Sword­fish Un­der Siege

De­spite strong op­po­si­tion by the recre­ational fish­ing com­mu­nity and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion, in Au­gust NOAA Fish­eries is­sued an ex­empted fish­ing per­mit (EFP) that al­lows pe­lagic longlin­ing for sword­fish in Florida’s east coas

Saltwater Sportsman - - Editorial -

The EFP was granted to Dr. David Ker­stet­ter of Nova South­east­ern Uni­ver­sity to eval­u­ate pe­lagic long­line (PLL) catches and catch rates of tar­get and non­tar­get species from two sub­ar­eas in the north­ern por­tion of the closed area, com­pare them to those from an area open to fish­ing with longlin­ing gear, and eval­u­ate the ef­fec­tive­ness of ex­ist­ing clo­sures.

The EFP al­lows Ker­stet­ter to con­duct the so-called re­search with a fleet of six longlin­ing ves­sels ac­tive at one time.

The project would be au­tho­rized for 12 months and, pend­ing an­nual re­view of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions or im­pacts, catches and catch rates of all species, and in­di­vid­ual ves­sel per­for­mance, could be reau­tho­rized for two ad­di­tional 12-month pe­ri­ods. In re­sponse to pub­lic com­ment, NOAA Fish­eries is lim­it­ing the re­search to 720 sets per year split be­tween the six ves­sels, with each set con­sist­ing of a max­i­mum of 600 cir­cle hooks, size 16/0 or larger.

Through this EFP, NOAA Fish­eries af­fords ex­emp­tions to the par­tic­i­pat­ing ves­sels from reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing two sub­ar­eas within in the EFC PLL closed area and associated pro­hi­bi­tions, but all other re­quire­ments — size lim­its, sea­sons, quo­tas, re­port­ing re­quire­ments, ves­sel mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems, gear re­stric­tions, and in­di­vid­ual bluefin tuna quota re­quire­ments — would con­tinue to ap­ply.

The long­lines will kill billfish, sword­fish, sharks and sea tur­tles, warns The Billfish Foun­da­tion, which also pointed out the hypocrisy of the sit­u­a­tion. Both the sci­en­tist and the owner of the long­line boats, in a 2012 CNN in­ter­view, stated that longlin­ing is not a clean gear and should be re­placed by buoy gear. Now that they can sell the con­ser­va­tion ben­e­fits, their story has changed.

“All an­glers who fish off Florida’s east coast should be irate at the NMFS Of­fice of Highly Mi­gra­tory Species for not re­spect­ing recre­ational fish­ing,” said The Billfish Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent Ellen Peel. “Al­low­ing long­lines back into Florida’s east coast closed zone to land the con­ser­va­tion ben­e­fits ac­crued over 16 years of clo­sure is il­log­i­cal. The NMFS has ac­com­mo­dated the one sci­en­tist at Nova who filed for the per­mit, project after project, re­gard­less of prior re­sults or the in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the project.”

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