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Marine Turtle Newsletter 113:13-14, © 2006

Marine Turtle Newsletter-Online

Longline Fishery Panel Discussion at the 26th Annual Sea Turtle Symposium:
Cooperative Approaches to Implement Sea Turtle Bycatch Solutions in Longline Fisheries

Irene Kinan
Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, 1164 Bishop Street #1400, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, USA (E-mail: Irene.Kinan@noaa.gov)

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) in collaboration with organizers of the 26th Annual Sea Turtle Symposium in Crete convened a pelagic longline fishery panel discussion at the symposium on April 6, 2006. The objectives of the panel were to promote transparency and provide factual information about measures to reduce sea turtle interactions by the pelagic longline industry, to help identify new opportunities for fishery research and collaboration, and to discuss international efforts to promote environmentally responsible longline fisheries within an ecosystem context.

The two hour discussion, moderated by Dr. Milani Chaloupka, consisted of brief presentations by a panel of six experts followed by an interactive question and answer period. Panelists were: Dr. Martin Hall, IATTC; Dr. Ricardo Sagarminaga, Sociedad Espanyola de Cetaceos (substituting for: Dr. Juan Antonio Camiņas, Instituto Espaņol de Oceanografia); Dr. Christopher Boggs, NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center; Dr. Gabriella Bianchi, FAO; Ms. Liz McLellan, WWF; and Mr. Paul Dalzell, WPRFMC.

In summary, numerous success stories based on the strong commitment and participation of fishing communities were presented. Panelists discussed promising information from certain longline fisheries of the Central Pacific, Latin America and Mediterranean that have demonstrated the beneficial use of circle hooks as well as fish bait (compared to traditional J hooks and squid bait) to reduce sea turtle interactions. Experience and information from these same fisheries indicate that the use of measures developed in one ocean basin can be successfully transferred to other ocean environments or fisheries.

Regarding management capacity, the panel provided evidence that international institutional frameworks are rapidly developing to support sustainable fishing practices. Although much work still needs to be done and important governance problems resolved, the issue of negative impacts of fisheries on sea turtle populations is seriously being considered and addresses by international fishery management organizations. Trust and collaboration between nations and among scientists, managers and industry are seen as the greatest assets for achieving sustainable fishery management and reduced sea turtle interactions.

Numerous questions arose from the floor following presentations that sparked lively discussion and thought provoking debate. Topics ranged from reminders about developing measures for multi-species groups, to specific questions regarding the post-hooking survival benefits of using de-hooking devices, clarifications of the recent closure and effectiveness of circle hooks used by the Hawaii-based shallow-set longline fishery, to more difficult questions concerning overfished stocks, ensuring sustainability of fisheries and approaches for ecosystem-based management.

Discussion regarding the longline moratorium debate centered on cultural, political and economic investments, livelihoods, trust and enforceability. Although the threat of fishery closures may increase awareness, it degrades trust and inhibits collaborations between industry, scientists and resource managers  essential components to finding and implementing solutions. Panelists overwhelmingly agreed that while time and area closures are common tools in fisheries management, a blanket moratorium is not a viable, enforceable or financially realistic option. Panelists concluded that a great deal can be accomplished in terms of technological developments that will allow fisheries to continue with less negative impact on livelihoods, ecosystems and protected species.

Overall, the panel session provided symposium participants with an excellent opportunity to ask questions and receive answers and information directly from resource managers actively working with fisheries and fishermen. Reference papers and background documents regarding current fishery mitigation research and activities (i.e., published literature and reports) and resolutions by international fishery management organizations were also provided to attendees of the session. This was the first public policy debate pertaining to longline fisheries at the sea turtle symposium and we hope that additional interactive forums on other gears, such as coastal gillnets, are held in the future.

Acknowledgements: The WPRFMC would like to thank the panelists and moderator for their involvement and participation, and the symposium organizers, specifically Dr. Dimitris Margaritoulis and Thanos Belalidis, for their vision and help in making the panel session possible.