PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009
shown promise in reducing sea turtle bycatch and bycatch injury, but had not been proven effective. Typical experiments involved the use of synthetic shark shapes as deterrents, variations in light sticks used to attract target fish that also attract sea turtles, visual sensitivity screening and behavioral assessments of turtles and hatchlings, turtle feeding behavior and biomechanics, tests of natural pheromone and mesh metal chemical repellents, tagging of live- swimming turtles incidentally captured in longline fishing gear to evaluate movements and the effectiveness of time-area fishing closures, and serological examinations of incidentally captured turtles. These studies are either ongoing or in the planning stage and will continue under the 2007 EA.
Studies on depth fishing in deep-set gear and associated catch of target and nontarget species: PIFSC, in cooperation with other Pacific Island countries, conducted research to evaluate whether setting deep-set gear with weights with no hooks near floats to ensure that all hooks fish at intended depth would decrease bycatch of sea turtles (and other nontarget species) while maximizing catch of deep-dwelling target species (Beverly et al. in press). This research indicated that elimination of shallow hooks in the upper 100 m (330 feet) of the water column using modified gear was achieved by using weighted vertical lines suspended by floats. Interactions with other species with preferences for waters less than 100 m deep were reduced. By logical extension, the researchers suggest that the experimental gear would also reduce interactions with sea turtles.
2.1.3 PIFSC continues to conduct research on modified longline gear and expands program for transfer of successful technology to foreign fleets (Proposed Action)
The existing programs as described above would continue and would be expanded as needed, and are therefore incorporated into this alternative. Proposed and possible expansions of the current program are described in the paragraphs below. All of these projects could be conducted on contracted vessels in the domestic longline fleet or on foreign longline vessels. Any incidental sea turtle take on contracted vessels in the Hawaiian longline fleet would count toward the cap on incidental takes set per the Endangered Species Act Biological Opinion for the shallow set longline fisheries (NMFS 2008a).
As the Hawaii-based fleet is better observed (100% observer-coverage required) and regulated than foreign fleets, the results can often be more rigorously evaluated and controlled. The frequency of turtle interactions will be relatively low and closed if turtle caps in the shallow-set fishery is reached (NMFS 2008a) , so projects will focus on testing or demonstrating the economic viability and efficacy of fishing modifications for reducing or eliminating sea turtle bycatch. However, some tests conducted in foreign fleets would require a scientific observer provided by NMFS or the contractor to ensure that the unbiased protocols developed by FSBAD are carefully followed to ensure reliable data.
No project would test any modification that is prohibited by fishery regulations.
In addition to the countries identified in the current program, other countries may be included, such as the Cook Islands.