A plan to protect endangered false killer whales from being killed or injured in the Hawai‘ian longline fishery for tuna and swordfish calls for modifications in fishing gear, no-fishing areas, more observers on fishing vessels and a number of voluntary crew training measures. The Take Reduction Plan resulted from litigation by Turtle Island Restoration Network and conservation partners that forced National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the whales as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. [See previous press release and links to litigation.] A public comment period on the plan will be opened soon.
Each year, the Hawai‘i-based longline fleet hooks and entangles as many as 10 or more false killer whales, resulting in serious injury or death through drowning. National Marine Fisheries Services studies show that, for nearly a decade, the Hawai‘i longline fishery has been killing Hawai‘i’s false killer whales at rates far beyond what the population – which currently numbers only about 500 – can sustain. The current plan allows for 2.5 interactions with fishing gear per year.
Under the Take Reduction Plan released July 19, 2010:
Circle hooks will be required for the tuna fleet
Testing of "weak hooks" that break away if a whale is hooked
Closure of an area north of the Main Hawai‘ian Islands to longline fishing year round where take levels were high (both tuna and swordfish fisheries)
and a conditional closure of much of the southern half of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone around Hawai‘i to deep-set longlining for tuna if overall take rate doesn't go down.
Read more at the NMFS Protected Resources site.