Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Comparison of Four Closed-Area Management Regimes in the Western North Atlantic and Central Pacific Highly Migratory Species Longline Fisheries: Effective Marine Policy Implementation or Limited Alternatives?

Event Name/Location

54th Annual Tuna Conference, Lake Arrowhead, California, May 13-16, 2003

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has closed large areas to pelagic longline fishing operations for several reasons, including protecting nursery grounds, restoring depleted stocks, or protecting endangered species. However, little post-implementation analysis on these closures has been conducted to evaluate whether the pre-implementation goals were achieved by these measures. The current regulatory framework allows relatively high levels of public comment on proposed regulatory actions, although some of the applicable federal statutes, e.g., the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are relatively inflexible regarding policy alternative outcomes. Courts have traditionally given broad legal standing to potential plain tiffs, allowing post-implementation legal challenges. This study examines four areas with management measures that closed or severely restricted longline fishing within a policyoriented analytical framework: 1) the 1999 mid-Atlantic seasonal closure, 2) the 2001 closure of the East Coast of Florida, 3) the 1991 Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) year-round closure, and 4) the 2000 central Pacific swordfish fishery closure.

All four closures were examined for post-implementation biological and economic effects, which were compared with pre-implementation expectations by NMFS. Each closure has experienced different trajectories following implementation, summarized in this work. Of the four, the closure for the Hawaiian monk seals has been the most successful, with no documented interactions with U.S. fisheries since the designation of the NWHI as a protected species zone. Of the other three areas, the mid-Atlantic closure is currently being re-evaluated by NMFS, only limited data are available for the Florida closure, and the central Pacific swordfish closure is within the broad range of expectations, yet likely to be biologically ineffective by itself in restoring turtle populations. Furthermore, even the “successful” closures remain subject to external pressures such as international fleets, marine debris, and market pressures.

More research examining the effects of specific environmental parameters (e.g., temperature) on the behavior of pelagic species is needed. Such data may allow increasingly spatially- and temporally-limited area closures. Ultimately, several pieces of legislation may need to be revisited to allow for international fisheries-related impacts rather than simply those from the U.S. fleets. Such legislative changes to domestic envir onmental law, while perhaps more biologically appropriate than the status quo, remain hampered by perceived weak international fisheries enforcement and will likely be met with stiff resistance by the environmental community.



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