As many as 1,000 sea turtles—80% of them endangered loggerheads—were being snagged every 18 months in longline gear in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a move intended to help stave off extinction for endangered sea turtles, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced new restrictions last week on so-called "longline" fishing techniques in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s west coast. Per the new rules, commercial fishermen in the Gulf will have to put their longlines away between May and October, when sea turtles feed and breed in the area.
The ban comes after studies have shown that as many as 1,000 sea turtles—80% of them endangered loggerheads—were being snagged every 18 months in longline gear, which is used by about 100 Tampa-based commercial fishing boats in pursuit of red grouper.
NOAA officials stressed that the longline ban is a temporary measure and that the agency is currently working with fishermen and environmentalists to come up with a long-term solution."I hope we can identify options that not only provide sea turtles the protection they need, but minimize the economic affects to the fishing industry," Roy Crabtree, NOAA’s southeast regional administrator for fisheries, told reporters.While commercial fishermen decried the decision, environmentalists cheered. "Too many sea turtles are needlessly captured and killed by this fishery each year," said David Allison of the nonprofit Oceana. "This is going to be a major benefit to sea turtles, especially the loggerheads that are threatened with extinction,"
Sources: Oceana; MSNBC