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Cooperative research eyes driftnet impacts.


An American scientific observer completed 28 days of research aboard a Japanese tuna drift gill-net research vessel on 30 July 1989, announced George W. Boehlert, Director of the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Center's Honolulu Laboratory. The NMFS observer, Donald Hawn, documented the kinds and numbers of animals caught by the Kaisho Maru and recorded other pertinent data after joining the vessel on 2 July in Kesennuma, Japan.

The impact of driftnets on high-seas resources is a topic of increasing interest. In waters north of Hawaii, fleets of fishing boats from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan are using driftnets to catch tuna, salmon, squid, and marlin. Controversy arises because the driftnets also kill marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and other marine animals living in the same area as the targeted species of fish or squid.

To assess the impacts of the high-seas driftnet fleets on resources of interest to the United States, an agreement between the United States and Japan was signed in June in accordance with the 1987 Driftnet Act. The agreement called for a limited amount of cooperative catch monitoring and research during 1989. A more extensive agreement is expected next year, according to Boehlert.

As part of the accord, the United States was invited to place a scientific observer aboard a Japanese tuna driftnet research vessel to document the kinds and numbers of animals caught and to record other pertinent information. According to Hawn, the Kaisho Maru used about 6 miles of driftnet each night, with a mesh size ("eye") of about 7 inches, designed to catch albacore. The research vessel operated 1,500-1,900 miles northwest of Honolulu in international waters, where albacore are found near the ocean surface during the summer months.

Besides albacore, the vessel caught a variety of other species. While the vessel was in transit, Hawn and a Japanese scientist identified marine mammals in the fishing area and collected information on marine debris. They also recorded profiles of ocean temperature.

Once the data are processed, a report on the research findings will be prepared, according to Jerry A. Wetherall, a fisheries scientist who.' heads up the Honolulu Laboratory's Pelagic Resources Investigation as well as the driftnet research program. Wetherall noted that this was the first time the NMFS has had the opportunity to collaborate with a foreign country on a survey of driftnet fishing for tuna. Since 1986, U.S. scientists have regularly participated in research surveys by foreign driftnet vessels fishing for squid. "Because of growing concerns about the high-seas driftnets and the need to better understand their effects on marine ecosystems, more opportunities for cooperative research can be expected, " Wetherall said.
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Title Annotation:United States National Marine Fisheries observer Donald Hawn; Japanese tuna drift gill-net research vessel Kaisho Maru
Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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