From the National Coalition for Marine Conservation...
On March 10th the Pacific Fishery Management Council gave the go-ahead to an exempted fishing permit (EFP) application by a commercial fisherman who wants to longline for swordfish and tuna. Pelagic longlining is currently prohibited in U.S. waters off California, Oregon and Washington under the council's West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. Five conservation groups, including the National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC), attended the meeting in Sacramento, CA to testify against the permit. Three council members voted against it, including the state directors from California and Oregon and a representative of the recreational fishing community.
The final decision on the EFP rests with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). A 2007 application, approved by NMFS, was withdrawn last December after the California Coastal Commission, which has authority to review permits for consistency with its coastal management program, rejected it for the second time in a year. The proposal is highly controversial because of its intent to show the economic viability of a full-scale longline fishery as an "environmentally friendly" alternative to the tightly-restricted drift gill net fishery. At least 71 vessels have expressed an interest in longlining.
"Contrary to what is suggested in the proposal, longlining for swordfish and tuna is anything but environmentally safe and selective," NCMC president Ken Hinman told the council, "and it is difficult and costly to manage. Bycatch in a west coast longline fishery would include a long list of species for which international scientific bodies have recommended reducing or at least not increasing fishing mortality: bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, albacore, bluefin and striped marlin. It would also include highly vulnerable shark species and endangered sea turtles."
The longlining proposal will now go out for public comment, after which the council will decide whether or not to forward it to NMFS.