NOAA adjusts regulations for Atlantic bluefin

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has adjusted regulatory measures governing the pelagic longline fishery for the Atlantic highly migratory species. The regulations addressed apply to the Northeastern United States Closed Area, Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area and the Spring Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area.

NOAA staff is specifically taking the following actions: evaluate the continued need for the Northeastern United States Pelagic Closure; eliminate the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area; and, evaluate the need of the Spring Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area.

The evaluations of the longline closure and restricted area both call for the reduction of threshold, “in the event that the U.S. allocation of bluefin tuna is reduced at a future International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting,” NOAA staff stated in an announcement of the Atlantic bluefin regulation

“NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the fishing locations of vessels via vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and monitor bluefin tuna catch via VMS set reports,” NOAA staff stated. “Additionally, as of April 2, and as soon as VMS forms are updated by vendors (update currently in progress), vessels fishing with pelagic longline gear in the monitoring areas must select specific location codes when submitting set reports through their VMS systems.

“Pelagic longline vessels fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use weak hooks from January 1–June 30,” NOAA staff continued.

NOAA also announced the number of U.S.-caught swordfish has decreased. The U.S. baseline quota for swordfish was 2,937 metric tons per year.

“U.S. fishermen harvest just a fraction of that [baseline quota]. In fact, domestic swordfish landings have fallen almost every year since 2012. In 2018, for example, we only harvested 34 percent of our quota,” NOAA staff stated.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, sets an annual quota for each country fishing North Atlantic swordfish.

“The collective total is set at a level to ensure nations don’t harvest swordfish faster than the population can be replenished,” NOAA staff said.

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