Advanced techniques and conservation benefits of shallow-set longline fishing
Exempted fishing permits (EFPs) are issued by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to allow for limited fishing activities that are otherwise prohibited by Federal law. At the April 2008 Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) meeting, the Council recommended that NMFS approve a proposed EFP that would allow a single vessel to explore whether tightly controlled shallow-set longline fishing, using innovative gear and operational procedures, is a cost-effective alternative for harvesting swordfish (Xiphias gladius) and reducing bycatch in California and Oregon. The permit would allow fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between 50 to 200 nautical miles (nm) offshore. The permit was requested because no information currently exists on whether this gear, specifically designed to reduce sea turtle bycatch while maintaining a commercially viable catch of target swordfish, would be effective in the California Current ecosystem. The effectiveness and commercial viability of a turtle avoidance strategy may be fishery-specific, depending on the size, abundance and species of turtles and target fish, and differences between fleets in fishing gear and methods (Gilman, et al. 2006). Thus an exploratory fishery would be a first step in assessing if these gear modifications would be effective and commercially viable in a west-coast-based fishery. There is also interest in NMFS in examining whether this modified gear can serve as an alternative to drift gillnet (DGN) gear, which is the primary gear type being used to harvest swordfish on the West Coast.