The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is currently advancing three proposed
Fishery Management Plan Amendments and one White Paper to modify the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan for tunas, swordfish, sharks and billfish. The government’s overarching goal is to maximize U.S. fishing opportunities that will insure the United States catches its quota of swordfish and bluefin tuna while striving to end overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, and prevent overfishing if it has not occurred.
White Marlin – Endangered Species Act (ESA) Petition Pending
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is currently reviewing a second petition to list white marlin under the ESA, which if supported even at the “Threatened”
level, would create additional restrictions for the U.S. fishing communities.
While the current petition also included text of concern about blue marlin, it did not specifically call for a listing of that species. Consequently, the government is not considering blue marlin at this time for a possible listing.
Draft Amendment 8 focuses on options to revitalize the U.S. swordfish fishery and streamline permit issues, a process under way since 2007. Even though the North
Atlantic swordfish stocks are fully recovered and a successes story for international fisheries management, the U.S. has failed to catch its allocated quota. At the same time other nations clamor for a portion of the uncaught U.S. swordfish allocation.
It is extremely important for the U.S. to land its full quota allocation as a failure to do so increases the likelihood that uncaught tonnage will be distributed to other nations. These nations fish with little regard for conservation and will dump swordfish products back into the U.S. market, ultimately hurting American fishermen. NMFS’ options include more handgear access, including a commercial rod and reel fishery.
TBF supports this option, however this is not authorizing recreational anglers to sell swordfish products, only commercial permit holders.
Draft Amendment 7 for bluefin tuna is in the early stages during which almost any option is being considered by NMFS. It may be hard to believe, but the U.S. has failed to land its quota for years. Like swordfish, this can lead to the loss of tonnage to other nations. Changes are needed that would include means to land the full U.S. quota.
Billfish bycatch in longline gear in the Gulf remains a concern. As long as a targeted yellowfin requisite tonnage remains in place, more bluefin and billfish will be killed either by high-grading bluefin or killing billfish bycatch in the prolonged fishing for larger bluefin under the guise of targeting yellowfin.
If a cap was placed on the entire Gulf of Mexico pelagic longline fleet that allowed the retention of a higher number of legal size bluefin to be landed until met, this should reduce discarding legal size bluefin through
When this potential cap is reached by the fleet, all longline vessels must stop fishing for yellowfin using longlines and may only fish for them with green sticks or buoy gear. This would help land the U.S. quota, reduce bycatch, and allow the U.S. to maintain its negotiating voice as a bluefin fishing nation.
Using a bluefin cap to set precedent, a marlin cap could also be established in the event an inordinate number of marlin were landed before the bluefin cap was met. This requirement would also constitute a switch to an alternative fishing gear to continue fishing for yellowfin tuna.
The Billfish Foundation is currently finalizing comments for the above issues. Please check TBF’s website [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001fV6rHnXicgWZpgIETFtS5AJsahdHpCP4ZvXun63PqjlUbwg0cpVCxEbbZvrM-Jff0gMrzre803Xvmn0MC9ZP_TjZHub8fLs3QgL2TcW6H0o=]
frequently for the organization’s comments submitted in response to these proposed amendments