In January 2010, under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NOAA Fisheries established an advisory group in the Pacific Islands region to develop a plan for reducing mortalities and serious injuries of false killer whales in Hawaiʻi’s pelagic longline fisheries. Known as a Take Reduction Team (Team), the advisors include appointed representatives from federal and state agencies, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, academic and scientific organizations, environmental groups, and the commercial fishing industry. The Team provides guidance on the development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of a Take Reduction Plan to reduce mortality and serious injury to false killer whales incidental to the Hawaii pelagic longline fisheries. The Team met four times within six months to develop a draft Plan by consensus and submitted the draft to us on July 19, 2010.
The False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan
The False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan for the Pacific Islands region contains research recommendations, regulations for the Hawaiʻi-based deep-set and shallow-set pelagic longline fisheries, and best management practices. NOAA Fisheries published a final rule to implement the False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan on November 29, 2012. The final rule includes:
- Gear requirements (“weak” circle hooks and strong branch lines) in the deep-set longline fishery.
- Establishment of a permanent Longline Fishing Prohibited Area around the main Hawaiian islands.
- Regulations for a temporary closure of the “Southern Exclusion Zone” if a specified threshold level (or “trigger”) of observed false killer whale mortalities or serious injuries occurs inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone around Hawaiʻi within a single calendar year.
- Training and certification for vessel owners and captains in marine mammal handling and release.
- Requirements that captains supervise marine mammal handling and release and post placards on longline vessels.
We monitor the Plan's progress and ensure it meets the MMPA goal of reducing mortality and serious injury of false killer whales incidental to the commercial longline fisheries addressed by the Plan. If mortality and serious injury is not reduced to appropriate levels, as specified in the Plan we will reconvene the Team to modify or develop additional measures.
- Final Rule to Implement False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan (77 FR 71260, Nov 2012).
- References Cited in the Final Rule (Nov 2012).
- Final Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (Nov 2011).
- Proposed Rule to Implement False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan (76 FR 42082, July 2011).
- References Cited in the Proposed Rule (July 2011).
- Draft Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (July 2011).
- Draft False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan (July 2010).
On February 15, 2019, NOAA Fisheries announced a temporary rule to close the Southern Exclusion Zone to deep-set longline fishing on February 22, 2019. The area will remain closed until it is reopened by the Assistant Administrator pursuant to established criteria described in the Plan regulations (50 CFR 229.37(e)(5)). The area was closed because the “trigger” for closure described in the Plan was reached. The trigger, in this case, was two observed false killer whale hookings within the U.S. exclusive economic zone around Hawaiʻi that resulted in mortalities or serious injuries. Below are supporting documents.
- 2019 Permit holder letter.
- Frequently Asked Questions about the 2019 Southern Exclusion Zone Closure.
On July 17, 2018, NOAA Fisheries announced a temporary rule (83 FR 33848) to close the Southern Exclusion Zone to deep-set longline fishing from July 24 through December 31, 2018. The area was closed because the “trigger” for closure described in the Plan was reached. The trigger, in this case, was two observed false killer whale hookings within the U.S. exclusive economic zone around Hawaiʻi that resulted in serious injuries. Below are supporting documents.