NOAA to test new fighting line device and other gear in the Pacific Islands
NOAA Fisheries plans to test a new fishing device designed by the Hawaii Longline Association along with other gear in the Pacific Islands to see what is safest for marine mammals.
Hawaii fishermen developed the fighting line device in response to concerns over harm to porpoises and sharks caught in fighting gear in the Pacific longline fisheries. The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC) has been working to reduce false killer whale bycatch in tuna fisheries, but weaker hooks developed to straighten out have proven ineffectual. In roughly a decade of usage, the hooks only straightened ten percent of the time.
The new device may provide a more effective solution. According to the Hawaii Longline Association, the fighting line device has been used successfully “to straighten hooks out of false killer whales and to safely handle sharks to retrieve as much fishing gear as possible before” release.
In a June meeting, the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council commended the Hawaii longline industry on “the innovative design,” which enables fishermen to either straighten the hook without flyback or cut the leader and reduce the amount of gear lost. Pacific Islands Regional Office Protected Resources Division Project Manager Elena Duke reported to the council that the fighting line device may work on smaller animals, but it wasn’t clear if it would apply to whales or turtles.
Hawaii longline fishermen have worked on different designs for the device and tested it out on their vessels, but now NOAA wants to conduct an official test to see how the new product compares to other types of gear. NOAA Fisheries is looking to hire a contractor to test a variety of longline gear configurations in the Pacific Islands to see which is most effective in reducing the number of serious injuries and deaths to marine mammals.
“Gear strength testing will also include testing various gear types including various hook sizes, branch line sizes, and leader materials in combinations to measure potential effectiveness of the HLA fighting line device with a combination of gear types,” the government said in its solicitation.
Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries