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PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009

between 800 and 1,900 hooks, and typical shallow-set deployment would include between 700 and 1,300 hooks. Funding available for providing hooks and dehooking equipment is also dependent on variable such as the price of fuel and equipment. Annual funding for technology transfer and research conducted on foreign vessels would be substantially less than the 2 to 10 vessels that can be contracted directly for gear testing each year. The hooks and equipment are provided by NOAA directly, or through other agencies, to vessels willing to use them in exchange for discontinuing use of their old hooks, or for experiments being supported by other agencies. Training is provided by NOAA.

Funds could also be provided to universities for grant support on this action for testing in either foreign or domestic fleets.

2.2 Conservation Actions Taken by Other Entities

For the past several years, the WPRFMC has worked with PIFSC, PIRO, and SWFSC to identify priorities for regional sea turtle conservation efforts, including collecting data to fill information gaps, measures to reduce direct harvest of turtles on beaches and protect nesting beach habitat, education and outreach, international management and networking, and fishery mitigation through research and transfer of effective gear technologies. Numerous workshops and meetings for planning and developing strategies for sea turtle conservation have been held. Six projects have been completed to date, including conservation efforts in Vanuatu, Mexico and Costa Rica. International agreements include the Bellagio Blueprint (2003), a multinational effort to save Pacific sea turtles; an MOU signed by Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to coordinate efforts to protect and save sea turtles; and the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia MOU (SWFSC 2007).

2.3 Alternatives Not Considered in Detail

Testing gear modifications shown to increase sea turtle bycatch: NOAA Fisheries will not test gear modifications that have been shown to increase sea turtle bycatch. An example would be testing standard, unmodified J hooks or tuna hooks, except as these are used as controls for comparison of modified gear in ongoing fisheries that would not increase bycatch.

Testing gear or methods proven to greatly reduce CPUE of target species that is not offset by an increase in revenue due to substantially reduced sea turtle bycatch: The costs from sea turtle interactions can be due to depredation on hooked target species, the damage and loss of gear from catching sea turtles, reduced catch of target species because sea turtles are either hooked or have damaged the gear, safety risks to crew from handling sea turtles during gear retrieval, and reduced fishing efficiency due to time required to remove turtles from gear and repairing and replacing gear (Gilman et al. 2006). Therefore, some gear that reduces CPUE in favor of reducing bycatch may actually have increased economic benefits. Any gear that decreases CPUE to the point where revenue is not counterbalanced by decreases in bycatch would have virtually no chance of being adopted in domestic or foreign fleets. These gear modifications would only be used under controlled conditions in tests as a comparison for gear modifications to improve CPUE of target species.

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