SWORDFISH DRIFT GILLNET FISHERY
Lyle Enriquez, Program
Coordinator, NMFS, Southwest Region, 501 West Ocean Bvld., Suite 4200,
Long Beach, CA 90802-4213, (562) 980-4025, Lyle.Enriquez@noaa.gov
Observer Program Mandate and Authority
Mission of the Program: To document the incidental take of
marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, target and non-target fish species. To collect
selected biological specimens.
Fishery management: Federal and State (California
Department of Fish & Game; Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife).
Mandatory Authority to place observers: Marine Mammal
Protection Act, Category I Fishery
Program duration: July 1990 to present.
Annual program costs: Agency costs US $550,000.
Funding source(s): Government funded (Base, $500,000
Recover Protected Species funds).
Government staffing: Management - 2 FTE's (Full Time
Target species: Swordfish and thresher shark (common,
Other commercially landed species: Mako shark, opah,
louvar, and tunas (albacore, bluefin, yellowfin).
Bycatch: Blue shark and common mola.
Cetaceans: Sperm whale, Humpback whale, Fin whale,
short-finned pilot whale, Minke whale, short-beaked common dolphin, long-beaked common
dolphin, Risso's dolphin, Dall's porpoise, Pacific white-sided dolphin, northern right
Pinnipeds: California sea lion and northern elephant seal.
Sea turtles: Leatherback and loggerhead.
Fleet size: Marine Mammal Authorization Certificates are
held by 95 vessels, approximately 75 are active. Vessels are 35-65 feet long.
Gear: Drift gillnets range in length from 800 fathoms, to
the maximum allowable 1000 fathoms. The stretched mesh size of a drift gillnet is
typically between 18 and 21 inches.
Season of operation: The fishery is closed within 200
miles of the coast of California and Oregon from February 1 to April 30. From May 1 to
August 14 the closure changes to 75 miles offshore. Most fishing occurs between August 15
and January 31, when closure restrictions are lifted. The majority of fishing effort takes
place from October through December.
Observer Program Management
Brief overview of program structure: The Southwest Region
- Long Beach Office, is responsible for monitoring the California/Oregon swordfish drift
gillnet fishery. Observer training is conducted in conjunction with Southwest Fisheries
Science Center - La Jolla Laboratory, Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, NMFS
enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard, and the fishing industry. By March 2003, 151 biological
technicians have been hired, trained and 1176 trips (6,719 sets) completed. During the
2002-03 fishing season, there were 16 observers observing the swordfish drift gillnet
fleet. Trips typically last 6 to 20 days. The Southwest Fisheries Science Center receives
the observer data to calculate estimates of incidental take rates of marine mammals in
preparation of the Annual Stock Assessment Reports.
Service delivery type and function of each entity: NMFS is
responsible for observer training, initial debriefing, and data management. A NMFS
approved contractor is responsible for observer recruitment, monitoring vessel activity,
observer deployment, logistics, insurance/benefits, and delivery of observer data to NMFS.
Vessel owners and operators are responsible for contacting the designated contractor to
make arrangements for mandatory placement of NMFS trained observers aboard their vessels.
Other participating agencies: Through a cooperative
agreement with the California Department of Fish and Game, total annual fishing effort is
calculated for use in estimating total marine mammal mortality.
Unit and definition of fishing effort for purpose of
estimating coverage: Drift gillnet vessels in this fleet make a single net-pull (e.g.,
set) each day, thus each day that a vessel makes a set is a sampling unit.
Fraction of fishing activity observed: Approximately 21
percent of the total fishing effort.