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Regulatory amendment, revised swordfish trip limits in the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery to reduce regulatory discards : including an environmental assessment and regulatory impact review
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  • Alternative Title:
    Revised swordfish trip limits in the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery to reduce regulatory discards ; Revised swordfish trip limits in the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery (RIN 0648-BB48) ;
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  • Description:
    "The Hawaii-based deep-set longline fishery (deep-set fishery) targets bigeye tuna and occasionally catches swordfish. In 2004, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) established a limit of 10 swordfish per vessel per trip (swordfish trip limit) for the deep-set fishery to discourage deep-set fishermen from setting their gear shallow to target swordfish on the same trip (WPFMC 2004). The measures were intended to reduce longline fishery interactions with sea turtles, especially in shallow water. The average deep-set vessel catches five and retains three (3) swordfish per trip. Occasionally, however, a vessel may catch up to 25 swordfish during a trip. Fishermen claim that the 10-fish limit occasionally forces them to throw away swordfish caught in excess of the limit ('regulatory discards'). The Council believes the current trip limit for the deep-set fishery results in an inefficient use of fishery resources and may lead to wasteful regulatory discards, which are contrary to several National Standards in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). In response to these concerns, the Council recommends that NMFS revise regulations for the deep-set fishery to increase the number of swordfish that may be possessed and landed by Hawaii longline limited access permit holders when fishing north of the Equator on a deep-set trip if they meet certain operational conditions. Based on the Council's recommendations, NMFS proposed to revise the swordfish limits, as follows: a) With a NMFS observer on board, there would be no limit. Observers would monitor fishing activities, and would document and mitigate interactions with protected species. b) Without an observer, the limit would be 25 swordfish when using only circle hooks. The circle hooks would reduce the number and severity of interactions with sea turtles. c) With no observer and using anything other than circle hooks, the current limit of 10 swordfish would remain unchanged. All other measures applicable to the deep-set fishery would remain unchanged, including an average of 20 percent observer coverage of deep-set trips to monitor fishing activities and document interactions with protected species. The intent of the proposed action is to optimize fishery resources by reducing regulatory discards of swordfish and increase efficiency of the fishery, while maintaining safeguards for sea turtles and other protected species. This document describes and analyzes the potential environmental, social, and economic impacts of the proposed changes to regulations governing the deep-set fishery, as managed under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region (Pelagic FEP). None of the alternatives are expected to result in a change to the manner in which the fishery is conducted (i.e., area fished, number of vessels engaging in deep-set fishing, the number of trips taken per year, number of hooks set per vessel during a trip, depth of hooks, or deployment techniques in setting longline gear). Large changes are not expected to the physical marine environment or impacts to target and non-target fish species. Alternatives 2a and 2b may encourage fishermen to fish using only circle hooks and, therefore, are expected to benefit sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds"--Abstract (pages 4-5).
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