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Reopening of Hawaiian Fishery Lays Groundwork for Far-reaching Sea Turtle Protection

Tests of New Safeguards Offer Hope for Sea Turtles

Honolulu, Hawaii -- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today joined the Blue Ocean Institute in voicing support for NOAA's conditional re-opening of the Hawaii longline swordfish fishery. The fishery will employ new measures to control unnecessary sea turtle fatalities.

In comments delivered in Honolulu, Hawaii on Tuesday, Kimberly Davis, deputy director of World Wildlife Fund's Marine Conservation Program said:

"The decision to reopen the Hawaiian longline fishery with strict new sea turtle protections offers a critical opportunity to prove that new methods of longline fishing are consistent with the survival of some of the planet's oldest creatures. It will chart the course to saving endangered turtles while allowing fishing to continue.

"Longline fishing fleets in the Pacific have been growing for some time. The best hope for turtles rests with innovative approaches to making longline fishermen our allies in saving them. Equipment and procedures that will be tested in Hawaii have already proven to dramatically reduce sea turtle mortality in the North Atlantic. For endangered sea turtles, every day counts. It's urgent for the turtle-sparing innovations used in the North Atlantic to get tested, refined and shared in the Pacific as quickly as possible.

"Undoubtedly, while some will see reopening the Hawaiian fishery as a short-term risk for the species -- we consider it an essential long-term investment in sea turtle survival. As a first step, turtle protections will include reduced fishing operations with mandatory monitoring to enforce strict limits on turtle interactions. But this is only the first step. Ultimately, NOAA has assured us that the Hawaiian experiment will play an important role in converting the entire longline fleet to better turtle conservation practices. Today marks an important milestone on the path to sea turtle survival.

"It will be crucial that the United States work for continuous improvement in all U.S fisheries that threaten endangered turtles and also endangered sea birds, and work to catalyze conservation efforts in other countries through both technical and financial assistance. It will also be crucial that the U.S. pursue diplomatic efforts to ensure that other countries take these issues as seriously as we do."