Regulations to Authorize Deep-set Buoy Gear for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species

Finally moving in the right direction for HMS conservation on the West Coast.

NOAA Fisheries is requesting public comment on proposed regulations (88 FR 7661) to implement Amendment 6 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS). If approved, this would authorize deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) as an additional gear type for catching swordfish and other HMS in federal waters off of California and Oregon with limited entry.

Drift gillnet – Photo credit: NOAA

The Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended that NOAA Fisheries authorize this DSBG as an additional commercial gear type nearly four years ago to improve the economic viability of the West Coast-based swordfish fishery while minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable. Currently, drift gillnet is the primary authorized gear type for targeting swordfish off the West Coast but it is being phased out. Although the majority of domestic swordfish landings to the West Coast come from the Hawaii-based longline fishery, which operates outside of federal waters off the West Coast.

Deep-set buoy gear has been explored as an alternative way of fishing for swordfish in waters off the U.S. West Coast since 2011 through a series of research trials and exempted fishing permits (EFPs) issued on a case-by-case basis. The gear type catches fish in deep water using a long vertical line attached to surface buoys. Fishing in deep water helps reduce interactions between the gear and non-target species.

NOAA Fisheries accepting public comments on it through March 10, 2023, and TBF will be submitting our comments regarding this positive step for the US West Coast HMS fishery.