PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009
2.4 ESA-Driven Measures for the Hawaii-Based Longline Fishery
The Hawaii-based longline fisheries (deep- and shallow-set) are among the most highly regulated and monitored fisheries in the world. Currently, these fisheries operate pursuant to Incidental Take Statements in two separate Biological Opinions (NMFS 2005, NMFS 2008a).
The Biological Opinion for the deep-set Hawaii-based longline fisheries (NMFS 2005) does not set incidental take caps for turtles and requires data collection, and 100% observer coverage.. Section 7 consultation must be re-initiated if incidental capture or mortality in any one year exceeds >50% of total take level specified or anticipated for multiple years for any species.
The Biological Opinion for the shallow-set fishery (NMFS 2008a), because of its higher interaction with sea turtles, set annual hard caps on take of leatherback sea turtles at 16 and on loggerhead sea turtles at 46 in the Incidental Take Statement. In addition, NMFS shall collect data on the capture, injury and mortality caused by the shallow-set fishery and basic life history information, if possible. All live sea turtles will be released alive, comatose turtles will be resuscitated if possible and dead turtles will be disposed at sea, unless needed for research.
2.5 Mitigation in Foreign Fleets
When FSBAD uses foreign vessels for research, the organization plays an active role in experimental design, funding, provision of modified gear, education and outreach materials and instruction and data management. Experimental protocols include methods for correctly handling captured sea turtles and using dehooking equipment, that are applied within the constraints of the fishery and in as close a manner to that described in NOAA guidelines for sea turtle handling and release. In addition, all participating foreign vessels would be required to comply with their current regulations for longline fishing as well as any permitting or licensing requirements, and would have scientific observers onboard. PIFSC would be responsible for ensuring compliance either directly or indirectly through their cooperating organizations such as the WWF or IATTC.
3 Environmental Consequences
3.1 No PIFSC research on reducing bycatch in domestic and international longline fisheries (No Action Alternative)
Because no field research associated with reducing sea turtle bycatch in domestic and international fisheries would be conducted under this alternative, there are no direct environmental impacts. However, indirect impacts would include continued high levels of sea turtle bycatch in domestic and international fisheries, resulting in continued declines in the population of endangered sea turtle species. This alternative would be contrary to the current Biological Opinions for the Hawaii-based longline fishery and the Moratorium Protection Act, as well as inconsistent with sea turtle recovery plans (Section 1.3).