Yesterday, the US government announced it will loosen rules on the Hawaii Longline swordfish fishery, allowing more fishing effort and increasing the annual allowable number of loggerhead sea turtles that can be injured and killed by this fishery (for more info click here).
This action is a setback for the controls we have successfully fought for over the years that resulted in a ~ 4-year closure, followed by an eventual opening that limited fishing effort. Some changes we have fought for that will stay in place include a fishing closure for the year when the number of turtle interactions reach the ‘allowable’ cap, and gear changes that have reduced the seriousness of injuries that occurs from the ‘deep swallowing’ of hooks.
It appears the fishing industry is still calling the shots when it comes to protecting oceans and apparently human health too, since the target species, swordfish, is so highly tainted with high levels of mercury, the EPA has deemed it too dangerous for pregnant women, children or even women planning to become pregnant in the future to eat.
While lobbying by the fishing industry to loosen the rules started under the previous Bush Administration, we are extremely disappointed that the Obama administration has let these new rules go into effect.
We learned to expect these types of environmentally irresponsible decisions from the Bush Administration, but are we certainly ‘hoped’ for something better from the Obama administration.
Rest assured, we are not quietly accepting this attack on endangered sea turtles. Stay tuned for our next steps, which will be announced next week.