FACT SHEETS - LONG LINE FISHING
Longline fishing is a technique used to target fish in open waters, including those that live near the sea floor. A longline includes a main fishing line up to 100 kilometres in length, with secondary lines branching off it; each set with hundreds of thousands of barbed, baited hooks. This technique is used in the waters off the United States (e.g. Atlantic coast and Hawaiian waters), South America, Australia, New Zealand and southern African countries.
Longlining is used to target fish species such as tuna, swordfish and Patagonian toothfish but indiscriminately kills millions of other species that get caught 'incidentally' on the hooks.
It has been estimated that a staggering 50,000 sharks are caught on longlines in Australian waters every year. Sharks are a group of animals with many species having a reproductive biology ill equipped to cope with elevated levels of unnatural mortality.
All five species of sea turtle that traverse Australian waters are federally listed as threatened or endangered species and are caught on longlines. As many as 450 turtles may be caught a year on Australian longlines - numbers these highly imperilled group of animals can ill afford to lose from their populations.
Longlines pose an enormous threat to seabirds, especially endangered species of albatross and petrel. Seabirds attracted to the baited hooks drown when the lines sink to catch the fish.
Internationally, pirate longline fishers or that poach Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean are responsible for killing over a hundred thousand of seabirds a year and for causing a decline in Patagonian toothfish populations as well. It is estimated that a staggering 400 albatrosses die on longlines every week around the world and several populations are teetering closer and closer to extinction as a result.
HSI Action to Mitigate Impacts of Longline Fishing
HSI has expended enormous effort to protect endangered albatross and petrels from longline fishing in Australian waters. A HSI nomination submitted in 1995 secured the listing of longline fishing as a ' key threatening process' under Australia' s federal endangered species legislation. This led to the development of Australia' s Threat Abatement Plan for longline fishing. HSI remains on the Government's Longline Fishing Threat Abatement Team.
The Threat Abatement Plan now requires Australian longliners to only set their long lines at night when there is less risk of seabird capture. An ' underwater setting device' to deploy the lines at depths beyond the reach of diving seabirds is also being developed.
HSI campaigns against longline fishing near sensitive albatross and petrel colonies at Heard and MacDonald and Macquarie islands in sub-Antarctic waters.
HSI also wants to see Government and industry action to prevent turtle and shark bycatch on Australian longlines. We have been pressuring for shark bycatch to be addressed through our role as an adviser on the Government's Shark Advisory Group developing a National Plan of the Conservation and Management of Sharks. We also campaign for improvements to the Government's 'Bycatch Action Plan' for longline fisheries.
In 2002, HSI campaigned for the Patagonian toothfish to be listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) to establish greater controls over the trade in the species and close down the opportunities for the poachers to ply their illegal catch.
HSI also sends a delegate every year to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) calling on Governments party to that Convention to do all possible to combat illegal longline fishing.