Today Turtle Island Restoration Network objected to the proposed certification of the Canadian Atlantic longline fishery for swordfish as sustainable under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). More than 1,200 endangered leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles are captured and injured or killed every year by the Northwest Atlantic longline fishing fleet. (Download our comment letter below.)
We were hoping that the certification for the pelagic longline portion of this fishery had been halted because of its overall unsustainability due to high bycatch of endangered, threatened and protected species and non-target fish. TIRN is very concerned that this fishery is allowed to operate without any protections for sea turtles and is being considered for MSC certification. In general, pelagic longlining is indiscriminate and typically more than 50 percent of catch consists of non-target marine life, which is wasteful and not sustainable.
Given that the MSC fishery assessment appears to be getting underway again, we submitted a comment letter that highlighted several new developments that need to be seriously considered:
1. The Northwest Atlantic population of loggerhead sea turtles that are caught as bycatch in the fishery is now being uplisted from threatened to endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act primarily due to declines as a result of injury and death in longline fisheries.
2. The Southeast Atlantic longline fishery for swordfish and tuna is now being assessed for certification under the Marine Stewardship Council. Because the fishery stocks and ETP populations overlap with the two fisheries, the cumulative impacts of both fisheries must be considered.
3. The U. S. is now developing regulations to establish bycatch standards for foreign fishing fleets that sell to the U.S. market under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which may disqualify the fishery from exporting if bycatch of ETP species is above the thresholds contained in the Act and any additional standards that may be developed to protect other species including sea turtles.
4. Swordfish is high in mercury and poses a health risk to women and children and so should not be certified as sustainable.
To download the entire comment letter as a PDF, click here.