The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which manages federal fisheries operating in waters offshore of Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam and elsewhere, has recommended replacing blue-dyed fish bait and strategic offal discharge with tori lines as a seabird conservation measure.
The regulatory change, which was approved Nov. 30, is based on a fishing industry-led collaborative project with Hawai’i longline vessels conducting field experiments over the past three years to compare seabird interaction rates with baited hooks.
Tori lines consist of a line with streamers and a buoy or extra fishing line attached at the end to create drag. The line is towed from a high point near the stern of the vessel over the area where the baited hooks are deployed.
“The Hawaii Longline Association fully supports this change to tori lines,” HLA Executive Director Eric Kingma said.
Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds added that the action represents “the Council’s long history of proactive and adaptive conservation measures to address fishery impacts to protected species.”
The Hawai‘i deep-set longline fishery, which targets bigeye tuna, has been using a suite of seabird mitigation measures since 2001 under the Council’s Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan.
“The effort was accomplished through the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s bottom-up approach for making or changing fishery regulations that starts with an issue presented from Council advisory groups and the public,” the Fishery Management Council explained in a statement.
The Council also endorsed a recommendation to use a single-species, age-structured management approach for the next American Samoa bottomfish stock assessment scheduled for 2023. The American Samoa bottomfish fishery is managed in an 11-species complex that, according to a 2019 Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) assessment, is overfished.