The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council has recommended banning wire leaders for Hawaii’s deep-set longline fishery to protect the oceanic whitetip shark, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Advocates of the ban are hoping that now that the U.S. is moving to protect the species, that international agencies can be persuaded to do the same.
The Council, also known as Wespac, made the decision in late June to replace the wire leaders with monofilament nylon leaders. That would reduce post-release injury and death to oceanic whitetip sharks when they get hooked on longline fishing hooks.
Wespac has also recommended that all longline vessels operating under the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan be required to remove as much trailing gear from caught sharks as possible.
According to Eric Kingma, executive director of the Hawaii Longline Association, in the absence of their fleet the Western and Central Pacific Ocean stock would see only a minor increase in terms of stock rebuilding over the next 20 to 30 years. The focus, said Kingma, really needs to be on international fleets.
The Hawaii Longline Association announced in November that it would voluntarily begin switching from wire leaders to monofilament ones for its deep-set longline vessels and according to Kingma, is closing in on completing that gear transition.
While removing shallow hooks would further reduce the post-release mortality of oceanic whitetip sharks in Hawaii's deep-set longline fishery the gear change would also have a significant impact on the fishery's annual revenue.
The amendments approved by Wespac are now subject to a review by the National Marine Fisheries Service.