New Atlantic swordfish pilot will collect crucial data and test new technologies

Statement from Environmental Defense Fund

August 12, 2017
Matt Smelser, (202) 572-3272,

(WASHINGTON – August 12, 2017) The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced that it will issue an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to Dr. David Kerstetter of Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Kerstetter will be working with Atlantic swordfish fishermen to conduct research in the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area. Katie Westfall, Senior Manager of Highly Migratory Species Advocacy for EDF’s Oceans Program, issued the following statement.

“We applaud approval of this project, which will collect crucial data, pilot new technologies, and lead to improvements in the way we manage our fisheries.

“The once depleted Atlantic swordfish population has rebounded strongly thanks in no small part to the sacrifices of fishermen, and was declared rebuilt in 2009. American pelagic longline fishermen in the Atlantic and Gulf have made significant strides in reducing bycatch of imperiled species. We need to continue to improve our understanding of encounter rates of juvenile swordfish and species like sharks, billfishes and sea turtles in order to find the best ways to reduce their mortality.

“This project will do that by accelerating science-based and data-driven innovations in the fishery. Specifically, it will test electronic monitoring and reporting for all species, both target and bycatch. Carefully tabulating catch across all fisheries that interact with imperiled highly migratory species is critical to putting them on the path to recovery. Having healthy populations of target and bycatch species will also ultimately improve fishing opportunities for both commercial fishermen and recreational anglers.   

“The project will also pioneer an approach to link catch data with oceanographic data, allowing researchers to learn over time where and when species will occur in order to help fishermen avoid bycatch of sharks, billfishes, and sea turtles. This has the potential to be transformative by dramatically minimizing unnecessary deaths of protected species while improving the catch of healthy target species like swordfish.

“Moreover, as the administration pursues its stated goal of closing the U.S. seafood trade deficit, innovations like these can pave the way to responsibly increasing yield in domestic fisheries and strengthening revenues for American seafood businesses. The United States is currently leaving two-thirds of our science-based quota for Atlantic swordfish in the water, and projects such as this can help safely unlock that value for fishermen and fishing communities.”

For more background and related content:

How science and technology can help save sharks

Protecting imperiled ocean travelers

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