A new regulation prohibiting the use of wire leaders in the Hawaii deepset longline fishery goes into effect this month.
Taking effect on May 31, the new regulation, will replace wire leaders with nylon alternatives and is expected to increase the survival of hooked oceanic whitetip sharks by up to 30%.
Leaders are the short lengths of wire attached to the longer trunk line that stop fish such as tuna and swordfish from biting themselves free from baited hooks. Monofilament leaders give sharks a better chance of survival because they can bite themselves free, or fishermen can more easily cut them loose and release the shark.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regulation comes after the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) and Hawaii Longline Association were required by a lawsuit to address the issue in 2020.
Many sharks that have been released or were able to tear away are observed with trailing hooks, damaged mouths and trailing wire. Many however drown on the line and are cut away and unreported, or worse finned illegal to supply the shark fin trade. Although not perfect, monofilament will help this species will survive.
Oceanic whitetip sharks, once one of the most abundant sharks in the ocean, are now critically endangered after years of being caught by longline fisheries as bycatch and in the shark fin trade.
The HLA estimated that the group’s approximately 140 vessels unwittingly hooked about 1,500 oceanic whitetips a year. In late 2020, the Hawaii Longline Association’s members started voluntarily phasing out wire leaders.
Wespac last year recommended NOAA implement the regulation after a working group supported the measure.
The rule also recommends that fishers in the Western Pacific longline fisheries remove as much fishing gear from the threatened sharks as possible before release.