By: Parimal M. Rohit
COSTA MESA – Federal regulators drastically reduced the number of bluefin tuna that anglers can catch in a day as the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted a two-fish-per-angler-per-day limit on the predatory and migratory fish species found between Japan and the western United States during a meeting on Nov. 17.
The previous daily limit was 10 fish.
According to Kit Dahl of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the catch limit was adopted for 2015 and 2016 in light of a diminishing bluefin tuna population.
Last month’s vote followed a preliminary decision by the council in September to reduce the recreational fishing morality of bluefin tuna across the Pacific Ocean.
The council’s decision was a bit of a middle ground between the limits requested by conservationist and fishing interests.
Dahl said there were some calls to place a full moratorium on recreational fishing of bluefin tuna.
In a letter to Pacific Fishery Management Council Chairwoman Dorothy Lowman, Pew Charitable Trusts’ Global Tuna Conservation Director Amanda Nickson urged the agency to enact a one-fish daily bag limit.
“A daily bag limit of one would be the only alternative that would achieve the scientifically-advised 50 percent catch reduction for this severely depleted species, while still allowing recreational fishermen to target Pacific bluefin,” Nickson wrote in a letter she co-authored with Paul Shively, Pacific Ocean manager at Pew Charitable Trusts.
Alternatively, the Port of San Diego urged the council to adopt a three-fish-per-day bag limit.
“An incremental decrease from three to two fish per-day-per-angler… holds the potential of negatively impacting an important industry in San Diego,” said John Bolduc, interim president and CEO of the San Diego Unified Port District. “That same decrease revenues lost by charter vessels from a diversion of their customers could impact the region’s economy in a multitude of ways.”
Bluefin tuna are often sold as sashimi or sushi in consumer markets, though at least one group says the species is on the verge of extinction.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) placed the Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the “vulnerable” category of its list of threatened species, estimating its population has declined between 19 and 33 percent since 1992.
“Unless fisheries implement the conservation and management measures developed for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including a reduction in the catches of juvenile fish, we cannot expect its status to improve in the short term,” said Bruce Collette, chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group.
An economic impact analysis conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council found a two-fish bag limit could cost between eight and 51 jobs. A complete ban on bluefish tuna fishing could have potentially resulted in a loss of up to 150 jobs, the council found.
The limit for multiday fishing trips is six fish per angler (two fish per day for up to three days).