Management changes could significantly reduce waste of this iconic sport fish.
For almost a century, bluefin tuna have been one of the most important big-game species sought by recreational fishermen. However, the development of a lucrative commercial industry, largely catering to the demand for sushi in Japan, has contributed to significant declines of this now-threatened species.
Bluefin tuna are often inadvertently caught on longlines – an indiscriminate commercial fishing practice that employs thousands of baited hooks on fishing lines that stretch for many miles. Pelagic longlines regularly exceed their Atlantic bluefin tuna quota. In 2012, the fishery threw back dead 239.5 metric tons of bluefin tuna, representing nearly 25 percent of the overall U.S. quota.
New regulations currently under consideration by federal fishery managers by and large make significant strides to boost bluefin conservation in the U.S. and would benefit other pelagic species hit hard by longlining including marlin, sailfish and swordfish. However, it’s critical that managers don’t take action to unnecessarily punish recreational anglers for the offenses of longliners.
To help insure that positive steps are made with bluefin tuna while avoiding punitive measures for anglers, America’s saltwater anglers need to speak up on these important proposed management changes.
To make your voice heard, simply visit the official comment page on Atlantic HMS Amendment 7. Provided below is a sample comment letter you can copy and paste into the comment form.
Every comment counts and has an impact. Thank you for doing your part to help improve the management and health of the iconic bluefin tuna.
Below is a sample letter you can copy and paste into the comment form found here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0101-0791
As one of America’s 60 million anglers, I am submitting comments regarding changes currently under consideration for Atlantic HMS Amendment 7. The options that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considering have the potential to significantly improve not only bluefin tuna stocks but also many other highly prized sportfish including marlin, sailfish and swordfish in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Catch-and-release fishing for tunas, billfish and swordfish has proven to be hugely popular when stocks of these fish are healthy and allocated in a manner that makes economic sense and conservation sense.
Offshore recreational fishing for species like bluefin tuna has a significant economic impact on many coastal communities throughout the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, but these opportunities are dependent on healthy and abundant fisheries. You have the opportunity to improve the sustainability of many important large pelagic fish stocks and I urge you to seize the opportunity by strengthening and in some cases modifying the actions you are considering.
Allocating fish from the angling sector to the longlining sector does not make sense and is not supported by any socio-economic analysis. It is completely unfair and nonsensical to punish recreational anglers for the bycatch offenses committed by longliners.
I support the creation of the new seasonal longlining restricted areas in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast, but these areas should be substantially larger than what is proposed. To meet the bycatch reduction targets needed to protect bluefin tuna when they are spawning, the closure should include the entire Gulf of Mexico and the length of time for these closures must be increased to include March through May.
Do not reopen areas in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico currently closed to longlining. The benefits of these conservation zones are well documented.
An annual bluefin catch cap should absolutely be instituted and the improved at-sea monitoring under consideration should be implemented.
NOAA has a major opportunity before it to change management of bluefin and by extension other highly prized sportfish. Please consider my perspective in your final decisions.