Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

eSkimmer Alert Feb 10, 2011

Longline Fishing in the /gulf of Mexico

The PEW Charitable,, The Center for Biological Diversity  and others are asking us to tell the National Marine Fisheries Service that bluefin tuna need stringent protection now and to ban longline fishing in bluefin breeding grounds. 

Overfishing has reduced Atlantic bluefin tuna populations by more than 80 percent since industrial fishing began, yet longline fishing gear used to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna continues to catch and kill spawning western Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico.

Surface longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico involves releasing lines up to 40 miles long and dragging them across open waters to catch swordfish and yellowfish. Unfortunately, longline fishing also catches unintended marine life including bluefin tuna and sea turtles. Even the intended fish are often too young and discarded, leaving future generations of fish in peril.

In an effort to protect Western Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico, the National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing that Gulf Surface Longline Fisherman use an experimental hook that could reduce the incidental catch of Western Atlantic bluefin tuna. This is a step in the right direction, but it is not a strong, long-term solution.

According to and the others,  the performance of the experimental weak hooks in reducing the number of bycatch and bluefin deaths is unknown. Some data suggests that the new hooks will reduce the number of bluefin that are hauled in. However, the number of bluefin that die when ensnared by longlines is unknown. Weak hooks will also provide little or no benefit to other marine life like sea turtles caught and killed by surface longlines.

The Gulf of Mexico is a vital spawning ground for the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna. This area has already been severely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and needs special attention by implementing a year-round prohibition on surface longlines.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is open for a short comment period only until the end of this week. Please take a moment to submit your comments via their website or the others mentioned above.