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Continuing Need to Reduce Sea Turtle Bycatch and Bycatch Mortality in the Atlantic Pelagic Longline Fishery

June 19, 2014

NOAA Fisheries has reinitiated formal consultation on the Atlantic pelagic longline (PLL) fishery pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act to address new information on leatherback and loggerhead sea turtle take1 including mortality rates and population status. The consultation could result in a biological opinion with new management measures, including different total mortality limits, new gear requirements, and/or closed areas. During consultation, the PLL fishery will continue to operate in compliance with the 2004 Biological Opinion. NOAA Fisheries and the PLL fishery share the responsibility to reduce sea turtle bycatch. A comprehensive effort is needed to ensure that the PLL fishery complies with the terms specified in the 2004 Biological Opinion to protect threatened and endangered species and to allow continued operation of the fishery.

What NOAA Fisheries is doing:

Increasing education and outreach efforts with the PLL fishery including:

PLL fishermen can make a difference!

The future of the PLL fishery depends upon the actions of individual fishermen. You can reduce sea turtle bycatch and bycatch mortality by following these recommendations:

Research shows:  Both loggerhead and leatherback turtle catch rates varied with the surface water temperature. There was a dramatic increase in loggerhead catch rates for water temperatures over 72 degrees F. There was also an increase in leatherback turtle catch rates for water temperatures over 68 degrees F. This data indicates that turtle interaction rates can be reduced by fishing in cooler water temperatures.

Figure 1. Turtle Catch by Temperature (Watson et al. 2004)

Table 1. Required and recommended equipment for the Careful Release of Sea Turtles

Required (for turtles not boated)

Item A. (one) Long-handled line cutter
Item B. (one) Long-handled dehooker for internal hooks
Item C. (one) Long-handled dehooker for external hooks (the long-handled dehooker for internal hooks used for Item B will also satisfy this requirement)
Item D. (one) Long-handled device to pull and “Inverted V” (if 6-foot J-style dehooker is used for Item C.)
Item E. (one) Turtle control device (turtle tether or ninja sticks)

Required (for turtles boated)

Item F. (one) Dip net
Item G. (one) Standard automobile tire
Item H. (one) Short-handled dehooker for internal hooks
Item I. (one) Short-handled dehooker for removing external hooks (the short-handled dehooker for internal hooks will also satisfy this requirement)
Item J. (one) Long-nose or needle-nose pliers
Item K. (one) Bolt cutters
Item L. (one) Monofilament line cutter
Item M. (two) Mouth openers / mouth gags selected from the list to the right:
  1. Block of hard wood
  1. A set of three (3) canine mouth gags
  1. A set of two (2) sturdy dog chew bones
  1. Two (2) rope loops covered with hose
  1. A hank of rope
  1. A set of four (4) PVC splice couplings
  1. A large avian oral speculum

Recommended Equipment

Item N. (one) Turtle hoist

How can I get more information?

For further information on PLL fishery requirements to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality of sea turtles, contact the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, 263 13th Ave. South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701 (phone: 727-824-5399). Information is also available at:

1 The Endangered Species Act definition of take: “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct" (§ 1532 (19)).


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