|The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced its decision to proceed with a scaled-down version of its proposal to allow swordfish longliners to conduct a bycatch reduction experiment inside areas of the U.S. southern coast that have been closed to longlining since 2000. The decision will affect portions of the Florida east coast and Charleston Bump closed areas. Instead of the originally-proposed 13 vessels, only three will be permitted and only two can fish at any one time. NMFS-certified observers must be aboard at all times. The boats will be testing the use of non-offset circle hooks, rather than the offset circle hooks as first proposed by the industry. Finally, half of the longline sets must be made outside the closed areas.
NMFS’ failure to develop criteria for assessing the results of the new experiment, which is standard research protocol, is troubling. “Our focus now will be on the data collected over the next year and what that means, if anything, in terms of the future of the closed areas,” said NCMC president Ken Hinman. “We will not allow poorly-designed ‘research’ to be used as an excuse to re-open areas to longlining if it undermines conservation of the vulnerable species that these closures are now protecting.”
For more info, please visit the National Coalition for Marine Conservation’s website at www.savethefish.org.