna, blue and white marlin, marine mammals, seabirds and endangered sea turtles.

In an effort to protect the highly depleted Western Atlantic bluefin tuna in their only known spawning grounds, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has proposed a requirement that longline fishermen in the Gulf use a device known as a "weak hook" - designed to bend and release the largest bycatch. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, weak hooks are an ineffective solution to a very serious problem:

  • Weak hooks are experimental; their efficacy in reducing bluefin tuna mortality is unknown and may be highly variable.
  • Weak hooks will provide little or no benefit in preventing the deaths of other non-target marine life caught by surface longlines.
  • Weak hooks, in appearance, are nearly identical to standard longline hooks - thus making enforcement of the weak hook rule extremely difficult.

NMFS needs to do more. A year-round prohibition on surface longlines in the Gulf of Mexico is the only way to provide effective long-term protection from indiscriminate fishing gear. Alternative gear is available for fishermen to continue to catch targeted species without harming other wildlife. NMFS should facilitate the transition away from longlines and toward more selective fishing gear.

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