PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009
The Pacific Islands Science Research Center (PIFSC) Fish Biology and Stock Assessment Division (FBSAD) has, as one of its goals, to identify and test the effectiveness of strategies and techniques for reducing bycatch in commercial fisheries. This analysis, conducted in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), evaluates the Division’s fishery bycatch research program to reduce incidental bycatch of sea turtles in domestic and foreign longline fisheries while preserving the catch rates of target fish species by using modified fishing gear and/or operations. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has assumed a leadership role in sea turtle conservation worldwide and has dedicated significant resources to research programs intended to find ways to reduce takes of sea turtles in U.S. and foreign fisheries and transfer of effective technologies to foreign fleets.
Typical tests of modified gear and operations involve hook size and/or shape, type of bait or lure, branch line position, line materials, depth of set, daily time of set and/or other operational and gear parameters as they become available, and may be conducted anywhere in the oceans in participating fleets where sea turtles and pelagic longline fisheries interact.
All field-based research, both domestic and foreign, would involve testing gear or methods that have been indicated to be effective or shown promise for reducing bycatch or injury and that have no known mechanism for causing additional harm to turtles or to the environment, but have not been proven to reduce sea turtle bycatch in pelagic longline fishing in a particular region with different fisheries. Since domestic and foreign field studies are coincidental to normal fishing operations, no additional bycatch of sea turtles compared to that experienced using standard gear and operations is anticipated. Effective gear and methodologies would be transferred to cooperating foreign countries and fleets to sea turtle reduce bycatch.
No adverse impacts of the proposed program are anticipated from the existing and proposed actions on the listed species of marine mammals or species protected by the MMPA. Use of hooks baited with fish rather than squid in research conducted in domestic and foreign longline fleets and transferring this technology to foreign fleets to reduce sea turtle bycatch should decrease the incidental take of sharks as well, especially blue sharks, while maintaining the catch rate of target species. No other resources are anticipated to be adversely impacted by the existing and proposed research program.