Parimal M. Rohit
STATEWIDE — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a final ruling July 28 to limit catches of Pacific bluefin tuna to two per day. The new limit took effect July 30.
NOAA’s final rule adopts a recommendation by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) to reduce the previous bag limit 80 percent from 10 to two Pacific bluefin tuna. The final rule also includes new requirements for filleting tuna at sea.
“This final rule is intended to reduce fishing mortality and aid in rebuilding the [Pacific bluefin tuna] stock, which is overfished and subject to overfishing … and to satisfy the United States’ obligation to reduce catches of [Pacific bluefin tuna] by sportfishing vessels in accordance with conservation measures adopted by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC),” NOAA’s final rule stated.
Federal officials stated the final rule was authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) as a conservation measure.
Anglers on multiday fishing expeditions are limited to no more than six Pacific bluefin tuna per possession, compared to a previous bag limit of 30.
“The daily bag limit is multiplied by the number of days fishing to determine the multiday possession limit. The possession limit for a one-day trip would be two fish and for a two-day trip, four fish),” NOAA stated in its final rule. “The bag limits of this section apply on the basis of each 24-hour period at sea, regardless of the number of trips per day. The final rule does not authorize any person to take and retain more than one daily bag limit of fish during one calendar day.”
NOAA added its final ruling applies to offshore fishing along the California coastline and “might be more or less conservative than Mexico’s limits.”
“The U.S. recreational limits would not apply to U.S. anglers while in Mexico’s waters, but to facilitate enforcement and monitoring, the limits will apply to U.S. vessels in [American waters] or landing to U.S. ports, regardless of where the fish were harvested.”
Anglers also face strict at-sea filleting requirements under the final rule.
“Each fish must be cut into six pieces placed in an individual bag so that certain diagnostic characteristics are left intact,” NOAA officials stated. “[This] will assist law enforcement personnel in accurately identifying the different tuna species. These requirements apply to tuna species caught south of the line running due west true from Point Conception, Santa Barbara County (34°27′ N. lat.).”
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reportedly received 976 public comments as the rule was being deliberated.
NOAA published 14 of the comments with its final ruling; each published comment was replied to by NOAA staff. The comments and responses can be viewed online at 1.usa.gov/1fEjVQY.