Action Alert!:
Greater Protection Needed for Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna


Problem:
Surface longlines catch and kill a vast amount of ocean wildlife including spawning bluefin tuna, blue marlin, white marlin and leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles. Weak hooks could provide limited protections for bluefin, but they do little to improve the fishery’s impact on other non-target species.

Solution:
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has finally recognized the importance of protecting spawning bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico and has proposed new interim protections to protect bluefin and other Gulf marine life from wasteful and indiscriminate surface longlines, which are used to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna but wind up ensnaring and indiscriminately killing bluefin tuna and other ocean wildlife (including sea turtles).

Specifically, NMFS is proposing to require that Gulf surface longline fishermen use an experimental hook that could reduce incidental catch of bluefin in this fishery. This action is a step in the right direction, but it is not a strong, long-term solution.  Weak hooks could provide limited protections for bluefin, but they do little to improve the fishery’s impact on other non-target species. A year round prohibition on surface longlines is the only way to provide effective long-term protection from indiscriminate surface longlines. This prohibition will also encourage the adoption of more selective, alternative fishing gears that will keep fishermen on the water and significantly reduce the catching and killing of non-target ocean wildlife.

Action Needed:
NMFS needs to hear from the public that the agency should follow the weak hook proposal with a prohibition on Gulf surface longlining. Comments need to be made to NMFS by February 12.
The quickest way to comment is to go to the Pew Environment Group’s online action alert:

http://advocacy.pewtrusts.org/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&id=849.
Please Respond by Saturday, February 12

Background:
A representative of the Pew Environment Group Cameron Jaggard visited Texas and met with Sierra Club and other environmental leaders in the state last November to brief us on an important issue related to protection of the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. The Lone Star Chapter agreed to circulate information to our members about actions needed to enhance protection for the species as circumstances arose.

We have received a request for immediate action in this regard deadline: February 12 and we are providing that information to our members and supporters with a request that they taken action right away. Below is a summary of the issue and an opportunity to act on behalf of protection of the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has finally recognized the importance of protecting spawning bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico and has proposed new interim protections to protect bluefin and other Gulf marine life from wasteful and indiscriminate surface longlines, which are used to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna but wind up ensnaring and indiscriminately killing bluefin tuna and other ocean wildlife (including sea turtles).

Specifically, NMFS is proposing to require that Gulf surface longline fishermen use an experimental hook that could reduce incidental catch of bluefin in this fishery. This action is a step in the right direction, but it is not a strong, long-term solution.

“Weak” hooks are designed to straighten to release bluefin. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with this experimental hook:
• Depending on the use of this fishing gear and oceanic conditions, performance of the weak hook is highly variable.
• Since NMFS only has data on how many fish are hauled onto fishing boats, not how many die on the longlines and are lost during haul back, their efficacy in reducing mortality is unknown.
• Enforcement of the weak hook rule will be very difficult because the hooks look nearly identical to standard longline hooks.
• Weak hooks will provide little or no benefits to other non-target marine life caught and killed by surface longlines, such as leatherback sea turtles and sailfish.
• Fishing effort may increase to compensate for reduced catch of the fishery’s targets, yellowfin tuna and swordfish, thus reducing the positive impacts of requiring weak hooks.

Surface longlines catch and kill a vast amount of ocean wildlife including spawning bluefin tuna, blue marlin, white marlin and leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles. Weak hooks could provide limited protections for bluefin, but they do little to improve the fishery’s impact on other non-target species. A year round prohibition on surface longlines is the only way to provide effective long-term protection from indiscriminate surface longlines. This prohibition will also encourage the adoption of more selective, alternative fishing gears that will keep fishermen on the water and significantly reduce the catching and killing of non-target ocean wildlife.

If you have any questions or comments, please call Cameron Jaggard with the Pew Environment Group at (202) 590-8954 or via email at cjaggard@pewtrusts.org.

The quickest way to comment is to go to the Pew Environment Group’s online action alert:
http://advocacy.pewtrusts.org/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&id=849.
Please Respond by Saturday, February 12

Make them listen through Action Alerts !

Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club