Not so long ago, stocks of swordfish off the Eastern Seaboard were badly overfished and in real peril. Ultimately, thanks to a show of public concern and a grass-roots campaign to save the swordfish, fisheries managers took the dramatic step in 2001 of closing to longlining areas within U.S. management jurisdiction off the east coast of Florida and South Carolina.
These are known nursery areas for swordfish. The hundreds of thousands of hooks being soaked by longliners were catching so many undersized swordfish that their population was not being replenished. And at the same time, the bycatch-hungry hooks also caught and killed billfishes, sharks, turtles and other marine wildlife not intended.
Within a few years of those closures, swordfish stocks had bounced back — so dramatically that scientists declared them fully recovered, one of the greatest management success stories in history.
NMFS’ Inexplicable Decision Rolls Back Swordfish-Conservation Success
NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) has announced an action that will reverse this success. NMFS’ Highly Migratory Species division has approved an application for something known as an exempted fishing permit (EFP) that will allow pelagic longline vessels back in to fish the area off Florida that had been closed to longlining. That application came in late last year from Dr. David Kerstetter at NOVA Southeastern University (who has criticized longlines on CNN for their bycatch) and longline-boat-owner Scott Taylor.
The permits mean more than 1,000 longline sets coming up, with each set allowed 750 hooks — or three-quarters of a million hooks in the water withe the chance to catch whatever swims by.
Here’s perhaps the most egregious part of all: NMFS own draft environmental assessment estimates that this permit will mean the death of thousands of undersized swordfish as well as hundreds of billfish and thousands of sharks illegal to keep.
And this slaughter is essential in the name of research?
If you believe that, contact me about a couple of bridges and some swamp land I have for sale.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SEND A MESSAGE TO NMFS
We can make a difference here IF you’ll register your thoughts on this destructive permit with NMFS. Public concern and outrage helped save our swordfish once; it can do so again.
It’s important than you make your voice heard and quickly. Thanks to anglers’ groups like the American Sportfishing Association and Coastal Conservation Association, you can accomplish this in just a couple of minutes by clicking on either or both of the links below to take immediate action.
Sport Fishing welcomes opportunities to share a variety of perspectives from prominent or influential participants in issues related to recreational fishing and fisheries.