Swordfishing ban extends
from West Coast to isles

SAN FRANCISCO >> The federal government has banned commercial fishing for swordfish in a large swath of the Pacific Ocean to protect endangered sea turtles that were killed or injured by the hooks.

The new rules, released by the National Marine Fisheries Service, mean that longline fishing for swordfish will be prohibited in a 1,600-mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean between the West Coast and Hawaii. The ban, scheduled to take effect April 12, will affect about two dozen fishing boats based in California, Oregon and Washington.

Recreational fishing is not affected.

"It's an important step in protecting endangered sea turtles from going extinct," said Todd Steiner, director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, which lobbied for the ban. "It won't save the sea turtles by itself, but when the U.S. takes proper action, it's in a better moral position to get other countries to also take action."

Federal officials in Hawaii said those West Coast fishermen could commercially fish in the islands come next month, when they reopen swordfish fishing on a limited basis. Those with Hawaii permits would be under strict new regulations designed to protect the environment, according to National Marine Fisheries Service officials.

"Instead of J hooks and squid bait, swordfishermen would have to use circled hooks and mackerel bait," said fisheries service senior scientist Paul Dalzell. "The combination of the two had a 92 percent reduction with the interaction of loggerheads (turtles) and a 67 percent reduction in the interaction with leatherback turtles."

"By following these rules, we can bring back fishing for swordfish in a responsible manner and minimize impacts on turtles ... or they can stay on the West Coast and fish for tuna instead."

The United States makes up only about 5 percent of the global swordfish fishing fleet, Steiner said. Japan, Korea and Taiwan all have large fleets.

The ban comes after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that the National Marine Fisheries Service had violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing longline fishermen to operate off the West Coast.

Star-Bulletin reporter Rod Antone contributed to this report.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --