A special message from the National Coalition for Marine Conservation...
The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering whether to approve an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) to allow longline fishing in federal waters off the U.S. west coast. The permit was given a strong recommendation by the Pacific Fishery Management Council at its April meeting, but must receive final approval from NMFS. NMFS is accepting comments from the public until July 13, 2007.
Please write to NMFS today, and tell the agency to deny the permit. We must send a strong signal to NMFS that we will not tolerate attempts by the fishing industry to circumvent important conservation measures put in place by the West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, which bans the use of longlines.
Though the permit would only apply to a single vessel, the applicant has stated the purpose of his experiment is to determine whether drift gillnet (DGN) gear could be phased out in favor of establishing a longline fishery. To date, 71 DGN permit holders have expressed an interest in making the switch to longline gear, but over 130 vessels would be eligible.
The EFP sets intolerably low standards for judging a successful "experiment;" namely, proving that a longline fishery is economically viable and that bycatch is less than in the drift gill net fishery. Consider, for instance, the Council's recommendation that the applicant be permitted an annual bycatch of 12 striped marlin. If the permit results in a full-scale longline fishery of 130 eligible boats, an allowance of 12 marlin per vessel could add up to over 1,560 striped marlin taken by a new longline fishery!
The National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC) opposes issuance of the EFP for the following reasons:
- Longline bycatch of striped marlin, dorado, and oceanic sharks, including blue and shortfin mako - both considered near-threatened by the IUCN - can be substantial and very difficult and costly to manage.
- Commercially-important albacore and bigeye tunas are projected to be caught in significant numbers. These species are experiencing overfishing, and the Pacific Council is required to prevent any increase in fishing mortality.
- This "experiment" would serve only to replace one indiscriminate gear with another, and the Council should instead be using its limited resources to investigate more selective fishing methods for swordfish, such as the use of traditional but highly effective hand gear.