Seven Louisiana fishers have volunteered to stop using their pelagic longline fishing gear in the Gulf of Mexico starting today through June 30, 2017. This will reduce fish mortality, which allows fish to grow and reproduce—supporting healthier populations of fish throughout the Gulf.
Vessel owners will be compensated for participating. During the repose period, they will be able to harvest yellowfin tuna by using greenstick, an alternative fishing gear. This gear results in low bycatch but is not widely used in the Gulf. This will provide an opportunity to study and improve the efficiency of greenstick gear over time.
Many species of oceanic fish were killed or injured during the spill, including tuna, billfish, sharks, mackerel and deepwater fish. Fish that survived the initial spill and cleanup continue to suffer detrimental effects. Scientists found toxic impacts, including heart damage. They also found developmental deformities such as a curved spine, reduced growth rates, impaired immunity, reduced swimming performance, and inhibited reproduction.
About half of the 45 eligible Gulf vessel owners applied this year, and seven were selected. We’re launching the project as a pilot to allow for adjustments and enhancements for the full rollout next year. The project will continue over the next five to 10 years, with an expected six-month period beginning each January and ending on June 30.
The Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group developed the project, and we’re partnering with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The project does not affect existing management practices or regulations and no new regulations are being issued.