The Longline of the Law
Government Bans Longline Swordfishing to Protect Turtles
In an effort to protect endangered sea turtles, the U.S. government has banned California’s swordfish fleet from operating in a large swath of the Pacific Ocean. The ban — announced yesterday by the National Marine Fisheries Service — applies only to “longline” fishing, in which large baited hooks are strung up to 50 miles off the stern of boats. The air-breathing turtles — in addition to seabirds, sharks, and marlin — are inadvertently caught on the hooks and dragged underwater until they drown; even when they are caught and released alive, they frequently die from injuries sustained when hooks are embedded in their flesh. The same fleet was banned from the Hawaiian Islands several years ago; they will return there next year, under regulations requiring them to use experimental new gear designed to avoid snagging turtles. The new ban goes into effect on April 12.