27 Sep 2007

Government Denies Current Longline Permits for Atlantic Closed Zone Government Chartered Longline Vessel Will Conduct Research

Future Access Still an Issue

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has denied issuing Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP) to 13 pelagic longline vessels to fish within closed zones off the east coast of Florida.

The recreational fishing community expressed strong opposition to the permit application noting that the zones were closed to provide protection for critical habitat for juvenile swordfish, sailfish, blue marlin and white marlin. At the time the agency considered the permits, it was reassessing white marlin under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Longlining in the closed zone would have increased white marlin mortality, as well as that of other species, so it made no sense to approve a “federal action” that would have negatively impacted white marlin. The recreational fishing community applauds the agency for its decision to close the zones in 2000 and now for denying the EFPs.

We're not out of the woods yet...

Even so, the issue is not settled on closed zone access for longline vessels. The agency will conduct research on a chartered longline vessel that will fish within the east coast closed zone. This study, identical in purpose to the purposal put forward in the longline permit application, will assess the effectiveness of recently required circle hooks to reduce bycatch mortality on longline vessels. Agency conducted research will likely employ fewer vessels, possibly only one, with a scientist on board to collect data on bycatch caught with circle hooks. The agency then will evaluate the data and, depending upon results, may issue proposed actions relative to the closed zone.

TBF appreciates the responsiveness of our recreational fishing community to this important issue and asks that you stay in touch with us for future developments.

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