Can the NOAA pick up the slack?
Earlier this week, the Trump Administration announced they will cancel a proposal to put protections limiting how many endangered marine mammals and turtles could fall victim to sword-fishing nets on the West Coast.
According to the proposal, a gill net fishery would face closure for two years if they killed or injured more than one endangered whale or turtle over a two-year period. The fishery would be closed permanently if they killed or injured four short-finned pilot whales or bottlenose dolphins.
“The Trump administration has declared war on whales, dolphins and turtles off the coast of California,” said Todd Steiner, director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network. “This determination will only lead to more potential litigation and legislation involving this fishery. It’s not a good sign.”
Preserving ocean biodiversity is more critical than ever, now that the ocean has been hit by overfishing, along with a tidal wave of plastic garbage and rapid acidification caused by global warming and chemical runoff.
The LA Times reports a list of species protected under the proposed restriction: “endangered fin, humpback, and sperm whales; short-finned pilot whales and common bottlenose dolphins; as well as endangered leatherback sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles and green sea turtles”.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says implementing the restrictions is not necessary because they have already succeeded in “dramatically reducing” the number of animals getting caught in the long, drifting nets. And, they have studies to back it up.
NOAA Fisheries says they’ve achieved this by introducing educational precautions, including “better training for skippers of fishing boats, sound warnings or pingers attached to fishing nets and wider openings at the top of nets that gave whales, dolphins, and turtles a better chance to escape.”
“The fishery has been under pressure for years to reduce its impact, and it has been very successful doing that,” expressed Michael Milstein on behalf of NOAA fisheries. “The cap would have imposed a cost on the industry to solve a problem that has already been addressed.”
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