WASHINGTON (CN) – Over a recent 30-month period, more than 800 loggerhead sea turtles were caught on longline fishing hooks, and nearly half were dead or comatose, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Although the hooking of loggerheads is mostly incidental to legitimate fishing, the scale of the problem threatens the ability of the turtle to survive in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The council has proposed a total ban on the use of bottom longline gear in the reef fish fishery east of Cape San Blas, Fla., from June through August. A draft amendment of how the ban would be implemented has been presented to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval.
The council also proposes to reduce the number of bottom longline vessels operating in the fishery through two means. A longline endorsement would be provided only to permitted vessels with demonstrated average annual landings of 40,000 pounds of reef fish taken by fish traps or longlines during 1999-2007 and the number of hooks allowed onboard each longline vessel to would be restricted to 1,000 hooks total, only 750 of which may be fished or rigged for fishing at any given time.