FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gordon Helm
Ruling prohibits driftnets to catch swordfish throughout Atlantic Ocean
NOAA Fisheries has finalized rules that prohibit the use of driftnets by U.S. fishermen in the North Atlantic swordfish fishery to reduce marine mammal bycatch, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.
Under current law, U.S. fishermen are not permitted to use driftnets in the South Atlantic swordfish fishery, so this latest rulemaking bans the use of driftnets in the swordfish fishery throughout the Atlantic Ocean.
"A very small number of driftnets are responsible for a disproportionate share of bycatch in the swordfish fishery, particularly of marine mammals," said Rolland Schmitten, director of NOAA Fisheries. "Removing these driftnets as a type of gear in this fishery will reduce that bycatch."
The driftnet fishery for Atlantic swordfish typically involved 10-12 vessels per year, for approximately 14 days a year. In 1998, the driftnet fishery operated for 14 days. The swordfish quota for driftnets was not reached; however, high marine mammal and sea turtle bycatch rates prevented a reopening of the fishery. During 106 deployments of driftnet gear, 295 marine animals were reported entangled in the nets.
The fishery was temporarily closed last fall following these high bycatch figures. The rules announced today make this closure permanent. The swordfish quota from the driftnet category will be transferred to the longline/harpoon category and marine mammal take reduction measures will be strengthened for that fishery.