Release requirements for sharks caught in Eastern Pacific to go in effect

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, has issue a final rule for the management of shark species in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Purse-seine vessel owners, operators and crewmembers, as of Jan. 1, 2018, will be required to follow specified release requirements for sharks.

New federal regulations will also prohibit such longline vessels from using “shark lines” when targeting swordfish or tuna, according to a NMFS final rule published Nov. 28.

The final rule is being implemented as part of the Tuna Conventions Act.

“This final rule requires that the crew, operator, and owner of a U.S. commercial purse seine fishing vessel promptly release unharmed, to the extent practicable, any shark (whether live or dead) caught in the [Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission] Convention Area, as soon as it is seen in the net or on the deck, without compromising the safety of any persons,” NMFS’ decree stated. “If a shark is live when caught, the crew, operator, or owner of a U.S. commercial purse seine vessel must follow the release procedures described in [federal regulations].”

Shark line specifically refers to fishing gear used to target sharks and equipped with individual hooked line or lines attached to the floatline.

The towing of whale sharks out of a purse-seine net is also prohibited under the recently issued final rule.

Whale sharks (along with dolphins, sea turtles and small fish) are generally released alive once caught by a purse-seine fishery, according to an IATTC species report in 2016.

A statement issued by the World Wide Fund in February said fishing mortality in the EPO continued to increase in recent times due to an uptick in purse-seine fleet operations.

The United States is one of 21 members belonging to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, or IATTC. Its other members include Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kiribati, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

IATTC’s members are tasked with conserving and managing tuna and other marine resources in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA photo

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