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Research Reveals Bottom Longline Gear Kills Endangered Sea Turtles

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On: Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 11:50AM | By: CCA


Ted Forsgren, Executive Director of Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida) strongly recommends that the Gulf Council and National Marine Fisheries Service take emergency action to prohibit bottom longline gear in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida. Bottom longline gear has been causing overfishing, waste and by-kill for many years. The recent documentation of the excessive damage to endangered sea turtles calls for action to deal with the longline problem once and for all. Urge the Gulf Council to take emergency action to prohibit bottom longline gear off of Florida’s west coast. CCA Florida Comments:

1. HUGE BY KILL OF ENDANGERED SEA TURTLES – Recent research has revealed that bottom longline gear for reef fish, along with longline gear set for sharks, is taking much larger numbers of endangered loggerhead and other sea turtles than anticipated by the 2005 Biological Opinion required by the Endangered Species Act. The information extrapolated from the recent survey indicates 974 interactions of endangered sea turtles and bottom longline gear with 433 turtles released. 325 released dead and 216 status unknown. The huge loss of sea turtles each year to bottom longline gear is completely unacceptable and action must be taken immediately.

2. LARGE SCALE AND HIGH VOLUME TAKE BY LONGLINE GEAR - CCA and CCA Florida have been concerned over the use of bottom longline gear in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery for well over a decade. The high volume, industrial level take greatly inhibits the ability to achieve resource protection goals while maintaining a viable recreational fishery and commercial hook and line fishery. During a lawsuit in 2005, information was obtained documenting that just 25 longline boats took more Red Grouper than all the recreational fishers in the entire Gulf of Mexico.

3. BY KILL AND WASTE OF RED SNAPPER – Bottom longlines are already prohibited out to 50 fathoms in all the rest of the Gulf from Cape San Blas in the Florida Panhandle west through all the Gulf states. One of the main reasons for prohibiting bottom longlines off of the rest of the Gulf states and the Florida Panhandle was to keep longline gear away from spawning concentrations of Red Snapper. However, Red Snapper populations are recovering and expanding their populations to all of Florida’s Gulf coast and into the range of the longline boats. Recent testimony has highlighted the serious by kill of Red Snapper. There may be as much as one million pounds of Red Snapper discarded dead annually because the longline boats do not have, or choose not to purchase, Red Snapper IFQ quota shares that are required to land the fish. CCA Florida has provided a short time for public input on this important issue.

Your comments are very important. Send them now to Dr. Thomas McIlwain, Chairman Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org For more information or to join CCA Florida, please visit CCA Florida’s website at www.ccaflorida.org.




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