Federal regulations suspend fishing for swordfish

Sean Martin
Sean Martin
Guy Tamashiro
Guy Tamashiro
NOAA regional administrator Mike Tosatto
NOAA regional administrator Mike Tosatto

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Instead of fishing for swordfish, the crew of the Lady Christine was back at Pier 38, retrofitting the boat after being ordered out of a fishery.

"When we go outside there they say, 'Be careful. One more turtle you have to bring the boat back,'" owner Kevin Tran said.

The Lady Christine and 25 other swordfish crews troll an area known as the Shallow Set fishery, where swordfish thrive. It's also where NOAA fisheries monitors encounters fishermen have with endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles.

"We've set a limit on the number of sea turtles that the fishery can interact with. When that is met we have to close the fishery," NOAA regional administrator Mike Tosatto said.

The limit was reached on November 18. The fishery will remain closed through the end of the year.  But the president of the Hawaii Longline Association thinks evidence exists to support raising the interaction limit.

"In four years with a federal observer on every boat that's making a shallow set in the last four years, there's been no observed mortalities or serious injuries," Sean Martin said.

With swordfish fishing on hold, owners of Tamashiro Market believe ahi prices could drop for the holidays if swordfish fishermen start going after tuna.

"That's great for Hawaii's consumers because then we'll hopefully get a larger supply," Guy Tamashiro said. "A larger supply hopefully translates into much better prices for everybody."

The fishery closed just as the Lady Christine got there. That cost the owners $8,000 in wasted fuel.

"We understand that anytime we close a fishery it has a significant economic cost, particularly on the small operators," Tosatto said.

Tran and his wife, Christine, own two swordfish boats. One left Monday to fish for tuna. The Lady Christine leaves Saturday.

"I hope I can make money, a little bit, to pay for the crew or something. So I can wait for next season, for swordfish only," he said.

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