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Thursday, December 21, 2000

Deeper lines,
closed areas
proposed for

A draft environmental
statement says these options
would lessen sea turtle deaths

Star-Bulletin staff

A draft environmental impact statement, released by the National Marine Fisheries Service, offers several options for potentially lessening the impact of longline fishing on sea turtles and sea birds.

The preferred option would require Hawaii-based longline vessels to fish at deeper depths. They would be required to use line-shooters, machines that put fishing lines deeper underwater, or weighted branch lines, to put lines at greater depths.

"It's just another technique for keeping the line deeper," said Marilyn Luipold, a fisheries service program analyst. Deeper longlines are believed to be less likely to snag or kill sea turtles, all species of which are classified as endangered or threatened by the Endangered Species Act.

"The second aspect of (the study's recommendations) would be to close all areas to longline fishing by Hawaii-based vessels during April and May of every year," she said. This is expected to bring about significant reduction in mortality rates of some species of turtles, she said.

"Most likely it would reduce mortality to seabirds as well," Luipold added. It might also reduce the shark take, which is of interest to people who are concerned about shark finning, she said.

Former studies didn't take into consideration the cumulative environmental impacts of a variety of fishing practices in the Western Pacific on protected sea turtles, seabirds and sharks, a summary of the study says.

Federal judge David Ezra virtually eliminated longlining for swordfish and put restrictions on tuna longliners in a ruling in August. The findings of the environmental impact statement could be used by the judge to modify his earlier orders.

The environmental impact statement is to be completed by April 1.

Comment sought on draft

In January, 12 public meetings will be held on a draft environmental impact statement regarding protection of sea turtles in Hawaiian and western Pacific waters.

Hawaii meetings, all starting at 6 p.m., are:

Bullet Jan. 3, Maui Beach Hotel, Maui Room, 170 Kaahumanu Ave., Kahului, Maui.
Bullet Jan. 4, Wilcox Elementary School, 4319 Hardy St., Lihue, Kauai.
Bullet Jan. 10, Waianae Public Library, 85-625 Farrington Highway, Waianae.
Bullet Jan. 11, Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, Haleiwa.
Bullet Jan. 12, Ala Moana Hotel, Carnation Room, 410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu.
Bullet Jan. 22, Mitchell Pauole Center, 90 Ainoa St., Kaunakakai, Molokai.
Bullet Jan. 23, King Kamehameha Hotel, 75-5660 Palani Road, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Bullet Jan. 24, Cooperative Extension Services, College of Agriculture, Conference Room B, 875 Komohana St., Hilo, Hawaii.
Bullet Jan. 26, Lanai Airport Conference Room, Lanai.

Other meeting sites are American Samoa, Guam and Saipan. Public comment on the proposals will be accepted until Jan. 29. To receive a copy of the draft environmental impact statement, call 973-2937.

E-mail to City Desk

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