On May 2, 2017 United States Fish and Wildlife Service published its Biological Opinion (B.O.) addressing observed take of endangered short-tailed albatross in commercial groundfish longline fisheries managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. The Incidental Take Statement in the B.O. lists nondiscretionary term and conditions, one of which mandates that the Council develop recommendations to extend the requirement for larger commercial groundfish longline vessels to use streamer lines (which deter seabirds from diving on baited hooks as they are deployed) to vessels 26-55 feet length overall (LOA). (Currently vessels 55 feet and longer must use streamer lines.) This term and condition would also allow vessels to set the gear at night (when albatrosses are not active) as an alternative to deploying streamer lines. These requirements apply when fishing in Federal waters (3-200 nautical miles).
At its June 2019 meeting the Council took final action by choosing its preferred alternative. The Council’s preferred alternative would require non-tribal vessels 26 feet and greater LOA using bottom longline gear as defined under 50 CFR 660.11 in the limited entry fixed gear and open access fixed gear sectors, and longline vessels under the Shorebased IFQ Program to either use streamer lines according to the Alaska streamer line requirements or deploy gear between one hour after local sunset and one hour before local sunrise when declared into a Federal fishery and fishing in Federal waters. In addition:
- When fishing south of 36° N. latitude, vessels would be exempted from the requirement to deploy streamer lines or night set.
- For vessels 26-55 feet LOA, deploying streamer lines would be discretionary when a small craft wind advisory or higher is declared, in the area where the vessel is fishing.
Finally, the Council encourages continued collaborative research to develop and test enforceable floated mainline gear configurations that can sink within the streamer line zone to reduce seabird interactions.