Government Issues Emergency Closure of Bottom Longline Fishery in Eastern Gulf of Mexico

Posted in May 2009

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an emergency closure of the bottom longline sector of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery today in an effort to protect sea turtles from injury and death. The closure, effective May 18 to October 28 of this year, will prohibit bottom longline fishing gear in eastern Gulf waters shallower than 50 fathoms. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted in January to request that NOAA issue an emergency rule to take immediate action to protect threatened sea turtle populations that are caught and killed by this fishery. The Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are currently developing a long-term solution that will take effect after the six month closure has ended.

Below is a statement from Dave Allison, senior campaign director at Oceana, a leading organization in the fight to protect sea turtles in the Gulf.

Oceana applauds fast action by the Gulf Council and NOAA to protect threatened sea turtles in the Gulf.

This action demonstrates that the management process can work in favor of our oceans. Today's decision is not just a victory for sea turtles, but for the oceans.

Too many sea turtles are needlessly captured and killed by this fishery each year. The same fish targeted by this fishery can be caught using more turtle friendly fishing gear types, including vertical line or "bandit rig."

Oceana and other conservation organizations now look to NMFS, NOAA and the Gulf Council to develop a long-term solution that works. An amendment to the reef fish management plan that ensures protections for sea turtles in eastern Gulf turtle foraging areas must be adopted as soon as possible.

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