|Drift Gillnets and Longlines back in California Waters?|
Posted by Roger on February 11, 2006 at 23:27:20:|
Drift gillnets and longlines will be allowed back into California waters under a proposal to be considered at the March 2006 meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. For more information and how to contact the PFMC with your opinion, see the link below:
from that site:
As a result of the efforts of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and the Center for Biological Diversity, since 2001, areas north of Point Conception to an intersect with the Oregon coast and out beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to 129° West longitude have been closed to drift-gillnet fishing from August 15th through November 15th in order to protect leatherback sea turtles which seasonally inhabit these waters. Similarly, pelagic longline fishing has been banned within 200 miles of the California coast for well over a decade, and in March 2004 this ban was extended to the entire West Coast EEZ for all pelagic longlining, and to the high seas beyond the EEZ for West Coast-based shallow-set pelagic longlining. The proposals under consideration by the PFMC would allow drift-gillnets back into the seasonally closed area when leatherbacks are present, as well as allow an “exempted” longline fishery in the EEZ off California.
While the PFMC's decision must still be reviewed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service over the coming months, public support for these conservation measures can help influence the final decision.
These two successful proven conservation measures, which protect endangered and threatened sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals as well as sharks and other overexploited fish species, are urgently needed. Your support for these conservation measures is crucial to keeping them in place and protecting marine wildlife injured and killed by these destructive fishing practices.
Mr. Donald McIsaac
I am extremely concerned about two decisions the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will be making at its March 5-10, 2006 meeting. The Council will take a final vote on two applications for fishing permits that will undermine conservation measures protecting the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle as well as seabirds, marine mammals and sharks and other fish by allowing drift-gillnets and longlines to be used again in a critically important protected area along the California and Oregon coastline. I am writing to urge you to 1) continue the ban on longline fishing and to 2) maintain existing drift gillnet fishery time area closures along the West Coast. These two successful conservation measures protect endangered and threatened sea turtles, seabirds, sharks, marine mammals and fish.
These two effective conservation measures were originally put into place to protect the Pacific leatherback sea turtle. The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is at the top of the list of species being driven to the brink of extinction in the Pacific by the global expansion of industrial fishing. The Pacific leatherback turtle’s nesting population has plummeted from 91,000 in 1980 to fewer than 5,000 in 2002. Leatherback sea turtle populations are in decline throughout their range. Leatherback sea turtles are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and critically endangered by the World Conservation Union on the IUCN red list of threatened species. Leading scientists warn that unless immediate and significant steps are taken, the leatherback sea turtle, which has swum the oceans since the time of the dinosaurs 100 million years ago, will soon become extinct. Moreover, the plight of the leatherback sea turtle, the world’s largest and most wide-ranging sea turtle, may foreshadow a host of extinction events that may significantly alter the oceans’ ecosystem functions.
These drift-gillnet closures have provided a successful working balance between the interests of fishers and the urgent need to protect the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle which is on the threshold of extinction. During the past three years of these closures, this fishery, which targets swordfish, tuna and shark with drift-gillnet gear, had no recorded takes of critically endangered leatherback sea turtles. Such successful time/area closures, which eliminate the overlap of longline and drift gillnet fishing gear with the presence of leatherback sea turtles, should serve as a successful model that should be replicated elsewhere in the Pacific where the leatherback is at the greatest risk of extinction.
Allowing drift gillnets back into these areas will result in increasing injury and mortality to threatened and endangered wildlife as well as valuable recreational species. Since 2002, 64 dolphins, whales, seals and sea lions have been killed by the drift gillnet fishery. Additionally, seabirds including Northern fulmars and Cassin's auklet have been injured or killed. Injuries and killings of these species are in violation of numerous US laws including the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
One of the misconceptions perpetuated by permit applicant, the Vermont based Federation of Independent Seafood Harvesters, is that "the DGN fishery is now in serious decline because of that time/area closure." (Draft Exempted Fishing Permit Application, October 6, 2005, PFMC Briefing Book, Exhibit J.3, Attachment 2, November 2005) The facts do not support this accusation. Rather, the decline in both the number of vessels and the ex-vessel value of the catch actually began in 1994—long before the time and area closures were implemented. From 1994-2000, the number of vessels had already declined from 138 to 78 and the ex-vessel value of the catch also declined from $6.6 m to $4 m. (Status of the U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species Through 2004: Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation, PFMC, 2005 HMS SAFE, October 2005, p. 12) The proposed exemption would allow as many as two thirds of the remaining 36 vessels in the apparently unprofitable drift gillnet fishery into the closed areas.
Last year, 1,007 scientists from 97 countries and 281 non-governmental organizations from 62 countries delivered a letter to the United Nations urging it to implement a moratorium on harmful gillnet and longline fishing in the Pacific. The current restrictions on the longline and gillnet fisheries off California and Oregon are a model conservation measure in the spirit of this statement that should be emulated not abandoned.
The ban and time and area closures both demonstrate that the US is complying with not only the UN but also best scientific practices to protect our marine resources.
I urge you, as the Executive Director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, to:
• Identify other measures such as capacity buy-outs that can help those who wish the leave the fishery do so without having to eliminate or weaken effective conservation measures.
• Maintain the current time/area closures that prohibit the deployment of drift-gillnet fishing gear in areas off the California and Oregon coasts when leatherback sea turtles likely to be inhabiting these waters.
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