Drift Gillnet Management
The Council adopted a recommendation to NMFS to authorize an exempted fishing permit (EFP) that would allow drift gillnet fishing in the current August 15-November 15 closed area. The EFP fishery would be governed by several requirements for all vessels, including, to carry an observer; to limit total fishing effort in the EFP fishery to 300 sets; to immediately cease the EFP fishery if, and when, two leatherback sea turtles were encountered by the fishing gear; and to immediately cease the EFP fishery if one mortality or serious injury occurred to any of the following marine mammals: short-finned pilot whale, sperm whale, fin whale, gray whale, humpback whale, or minke whale.
And, with that, starts the rather egregious practice of drift gillnet fishing. The restrictions seem fairly tight, an observer on every boat, and end to the fishery after two incidences of capture. There is definitely more than meets the eye here, I don’t know what. Drift gillnet fishing is well documented to cause turtle catch, this from the 1998 Fishery Bulletin for 1990-1995
In the drift gillnet fishery, seven out of 387 mammals observed entangled were released alive. In the set gillnet fishery, five out of 1,263 mammals observed entangled were released alive. Estimates of incidental kill are presented along with estimates of entanglement for species that were observed to be released alive. For the period under consideration, the estimated mortality for the drift gillnet fishery was over 450 marine mammals each year. A total of 20 turtles and 3 seabirds were observed entangled during the entire period. The most frequently entangled species in this fishery were common dolphins, Delphinus spp., and northern elephant seals, Mirounga angustirostris. Estimated cetacean mortality in the driftnet fishery decreased from 650 in 1991 to 417 in 1995; pinniped mortality decreased from 173 in 1991 to 116 in 1995. Estimated cetacean mortality in the set gillnet fishery ranged from a high of 38 in 1991 to a low 14 in 1993; pinniped mortality rose to a high of 4,777 in 1992 and then decreased to 1,016 in 1995. We postulate that there has been a decline in the number of pinnipeds and cetaceans in the setnet fishery owing to area closure. No similar proposal can be made for the driftnet fishery. The most frequently entangled mammals in the setnet fishery were California sea lions, Zalophus californianus, and harbor seals, Phoca vitulina. Six turtles and 1,018 seabirds were estimated entangled in this fishery during the NMFS Observer Program from July 1990 to December 1995.
So what’s the deal, this thing caught 20 turtles in 5 years, so it is going to catch turtles, no doubt about it. Anyone who does not get what the death of one adult sea turtle means read this. Sea turtles are wonderfully fragile animals given their size, they take long to mature sexually, they do not breed all that much and less than 1% of turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood. Leatherbacks are highly endangered.
I have a feeling that this is the first part of a one-two punch intended to reinstate the famed turtle killer long line swordfish nets on the pacific coast. The “proof” that these nets do not catch turtles will be used to lobby for longline swordfishing in, oh say three months?