Approximately 40 boats use surface longline gear in the Gulf. These fishermen catch yellowfin tuna and swordfish by setting hundreds of hooks on lines that stretch an average of 30 miles. But surface longlines also catch and kill approximately 80 other species, including spawning bluefin tuna, endangered sea turtles, and hard-fighting game fish such as blue marlin.5 Commercial longline fishermen are prohibited from keeping game fish, so they throw them back, many of which die.
Even the target species are wasted. Due to size limits designed to protect juvenile swordfish, many are thrown back. In fact, for every swordfish kept, more than one is discarded for this reason. Of those discarded, only 23 percent survive.
Shark and ray experts from around the world gathered last week at the Zoological Society of London to address the plight of the most threatened marine fishes in the world – the sawfishes. The group, convened by the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Shark Specialist Group, is breaking new ground with the development of a focused global action plan to bring these iconic species back from the brink of extinction.