PIFSC Sea Turtle Longline Research EA June 1, 2009
been shown to stay attached to the animal for up to one year without any adverse effects being observed (Swimmer et al. 2002 and 2006). A programmatic environmental assessment for the Marine Turtle Research Program at the PIFSC reaches the same conclusions, that satellite tagging poses no harm or threat to sea turtles (NOAA and NMFS 2006).
Potential cumulative impacts on sea turtle populations
Though difficult to accurately quantify, the incremental impact of the effects of the proposed sea turtle bycatch reduction research when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions is likely to be positive in nature. As detailed previously, the direct and indirect environmental consequences of the proposed research are expected to be minimal, as research design, methodologies, and standard operating procedures for working with endangered species in sensitive habitats are specifically formulated to minimize any negative impacts on the environment and sea turtles in particular.
The proposed current and expanded programs are likely to have net cumulative effects that are positive in that they: a) help to support current sea turtle monitoring programs in various parts of the world, b) contribute to foreign economies by purchasing supplies and hiring fisherman and observers in areas that are often economically depressed, c) establish community outreach programs and positive partnerships with foreign governmental agencies to encourage a sense of environmental stewardship, and d) are highly likely to develop into usable strategies to help reduce sea turtle interactions with fishing gear.
The proposed current and expanded programs support ESA mandates for the conservation and recovery of sea turtles. The role of the proposed research does not include making management decisions that may affect population recovery. Rather, the research and monitoring activities obtain scientific information in support of achieving the biological recovery and sound management of sea turtle populations worldwide.
The goal of reducing sea turtle bycatch is intertwined with unpredictable ongoing activities in the environment such as longline fishing, natural predation, and other forces that may influence affected ecosystems, all of which have unquantifiable influences and impacts on achieving such a goal. However, cooperation with U.S. and international regulatory agencies also aiming to reduce sea turtle bycatch and increase sea turtle stocks worldwide through fishing regulations, increased protection and awareness, anti-poaching laws, and more increases the likelihood that cumulative effects from these sources will be influential, as opposed to adverse, in the conservation of sea turtle species and habitats worldwide.
Conclusion regarding potential impacts on sea turtle populations from interaction with research-related longline fishing gear and other proposed research
Because the proposed current and expanded programs are aimed at reducing sea turtle interactions with longline fishing gear through implementation of research programs as mandated by NMFS, the potential impacts to sea turtle populations are expected to be minimal at the individual level, and cumulatively net positive at the population level.