As we start into another Bluefin Tuna season here in the Northeast Atlantic, I offer this info to try to help you understand the complicated management of Atlantic bluefin tuna. It seems that we in the US are doing the lion’s share of bluefin conservation while many European countries continually catch over their ICCAT quotas without penalty ICCAT is the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. It also appears that our government is trading the interests of recreational and commercial fishermen, by not insisting upon sanctions for ICCAT non-compliance, for other “deals”.
Our United States domestic quota is divided into 6 categories of allotted quota with a seventh reserve category in case someone uses more than the allotted amount. Here is how the categories are allotted for 2006. (“mt” is metric tons) Generally, the commercial quota is under harvested and the recreational quota is over harvested.
The information reported here was obtained from the Federal Register Online editions at: http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-IMPACT/2006/May/Day-30/i8267.htm
“Specifications for the 2006 fishing year as follows:
General category -- 1163.3 mt; Harpoon category -- 124.0 mt; Purse Seine category -- 624.1 mt; Angling category -- 380.1 mt; Longline category -- 268.2 mt; Trap category -- 5.3 mt.
Additionally, 282.3 mt are allocated to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments, including potentially providing for a late season General category fishery, or for scientific research collection and potential overharvest in any category except the Purse Seine category. Based on the above initial specifications, the Angling category quota of 380.1 mt is further subdivided as follows: School BFT -- 49.2 mt, with 23.2 mt to the northern area (north of 39E18' N. lat.) and 26.0 mt to the southern area (south of 39E18' N. lat.); Large school/small medium BFT -- 318.4 mt, with 150.3 mt to the northern area and 168.1 mt to the southern area; and Large medium/giant BFT -- 12.5 mt, with 4.2 mt to the northern area and 8.3 mt to the southern area.”
As of 01/13/06 fishing year landings of Atlantic bluefin tuna are as follows:
The coast wide General category has landed 226.0 mt out of 708.3 mt to date. The Harpoon category closed at: 23.1 mt out of 90.0 mt. Longline North: 22.5 mt out of 116.3 mt to date. Longline South: 7.0 mt out of 72.1 mt to date. Trap category: 0.0 mt out of 3.8 mt to date. Purse Seine category closed at: 178.3 mt out of 530.0 mt to date.
In addition to setting the quotas, the National Marine Fisheries Service can adjust retention and size limits and fishing days to control the season and the harvest. The rules are generally set up for the start of the new fishing year annually. Keep in mind that the NMFS has the authority to adjust limits and rules during the season.
Since the smaller BFT were over-harvested both domestically and globally, the NMFS has reduced the retention limits in the Angling and Charter/Headboat categories. What this means for us on Cape Cod, the retention rules are for the angling category, are 2 bluefin tuna per day, per trip, PER BOAT, over 47 inches in length. In the period from August 25, 2006, to September 14, 2006, we are allowed to take an additional school sized bluefin tuna of 27” to 47”. Many folks are crying foul at this, as the small bluefins or “footballs” as they are affectionately known, are readily available in nearshore waters at certain times of the season and are a welcome change from the striper catching diets we grew accustomed to all summer. It does seem wrong for other countries to overharvest small tuna to the degree that they do and then have our government do little to stop it and then turn around and tell us not to fish them. On the other hand however there is the potential to catch bigger – no HUGE - tuna if we let them grow. It is one thing to catch a 25-40 pound tuna and think that you have had a great battle. Try it multiplied about 100 times when you hook up to a giant in the range of 500- 1000 pounds!
Look online for more Bluefin tuna information at: http://www.nmfspermits.com/news.asp http://www.winterbluefin.org/ http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/may4/tuna-042705.html http://www.bigmarinefish.com/bluefin.html http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-23734.htm http://www.publicaffairs.noaa.gov/pr98/aug98/noaa98-r142.html
There is lots of info you can discover by searching online. This is just a small sampling of what is out there. Hope to see you,