Gulf of Mexico fisheries regulators recently closed down longline fishing (7-9 mile fishing lines with hundreds of hooks) in the Gulf of Mexico off west Florida for six months because the government reported that more threatened sea turtles were being caught than expected. The result of the closure is that turtles will be saved, but jobs will be lost.
On top of this six month closure, the Gulf Council will make a decision later this week on additional measures the longline fishermen will have to take to avoid interacting with sea turtles. Again, the good news is that turtles will be saved and the bad news is that jobs will be lost.
In the midst of all this, our very own Dave McKinney came up with a solution to save turtles and jobs. We’ve started a grant program that provides financial assistance to longline fishermen who convert to vertical gear, which causes far fewer turtle interactions. We have already received almost 30 applications and the new gear has already been put on more than five vessels.
As a result, turtles are safer, fishermen have jobs and we’re thrilled because financially stable fisheries are important for achieving our conservation goals. Florida’s U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have agreed and have given us kudos for finding the ways that work.