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Fishing council votes to replace seabird mitigation strategy for Hawaii deep-set longline fishery

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has voted to recommend a replacement strategy to mitigate seabird interactions by Hawaii deep-set longline fishing vessels.

In a 12-0 vote, with one abstention, the 13-member council voted today to recommend fishing vessels use fishing pole-like setups called tori lines, which are meant to keep seabirds from interacting with the vessels’ gear and bait.

Interactions between fishing vessels in the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery and black-footed and Laysan albatrosses have been on the rise since 2015. Recent studies by researchers have shown that the current mitigation measures — primarily the use of blue-dyed bait and the strategic disposal of fish parts, or offal — have shown mixed effectiveness at deterring the albatrosses.

Based on research that started in 2019 and included field trials in the deep-set longline fishery, the use of tori lines, which hang above fishing lines and use streamers to deter birds, significantly reduced the likelihood of seabirds getting caught or hooked on fishing gear.

Today’s vote is a recommendation to replace the use of blue-dyed bait and the use of offal. The recommendation includes a minimum length of the aerial section of the tori line, which is 50 meters. Including a “drag section” on the surface of the water, the minimum length of the entire tori line would be 100 meters. Two tori lines would be required to be present on the vessel at the start of every trip.

The aerial section of the tori line would be made of a polyethylene or other material that is lightweight, water-resistant, low-stretch and floats in water. The drag section would be made of braided material. Monofilament nylon would be prohibited for either section.

Additionally, an implementation team would support the transition from the seabird mitigation methods.

The council’s recommendation will be reviewed by the council staff before going to the regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Island Region, on behalf of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, for approval.

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