Dear Mr. Pollard, Mr. Thom, and Council Members:
You have the shared privilege and responsibility to protect the ocean’s most majestic wildlife. That responsibility includes ensuring ocean wildlife can safely swim Pacific Ocean waters without being killed in commercial fishing gear. I urge you to prevent the authorization of pelagic longline fishing gear off the U.S. Pacific Coast. Use of this gear would lead to the entanglement and death of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, sea birds, sharks and many other important ocean species.
Pelagic longlines used to catch swordfish, which can reach 60 miles in length and trail thousands of baited hooks, will inevitably ensnare and drown many other unsuspecting marine animals. Such a U.S. West Coast-based pelagic longline fishery, whether deep-set or shallow-set, has no place among the diversity of ocean life of the Northeast Pacific, particularly species already endangered with extinction.
Pacific leatherback sea turtles, for example, migrate 6,000 miles from their nesting beaches to feed in the productive waters off the U.S. West Coast. These sea turtles are so imperiled that federal scientists recently concluded that no more than one leatherback can be injured or killed every six years off the U.S. West Coast without delaying recovery. Introducing additional pelagic longlines in their migratory path threatens the very survival of these sea turtles. What is more, the Pacific Ocean off the U.S. West Coast includes highly important nursery grounds and breeding areas for many shark species, and pelagic longlines would decimate these ecologically important and vulnerable animals.
I ask the National Marine Fisheries Service to deny and cease consideration of Exempted Fishing Permits that would allow pelagic longlines inside the West Coast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and that the Pacific Council cease further consideration of authorizing any additional West Coast-based pelagic longline fishing inside or outside the West Coast EEZ.
Clean fishing gears exist to selectively catch swordfish without injuring and killing other ocean animals. Efforts should focus on expanding opportunities to meet demand for swordfish utilizing clean, sustainable fishing techniques like deep-set buoy gear, not authorizing or expanding a fishing method that is known to be destructive and will harm ocean wildlife.
Pelagic longlines have been banned inside West Coast waters since 1977 for a reason. The public has already clearly spoken. I do not want pelagic longlines off the U.S. Pacific coast.