PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009
Hawaiian monk seal protected areas and critical habitat: Amendment 3 to the WPRFMP Pelagic Fishery Management Plan (WPRFMP 1986), implemented by rules published at 56 FR 52214 (18 October 1991; which made permanent previous emergency actions published at 56 FR 15842, 18 April 1991 and 56 FR 33211, 19 July 1991), established a zone in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) in which pelagic longline fishing is prohibited to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals. The zone extends 93 km (50 nmi) seaward from each of the islands in the NWHI, and includes certain 185 km wide (100-nm) monk seal migration corridors between islands where the exclusion areas are not contiguous. This area encompasses critical habitat designated in 1988 (53 FR 18990, May 26, 1988; 50 CFR 226.201). Therefore, no impact would occur on this designated critical habitat and this issue will not be considered further.
Other marine mammals: The dugong (Dugon dugon) is found in the western and southwest areas of the Pacific Ocean and the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) is present in the western central Atlantic, but these are nearshore coastal species that would not be within areas where pelagic longline fisheries are conducted. The Stellar sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) range is primarily the northern Pacific Ocean and generally does not range further south than central California, outside the area of pelagic longline fisheries in the Pacific Ocean. They find prey in nearshore areas and haul out on land. Therefore, the Stellar sea lion is not known to interact with longline fisheries (York et al. 1996). Therefore, these three species will not be considered further. Potential impacts to other marine mammals are evaluated in Section 3.2.
Other marine mammal critical habitats: Critical habitat for the northern right whale (Eubalaena japonica)is restricted to nearshore areas off of New England and the southeastern United States, with additional proposed areas for Alaska. No critical habitat has been designated for the listed sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), fin whale (B. physalus), and sei whale (B. borealis). Critical habitat has not been designated for humpback whales, but protections are provided by the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary while humpbacks are on their winter grounds in Hawaii. Stellar sea lion critical habitat includes rookeries, haulouts, and associated areas in Alaska, California, and Oregon. As none of these areas involve pelagic longline fishing areas, this issue will not be considered further.
Seabirds as bycatch in longline fisheries: Mortality in longline fisheries is the most critical global threat to most albatross and large petrel species, including in the Hawaii-based longline fishery (Gilman and Kobayashi 2007, US Fish and Wildlife Service 2002, US Fish and Wildlife Service 2004). For Hawaii-based longline fisheries, regulations (NMFS 2008a) requiring seabird avoidance methods were first adopted in June 2001, decreasing total seabird captures from over 2,400 captures in 2000 to 88 in 2006. Seabirds were not identified as potentially impacted species in the 2008 Hawaii-based shallow-set longline fishery Biological Opinion (NMFS 2008a). The Supplemental Draft EIS for Amendment 18 to the Fishery Management Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region (WPRFMC 2008) identified that a two-order of magnitude reduction in albatross interactions in the Hawaii-based fishery as a whole occurred after the fishery was re-opened in 2004 and following implementation of regulations designed to reduce seabird catch rates (decrease of over 83%). Therefore, no effects are expected to seabirds from FSBAD research on sea turtle bycatch reduction and this issue will not be considered further in this PEA.