The National Marine Fisheries Service (Fisheries Service) announced its approval of two exempted fishing permits allowing pelagic longline fishing—a currently prohibited fishing method—off the U.S. West Coast. The permits allow pelagic longlines stretching up to 60 miles in length containing hundreds to thousands of hooks to target large migratory fish like swordfish and tuna within 200 miles of the coast. These fishing lines have been banned off the U.S. West Coast for four decades due to their devastating impacts on sea turtles, marine mammals, sharks, large sportfish, seabirds, and other species.
This decision by the Fisheries Service runs counter to long-standing policies of West Coast states against pelagic longlines. In reaching its decision, the Fisheries Service also denied a request from the California Coastal Commission to evaluate whether the exempted fishing permits are consistent with protection of the state’s coastal resources under the Coastal Zone Management Act.
Oceana Deputy Vice President, Pacific, Susan Murray released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:
“Pelagic longlines have been banned off the West Coast for 40 years for good reason. This wasteful, indiscriminate gear catches and kills endangered and threatened species. When pelagic longlines were last tested off California, the outcome was disastrous—more than 75 percent of what was caught was thrown overboard as waste. Hawaii’s pelagic longline fishery, which uses the same gear that was just permitted for exempted use off the West Coast, was shut down early the last two consecutive years for too many harmful interactions with sea turtles. With sustainable fishing gears available, it is reckless and irresponsible to introduce pelagic longlines that we already know are fraught with wasteful and devastating implications for marine mammals, sea turtles, and valuable sportfish. This federal action is squandering the opportunity and the dedicated progress toward a vibrant, domestic swordfish fishery off our coast utilizing clean fishing gears that do not kill threatened and endangered species. This action not only puts a multitude of endangered species at risk of death, including leatherback sea turtles, short-tailed albatross, oceanic whitetip sharks, and humpback whales, but is a step by the federal government to establish a large-scale industrial pelagic longline fishery off our coast. More than 58,000 U.S. residents have already spoken out against allowing this destructive gear. Oceana calls on California, Oregon, and Washington to assert their leadership responsibility to stop this misguided federal push for pelagic longlines and take a stronger position in opposition to the testing or expansion of pelagic longline fishing off our precious coast.”
For more information about pelagic longlines click here.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.oceana.org to learn more.