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Programmatic Environmental Assessment - page 21 / 49





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PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009

registration, observer coverage, and take reduction plans. Analysis of studies of gear modifications for reducing bycatch of marine mammals is not included within this programmatic EA, as research on effective bycatch reduction methods for cetaceans is in preliminary stages by FSBAD and therefore the action is not ripe for decisionmaking. Analysis of potential impacts of research and gear modifications for minimizing bycatch of sea turtles on specific marine species is found in Section 3.2.

1.5 Issues Not Considered in Detail in this PEA with Rationale

This PEA evaluates impacts to potentially affected resources that might be caused by the existing and proposed FSBAD research program for reducing sea turtle bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries. The following issues are not analyzed in detail in relation with this specific sea turtle bycatch research in this PEA because there is no potential for adverse impacts caused by the research program:

Potential impacts to target tuna and billfish: The objective associated with all PIFSC research and technology transfer for reducing sea turtle bycatch in domestic and foreign longline fisheries is to maintain target CPUE; otherwise the modified gear/operations would not be implemented in foreign fisheries. Many measures intended to manage overfishing situations worldwide in international waters are identified and implemented through the Regional Fisheries Management Organization framework. Member nations are obligated to implement these measures in their national fisheries. Any contribution to an overfishing situation made by U.S. flagged vessels are managed by the appropriate Fishery Management Council(s) through regulatory actions. The FSBAD research and technology transfer programs are not expected to take higher numbers of target species than taken under current fishing levels. Therefore, no adverse impact to populations of target species is expected as the result of the research.

Environmental and economic impacts associated with transfer of bycatch reduction technologies: Widespread adoption of turtle bycatch avoidance measures will depend on the impact to fishery revenues, including costs of materials and supplies and their effectiveness at maintaining or improving CPUE of target species. Bycatch avoidance methods that maintain or increase fishing efficiency on target species and have operational benefits have the best chance of being voluntarily accepted by industry. However, the scope of this PEA is necessarily limited to assessment of the potential environmental effects of conducting focused turtle bycatch reduction experiments. It is not intended to and does not address the potential environmental effects of widespread adoption of gear or other operational strategies for reducing turtle bycatch.

Coastal zone under the jurisdiction of the State of Hawaii: All longline fishing conducted by NOAA Fisheries on contracted vessels within the Hawaii-based longline fishery would be conducted outside the 3-nautical mile zone under the jurisdiction of the State of Hawaii. Therefore the Coastal Zone Management Act would not apply.

Sea turtle critical habitat (Endangered Species Act): No critical habitat has been designated for the loggerhead, olive ridley or Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Critical habitat for leatherback (St. Croix, US Virgin Islands), green (Culebra Island, Puerto Rico), and hawksbill sea turtles (Puerto Rico) are all designated for protection of important nesting beaches and would not be within areas identified for longline fisheries. The decision whether to designate critical habitat for


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