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California Ocean Leaders Adopt Sea Turtle Protection and Oppose New Longline Fishery

After more than an hour of testimony, on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008,  the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) unanimously adopted a resolution forwarded by Sea Turtle Restoration Project that opposed the opening of a new longline fishery for swordfish along the California coast in favor of protecting endangered leatherback sea turtles. See the resolution. See the KPIX Channel 5 TV news segment about the Pacific leatherbacks and the proposed fishery.

The OPC also added an amendment urging the federal government to adopt policies and enforce regulations to ban swordfish and other seafood sold in the U. S. that is caught by foreign fleets that don’t meet U. S. fishery protection standards. The OPC action was an important policy statement signaling support for California’s longstanding fishery protections that prohibit longlining within 200 miles of the coast.  The vote came after more than an hour of testimony from sea turtle groups, environmentalists and sport fishers expressing full support; with federal fishery managers from National Marine Fisheries Service and several commercial fishers against.

A decision is expected any day from Washington D. C. on a proposed federal fishy would open waters from 50 to 200 miles to longlining in ocean waters where critically endangered sea turtles now find safe harbor for foraging.

Federal fishery managers have been trying for several years to open a new swordfish fishery despite the harm that would come to sea turtles, seabirds, shark, dolphins, whales and other marine life that would get caught accidentally and be injured or killed on the more than 50,000 new hooks that would be allowed if approved. The proposed permit has been widely opposed and a near-identical proposal was defeated last year.

The California state legislature adopted a similar resolution against the fishery earlier this year by adopting AJR 62-Leno.