Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles Now Leaving West Coast
Will Encounter 5 Million More Hooks on Return if Longline Expansions OK’d

New Report “Death by A Thousand Hooks” Documents the Demise of Sea Turtles, Seabirds and Sharks in the Longline Fishery for Swordfish in the U.S. Pacific
Critically endangered sea turtles now leaving the safe harbor of California’s coastal waters to migrate across the Pacific to nesting beaches could face a gauntlet of 5 million or more new longline hooks when returning to the West Coast in the future. The new report “Death by a Thousand Hooks” details the huge escalation of sea turtles, seabirds, sharks and other marine life that would be caught and killed on longline hooks in ocean waters between California and Hawaii if a trio of deadly swordfish fisheries proposed by federal fishery managers is approved. See the report.

“We must halt the deadly sweep of longline fishing hooks across the ocean,” said Teri Shore, TIRN Program Director. “Otherwise the swordfish we eat will be tainted with the blood of sea turtles.”

To help stop a new swordfish fishery from opening within 200 miles of the California coast, the California Ocean Protection Council adopted a resolution supporting longstanding state policy to protect marine life from such a fishery at its meeting in San Pedro on Nov. 20 and 21. See the agenda and resolution.

Combined, the three new or expanded swordfish fisheries proposed for 2009 and later would allow more than 5 million deadly longline hooks per year and multiply by three to six times per year the number of critically endangered Pacific leatherback and threatened Pacific loggerheads harmed or killed as bycatch. Both species are headed toward extinction unless they can be protected from death in fisheries and at nesting beaches. Endangered black-footed albatross, blue sharks, dolphins, whales and tuna would also be caught and killed by the larger fisheries even with modified fishing gear and special bait is used.

The Deadly Trio

Federal fishery managers are fast-tracking three new longline swordfish fishing proposals to:

1. Open up the California coast within 200 miles including the Leatherback Conservation Area where gillnetting has been prohibited and longline never allowed-the same bad fishery permit defeated in 2007;

2. Re-start a harmful high seas fishery 200 miles off the California coast that was closed in 2004 after too many sea turtles were captured; and

3. Allow unlimited fishing and triple the number of allowable captures of imperiled sea the Hawaiian longline swordfish fishery, which overlaps with the high seas fishery 200 miles off the California coast – a fishery which has been closed twice in the past eight years for threatening the survival of endangered sea turtles.