Center for Biological Diversity

Help Save Marine Life From Unsustainable Longline Fishing

Beaufort Sea in Spring
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Help stop a new proposal that would further threaten vulnerable marine life in the southeast North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent seafood-certification organization that supposedly helps consumers identify "sustainable," eco-friendly seafood. But the council may soon put its "sustainable" label on swordfish, yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna caught by surface longlines off the coast of northeast Florida.

These surface longlines are anything but sustainable. Certifying these fisheries could mislead well-meaning consumers into believing their purchases were safe for sea turtles and other marine wildlife, even though those purchases could actually be causing them serious harm.

Surface longline fleets set hundreds of hooks on lines that stretch up to 40 miles. This type of indiscriminate fishing catches thousands of other animals, including threatened and endangered sea turtles and majestic fish such as marlin, bluefin tuna and sailfish. Longline fishermen are prohibited from keeping many of these animals, so they throw them back into the ocean, where many of these discarded fish die. Many of the targeted swordfish and tuna meet the same fate, thrown away to die because they are too small.

This fishery snags marine animals migrating through the area to get to the Gulf of Mexico, an important breeding and feeding area. In fact, the Gulf contains the only documented spawning area for bluefin tuna in the Western Atlantic. The BP oil disaster has added to the threats that species using the Gulf ecosystem already faced from commercial fisheries and other sources of pollution. With the short- and long-term ecological impacts of the BP oil disaster still unknown, certifying any fishery in this region as "sustainable" -- especially a surface longline fishery known to catch significant numbers of non-target and imperiled animals -- would be inadvisable.

Whether this fishery is awarded the "sustainable" label will depend, in large part, on how much of an impact the Marine Stewardship Council believes the fishery has on the marine ecosystem.
Make your voice heard: Tell the council to deny these certifications now.

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Please submit comments by September 30, 2010.

Loggerhead sea turtle photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/DamienDuToit.