Longline Fishing

What is longline fishing?

Longline fishing uses a long line, called the main line, with baited hooks attached at intervals by branch lines called snood gangions. A snood is a short length of line, connected to the main line using a clip or swivel, with the hook at the other end. Longlines are classified mainly by where they are placed in the water column. They can be placed at the surface or at the bottom. Lines can also be set by an anchor, or left to drift. Hundreds or even thousands of baited hooks can hang from a single line
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Where are longlines set?

Longlines can be set to hang near the surface (pelagic) to catch fish like tuna and swordfish or along the sea floor (demersal) for groundfish like halibut or cod.

What types of fish are harvested by longline fishing?


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How does your device harm or benefit the ecosystem?

Longline fishing harms the ecosystem because of all the organisms in the ocean that it accidentally catches. Various sea creatures are caught accidentally like sea turtles and sharks, along with albatrosses and other sea birds.

Ways of mitigating the effects of your device?

To mitigate the effects, fisheries can use of weights to ensure the lines sink quickly, deploy brightly colored streamer lines to scare away birds, and set lines only at night in low light. Using circle hooks instead of J hooks can also help lower by-catch numbers because they are less likely to be swallowed by turtles.

Bycatch numbers

An estimated 100,000 albatross per year are killed by longline fishing and a by-catch limit of 17 loggerhead turtles was reached. In 2010 the by-catch limit for loggerhead turtles was raised, but was restored to the former limit as a result of litigation. Commercial longline fishing is also one of the main threats to albatrosses.

Government Regulation

At the In 1992, the Australian government enacted strict regulations requiring all longline vessels in CCAMLAR(Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) waters to use a series of avoidance measures. The U.S. adopted these measures in March 1995 for all U.S. flagged vessels in CCAMLR waters.

Since 1992, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand have ordered seabird mitigation measures to be used in their Southern bluefin tuna longline fishery and made the use of bird-scaring lines mandatory in their fisheries.

In 1996, Australia required all vessels fishing below 30 degrees south latitude to use bird-scaring lines.

In October 1996, the IUCN(World Conservation Union) adopted a resolution urging nations to "adopt the goal of eliminating seabird by-catch within longline fisheries" and "...implement seabird by-catch reduction measures immediately within longline fisheries."

In April 1997, the U.S. adopted regulations for all Alaskan longliners requiring the use of some methods to avoid killing seabirds. This was spurred by the killing of an endangered species, the short-tailed Albatross.

At the Bonn Convention in 1997, all of the world’s albatross species were listed as protected. Article 7.6.9 of the United Nations FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries adopted by all member nations: Provides that states should take appropriate measures to minimize waste, discards, catch by lost or abandoned gear, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, and negative impact on associated or dependent species, in particular endangered species. It further provides that states and regional fisheries management organizations should promote, to the extent practicable, the development and use of selective, environmentally safe, and cost effective gear and techniques.

What would happen if the government banned this type of commercial harvest?

Other methods would have to be used, a similar but more sustainable option is rod and reel fishing (regular fishing). It would take much longer to catch fish and the prices would likely go up. Many fisheries would need to change their equipment and strategies, costing lots of money.

Is this fishing method environmentally sustainable? Why or why not?

Longline fishing is not sustainable because there is a large amount of by-catch that comes with longlining which disrupts the environment. Birds, turtles, and sharks are the most affected. Overfishing also becomes a factor when so many fish are caught in a short period of time. Despite mitigation efforts longline fishing still kills over 40,000 sea turtles a year and Japanese longliners alone are estimated to kill over 44,000 albatrosses a year.

If your fishing practice is harmful for ecosystem health, what are some alternatives seafood choices for consumers? Where would we find out more information about this?

Longline fishing is harmful because of bycatch, fish caught while seeking another species or juveniles of the target species. This can cause many issues, killing many other marine animals. Seabirds can be especially vulnerable during the setting of the line. Fishing only during certain parts of the year and making sure not to overfish help fish stay plentiful. Rod and reel fishing, spear fishing, and cast net fishing are more sustainable than longline fishing and produce less bycatch. There are many alternative seafood choices, and eating fish that have been sustainably farmed and are not wild can help put less pressure on the wild fish. More information about what seafood is recommended to have less of an effect on the environment can be found at http://www.seafoodwatch.org/.