Public needs more data on fishing David Fleshler’s April 12 story, “Florida sport fishermen protest plan to expand longline commercial fishing,” raises an important issue. If the federal government allows a half-dozen longline fishing boats into the closed areas to test new fishing gear, it will certainly result in the loss of juvenile swordfish and other depleted fish species.
This research proposal from the Fisheries Research Institute (a commercial fishing organization) should be reviewed very carefully and revised by the National Marine Fisheries Service before approving it.
The unintended catch (referred to as by-catch) of juvenile swordfish by longline fishermen has dropped dramatically since areas in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic were closed in 2000 specifically for the purpose of allowing the swordfish population to rebuild. Once the areas are opened for research, juvenile swordfish and other billfish will be lost. The federal government needs to account for these losses and assure everyone who fishes for a living or for recreation that the future healthy numbers of these fish are not jeopardized.
Oceana supports federal research to develop fishing gear that is less destructive to marine wildlife and the ocean habitat. Fisheries research can provide ocean managers with valuable information about the use of new tools and techniques to make commercial fishing cleaner without waste of fish, turtles or marine mammals. The details of the current proposed research, however, are unclear.