NOAA announces 2020 bluefin tuna catch limit

The commercial catch limit for Pacific bluefin will be 356 metric tons, based upon 274-metric-ton estimate for 2019.

WEST COAST—Commercial fishers will be allowed to catch a decent amount of Pacific bluefin tuna in 2020, as federal officials formally announced the limits for this year’s haul. The federal catch limit for Pacific bluefin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is 356 metric tons – which is higher than the 274 metric tons caught by commercial boats in 2019.

The catch limit is actually based on a two-year total, set by NOAA and NMFS biennially. Commercial fishers were limited to 630 metric tons of Pacific bluefin catches for 2019 and 2020, combined. Since commercial fishing boats hauled in 274 metric tons of Pacific bluefin in 2019, the quota for 2020 was set at 356 metric tons.

“On May 1, 2019, NMFS published a final rule establishing trip and catch limits for the commercial Pacific bluefin tuna fishery. The rule established a 630 [metric tons] biennial limit for 2019 and 2020, combined, not to exceed 425 mt in a single year,” the NOAA and NMFS Federal Register statement said. “NMFS estimates that 274 mt was caught in 2019; consequently, the commercial Pacific bluefin tuna catch limit for 2020 is 356 mt.”

NOAA and NMFS also established a per-trip limit of 15 metric tons.

“The rule also established a 15-mt trip limit until catch was within or expected to be within 50 mt of the annual limit, at which time the trip limit would be reduced, through in-season action, to two mt,” NOAA and NMFS staff said. “In other words, the trip limit is reduced to two mt when NMFS anticipates that the Pacific bluefin tuna harvest level reaches 375 mt (based on rules and assumptions set forth in the final rulemaking, including pre-trip notifications and catch information).”

The first in-season action was made on Aug. 4, 2019, when federal officials anticipated the Pacific bluefin harvest level approaching 375 metric tons. A second in-season action was made on Aug. 11, 2019, re-establishing the 15-metric-ton-per-trip limit.

“NMFS evaluated all available information on catches and estimated that 236 mt of commercially-caught Pacific bluefin tuna had been caught to date; consequently, NMFS determined In-season Action #1 to reduce the trip limit was premature. In accordance with the 2019-2020 regulations, NMFS increased the trip limit again,” NOAA and NMFS staff said in the Federal Register document.

NOAA issued the catch limit update on Feb. 4.

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