False Killer Whales, Truly at Risk from Pacific Longlines

Dr. Andy Read is a marine mammologist and Duke Univeristy Marine Lab professor. He’s also part of a team of experts that convened last week in Honolulu. The new Take Reduction Team (TRT) is assessing the high mortality rate of false killer whales in the Pacific longline fishery.  The team’s assessment is long overdue.

Thanks to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, the TRT is legally mandated. Its implementation does not meant that it is too late to mitigate our affects on this population. Afterall, the Pacific longline fishery is use to being highly regulated. To its credit, it has adopted a suite of bycatch reducing technologies that have proven to minimize the take of threatened species (ie. side setting and streamers to reduce albatross take).  But the recent drop in this distinct poplulation is truly shocking; from more than 500 in 1989, only 100 individuals remain. Our behavioral changes will have to be significant.

If you’re equally as shocked, read on: http://honoluluweekly.com/cover/2010/02/truth-or-consequences/

I was recently in Honolulu at the longline fishery’s main market. I snapped this photo of Sean Martin, my guide around the market. He is the owner of several longline fishing boats, president of the Hawaii Longline Association, to which the owners of all of Hawaii’s 125 longliners belong, and co-owner with Jim Cook, another past Wespac chairman, of Pacific Ocean Producers, the Pacific’s biggest fisheries-supply company.

Sean’s on the TRT as well and has a lot to lose. The longliners, Hawaii’s largest commercial fishery, bring in about $60 million a year.