[audubon-news] Conservationists, Anglers Applaud Pacific Longline Ban

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To:
  • Date: Wed, 30 Oct 2002 12:55:38 -0500

Natural Resources Defense Council * The Ocean Conservancy  Wildlife
Conservation Society * World Wildlife Fund *

Contact: Merry Camhi
Shana Beemer


Council Issues Final Pacific Fishery Management Plan Today

Foster City, CA, Wednesday October 30, 2002 - The Ocean Wildlife Campaign, a
coalition of six national conservation organizations, along with the
recreational fishing organizations United Anglers of Southern California and
The Billfish Foundation, today congratulated the Pacific Fishery Management
Council for acting to safeguard the health of tunas, swordfish, marlin, and
oceanic sharks, known as highly migratory species (HMS).  The Council
adopted an unprecedented fishery management plan that prohibits the use of
pelagic longline gear in the waters off California, Oregon, and Washington.

"We applaud the Council for taking the historic step of prohibiting the use
of pelagic
longlines in U.S. West Coast waters," said Ken Hinman, President of the
National Coalition for Marine Conservation.  "Too often our fishery managers
wait until a crisis develops before acting. It is encouraging to see
managers take precautionary action to safeguard ocean health as well as the
future health of our fishing industries."

"By doing the right thing upfront, the Pacific Council will prevent the
crisis we're seeing in the groundfish fishery," said Shana Beemer, Fisheries
Policy Analyst at the National Audubon Society.  "These modest regulations
come at an important time as displaced groundfish fishermen may begin
targeting highly migratory species."

The Council made its final decision today after a more than two-year
process, hearing arguments from conservationists, recreational fishermen and
commercial fishermen. This decision comes despite a strong push by a segment
of the commercial fishing industry to allow longlining.

"If the commercial fishing industry were allowed to expand the use of
longlines in the waters off the West Coast, the populations of striped
marlin, swordfish and other marine species would be jeopardized," said Dr.
Russ Nelson of The Billfish Foundation. 

Under U.S. law, fishery management plans (FMPs) are developed by regional
councils and administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
This is the first comprehensive federal plan for Pacific HMS caught off the
U.S. West Coast.  FMPs for Atlantic swordfish, sharks, tunas, and marlin
were enacted in the 1990s, but only after overfishing had already depleted
their numbers. 

"We are encouraged at the Councils pro-active approach to managing our
offshore fishery, putting fish before short term profits," added Tom
Raftican, President of United Anglers of Southern California. "Healthy fish
populations are essential to ensure the continuation of a thriving
recreational fishery for HMS."

Pelagic longlines are single-stranded fishing lines many miles long with
hundreds - and sometimes thousands - of baited hooks attached. This
open-water gear is widely used in many parts of the world to catch tunas and
swordfish and generates high levels of bycatch (the unplanned capture and
discarding of fish and other marine wildlife, which often results in their
death and waste). 

Longlining in the Atlantic Ocean has contributed to the devastation of
virtually every species of highly migratory fish. For example, U.S.
longliners alone killed and discarded thousands of undersized juvenile
swordfish throughout the 1990s, slowing that fish's recovery.  As many as
nine out of ten sharks that perished on longline gear were unwanted and
discarded. Overfished blue and white marlin are caught primarily in the
swordfish and tuna longline fisheries.   In addition, NMFS found that
longline fisheries jeopardize the continued existence of loggerhead and
leatherback sea turtles in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

While longlining remains legal in the Atlantic, Central Pacific and Gulf of
Mexico, the U.S. government has had to establish large-scale area closures
(millions of square miles), where longlining is prohibited, in order to
protect sea turtles, juvenile fish, and other marine wildlife.

"We strongly support the final HMS FMP," said Kate Wing, Policy Analyst with
Natural Resources Defense Council. "We have an opportunity to act before the
tunas and sharks of the Pacific suffer declines like those seen in other
parts of the world. We applaud the Council for taking action to ensure we
have fish and fisheries now and in the future."

The Council, led by their Plan Development Team with input from numerous
stakeholders, has spent over two years developing the HMS FMP. The
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation And Management Act requires the
development of FMPs for marine fish. The law details specific requirements
including preventing overfishing, rebuilding depleted populations of marine
fish within a set timeframe, minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable,
and identification and protection of essential habitat.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat
that supports them.  Our national network of community-based Audubon nature
centers and chapters, environmental education programs, and advocacy on
behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations engage millions of
people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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