False killer whales get new protection rules

Measures to reduce bycatch in longline fisheries; protect population from extinction

Published  2:27 PM HST Nov 21, 2012

Complying with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and two federal court orders, NOAA Fisheries announced Wednesday two actions to protect false killer whales in the Pacific Islands.

False killer whales, are members of the dolphin family and, though naturally uncommon, are found worldwide.  As top predators, false killer whales play an important role in the biodiversity of the oceans by helping maintain balance within the ecosystem.

NOAA Fisheries is establishing measures to reduce incidental catch of two stocks of false killer whales in the Hawaii-based commercial longline fisheries.

The act requires the development of take reduction plans for certain marine mammal stocks where there is frequent or occasional bycatch of marine mammals in commercial fisheries.

False killer whales in waters around Hawaii are incidentally caught in the Hawaii-based tuna and swordfish longline fisheries and have adapted to take bait and fish off longline fishing hooks, which can cause them to become hooked or entangled.

Currently, the bycatch of two false killer whale stocks, the Hawaii Pelagic and Main Hawaiian Islands Insular stocks, exceed the allowable levels established by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"The steps NOAA Fisheries is taking today will help mitigate the impact on these populations of false killer whales from accidental bycatch by longline fishing," said Sam Rauch, NOAA's deputy assistant administrator for fisheries.

"NOAA worked closely with fishermen and stakeholders to develop scientifically-based and common-sense solutions to reduce the unintended catch of these mammals.  We look forward to continuing our conversations with fishermen and others on bycatch reduction efforts."

In 2010, NOAA Fisheries convened a take reduction team of government, conservation, academic, and industry stakeholders to develop recommendations to reduce false killer whale interactions in Hawaii's commercial longline fisheries.

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