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NOAA establishes new fishing rule

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — NOAA Fisheries Service has implemented a rule to reduce the sea turtle bycatch in the bottom longline component of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery.

The rule prohibits bottom longlining for Gulf reef fish east of 85o30’W longitude (near Cape San Blas, Fla.) shoreward of the line approximating the 35-fathom depth contour with a restriction of 1,000 hooks per vessel with no more than 750 hooks being fished or rigged for fishing at any given time.

During vessel transit through closed zones, no reef fish may be possessed unless bottom longline gear is appropriately stowed, meaning that a longline may be left on the drum if all gangions and hooks are disconnected and stowed below deck; hooks cannot be baited, and all buoys must be disconnected from the gear, but may remain on deck.

The purpose of this rule is to balance the continued operation of the bottom longline component of the reef fish fishery while maintaining adequately protective measures for loggerhead sea turtles pending implementation of long-term mitigation measures.

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