PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009
Essential Fish Habitat (EFH)/Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) in areas fished by foreign longline fleets: The MSA identifies EFH as those waters and substrates necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, and growth to maturity. HAPC is defined as areas where the ecological function of the habitat is important, habitat is sensitive to anthropogenic degradation, development activities are or will stress the habitat, or the habitat type is rare.
The following FMPs might be applicable to the research:
Highly Migratory Species FMPs for the Pacific Ocean, the Coastal Pacific Ocean, and the
Bottomfish and Seamount Groundfish
Coral Reef Ecosystems
As the gear used for fishing in the field or transferred to foreign vessels would be modified, and the number of sea turtles taken would be less than that caught as bycatch without the modified gear, no impacts to EFH or associated HAPC would occur. No adverse impacts to any aspect of the water column, nor to any benthic habitats, because all pelagic longline gear would be fished in the water column. EFH and HAPC have not been identified in areas fished by foreign participating fleets and therefore will not be considered in detail. All experiments are conducted within the laws and regulations of the participating nation, including regarding discharges from vessels. Therefore, no adverse impacts would occur to EFH and or associated HAPC and this issue will not be considered further.
Unique, historic, archaeological, and protected resources: The proposed action regarding reducing bycatch of sea turtles would have no effect on archaeological, social or cultural resources; scientific, historic or cultural sites; or public health or safety. It would not affect National Scenic or National Historic Trails, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Marine Sanctuaries, or National Estuarine Research Reserves. It would not have a disproportionate environmental or health effect on low-income or minority populations, nor would it impinge on the religious freedom of any group. It would not contribute to the introduction or spread of nonindigenous species. Therefore, these issues will not be considered further.
Impact on economies of foreign nations: The intent of the controlled studies on the relative CPUE is to evaluate the effectiveness of the modified gear on catch level compared to the original gear. Foreign fleets would only use the modified gear if it did not affect their revenues. Additionally, gear that does not catch nontarget sea turtles would have more hooks available for catching the target fish. Therefore, no adverse impact is expected for the use of modified gear on the economies of foreign nations and this issue will not be considered further.