NOAA seeks to adjust regulations for Atlantic bluefin

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have proposed to adjust regulatory measures for the management of Atlantic bluefin bycatch and the pelagic longline fishery. Public comments on the proposed rule will accepted through Sept. 30.

Proposed regulation adjustments would be in effect for the Northeastern United States Closed Area, Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area and Spring Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area.

“Several of the proposed measures would have an evaluation period component to determine whether the current area-based management measure remains necessary to reduce and/or maintain low numbers of bluefin tuna discards and interactions in the pelagic long line fishery,” NOAA and NMFS staff stated in the proposed rule. “Other proposed measures would eliminate the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area and would adjust the requirement to use weak hooks from a year-round requirement to a seasonal (January-June) requirement. The proposed measures would affect the [highly migratory species] pelagic longline fishery in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.”

The United States is, under the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, required to “minimize dead discards of bluefin tuna to the extent practicable and set a country-specific dead discard allowance,” according to the proposed rule.

Previous quotas placed on the pelagic longline fishery would still be in effect despite the proposed ruling, according to the NOAA/NMFS request for public input.

“While some increases in target catch in the pelagic longline fishery may occur, any such increases would be within previously-analyzed quotas and would be consistent with other management measures that appropriately conserve the stocks,” the proposed final rule stated.

Contact NOAA/NMFS staff members Craig Crockell at 301-427-8503 or Randy Blankinship/Jennifer Cudney at 727-824-5399 for more information.

The federal Magnuson-Stevens Act defines highly migratory species as any tuna species, marlin, oceanic sharks, sailfishes and swordfish.

The entire proposed rule can be viewed online at bit.ly/2M6d72i.

Highly migratory species in the Atlantic are managed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act and Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, or ACTA.

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