For Immediate Release

Environmental Group Supports Solutions to Save Sea Turtles and Fishing Communities

AUSTIN, Texas - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will hear public comments this week regarding preliminary federal observer data that show an increase of endangered loggerhead sea turtle interactions with grouper fishermen's longline fishing gear off the west coast of Florida. The Council has reported considering several solutions to the problem: time/area season closures, fishing gear modifications, alternative baits, observer programs and effort limitation.

The following statement can be attributed to Heather Paffe, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Oceans Program of Environmental Defense Fund:

"The best solution will use a combination of methods to keep grouper fishermen on the water, while reducing turtle interaction to ensure that steady growth and recovery levels are maintained. We are working with industry members, including fishermen, regulators and other environmental groups to find a win-win compromise for the near future.

For the longer term, regulators and fishermen are already working together on a new grouper Individual Fishing Quota management plan, expected for implementation in 2010. Studies show that the plan will reduce the amount of fishing by at least 30 percent. With fewer hooks in the water, and more time to tend fishing gear, there are fewer chances for interactions with turtles."



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