Hawaii’s longline community scrambles to outfish false killer whales
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those at the forefront of managing Hawaii’s deep-sea fishing industry are meeting this week in hopes of figuring out how to deal with their catch being seized off their lines.
It’s one of the issues facing the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which oversees Hawaii’s longline vessels that bring in the ahi supply for the state and parts of the U.S. mainland.
Over the last several years, the council says its seen more cases of false killer whales, actually a species of dolphin, snatching fish right off a hook.
In years’ past, they’ve run into similar issues with seabirds and turtles, but gear has since been adapted.
Now, the false killer whales present an entirely different challenge with a direct economic impact.
“Imagine having your catch once you are pulling your gear up, all you find is just the fish heads, that’s basically what’s happening,” said WPRFMC protected species coordinator Asuka Ishizaki.
“With the false killer whales it’s been a big challenge and it continues to be a challenge across the Pacific because the depredation is happening where the crew cannot see them. They’re very smart.”
NOAA says false killer whales are an endangered species around the main Hawaiian islands, but their numbers are more plentiful where these fishing vessels operate about 200 nautical miles offshore.
The council says some have been inadvertently hooked, but were released safely.
Proposed long-term solutions could include acoustic measures that would keep the whales away.
It’s also explored using weaker hooks.
However, vessels risk bringing in smaller fish or losing ahi entirely.
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