| Low level of sea turtle bycatch continues in the Hawaii longline fishery - :15663 | National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
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Low level of sea turtle bycatch continues in the Hawaii longline fishery
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    Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (U.S.) ; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Scientific Committee., Regular Session, (5th : 2009 : Port Vila, Vanuatu), ;
  • Description:
    The Hawaii longline fishery has been successfully managed to greatly reduce sea turtle bycatch. This fishery was estimated from observer data to have caught from 556 to 774 sea turtles per year from 1994 through 2000 when the fishery was temporarily closed due to court mandate. Prior to closure the annual turtle bycatch per unit effort in this fishery had averaged 0.043 turtles per 103 hooks. Highest bycatch rates were observed for vessels using shallow-set gear to target swordfish. A regulatory definition of deep-set longlining for tuna was established which allowed the deep-set fishery sector to re-open under 20% (minimum) observer coverage, with the result that sea turtle bycatch rates in the deep-set sector averaged 0.002 turtles per 103 hooks from 2001through 2008. A regulatory framework to reduce sea turtle bycatch based on successful U.S. experiments with large circle hooks and fish bait allowed the shallow-set fishery for swordfish to re-open in April 2004 under 100% observer coverage. Under the new framework, sea turtle bycatch rates for the shallow-set sector averaged 0.016 turtles per 103 hooks from 2004-2008. Bycatch rates in the shallow-set fishery were reduced for both leatherback (average 0.004 per 103 hooks) and hardshell sea turtles (average 0.011 per 103 hooks). Viable catch rates for target fish species were maintained in both the deep-set and shallow-set sectors of the fishery. Other experiments and fishery applications to reduce sea turtle bycatch using large circle hooks and/or fish bait in shallow-set swordfish longline fisheries have succeeded, but not always as well as in the Hawaii fishery. In other fisheries the ability to detect very low rates of sea turtle bycatch may be limited by low observer coverage and the amount of fishing effort. A high rate of observer coverage is required to observe turtles in small fisheries with very low bycatch.

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