NOAA 2002-R121
Contact: Gordon Helm
NOAA News Releases 2002
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The National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking comments on a proposed rule to prohibit shallow deployment of longlines and other hooked fishing gear to reduce the chances of endangered and threatened sea turtles getting caught on such gear used in federal waters of the western Pacific Ocean. The proposal would apply to approximately 2,326 vessels in the western Pacific.

The proposed measures require the deepest portions of the main longline to be set at depths greater than 100 meters and float lines must be at depths greater than 20 meters when used north of the equator. With these settings, the gear is less likely to be encountered by sea turtles. Fishers using shallow sets for swordfish, typically set at night with glowing light sticks, happen to be in the same area as sea turtles feeding and during the time they feed. The proposed measures also prohibit using glowing light sticks on the gear.

The proposed rule would apply to owners and operators of all vessels fishing for pelagic species (fish found near the ocean surface) with federal western Pacific limited access longline permits (longline vessels) within the exclusive economic zone and the high seas around Hawaii, as well as those fishing for pelagic species with other types of hooks and line gear (non-longline pelagic vessels) within the EEZ around Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Common wealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Midway, Johnston or Palmyra Atolls, Kingman Reef, Wake, Jarvis, Baker or Howland Islands (western Pacific Region).

All sea turtles in U.S. waters are classified as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until 5:00 p.m., Hawaii standard time on May 14. Written comments on this action or requests for copies of the proposal should be addressed to Dr. Charles Karnella, Administrator, NMFS, Pacific Islands Area Office, 1601 Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI, 96814-4700; or faxed to 808-973-2941.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

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