Hi Folks !
I haven’t added a report in awhile so here goes. Not much fishing activity to report for me, but there is lots of river herring and some mackerel around, and the menhaden are being caught in the fish weirs in the sound. With decent bait in the area and some schoolie stripers being caught from the beaches, it wont be long before we are doing our usual two trips a day. So this report will be mostly about tuna regulations and what NMFS has proposed for this year. Regulations for 2018:
The daily “Angling Category” bag limit for Atlantic Bluefin tuna on my charterboat is 3 bluefin from 27” to 47” AND 1 bluefin from 47” to 73”. The daily bag limit for ABT on your private vessel is 2 bluefin from 27” to 47” AND1 bluefin from 47” to 73”.
NOTE for ALL : “HMS Charter/Headboat and Angling category vessel owners are required to report the catch of ALL BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing the HMS Permit Shop,using the HMS Catch Reporting App, or calling (888) 872-8862 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.).” Non reporting will get you a fine. ($$$$$$) Lots of guys got pinched last year.
The daily bag limit for the “General Category” (commercial fishers) is THREE Atlantic Bluefin Tuna from greater than 73” in length. This category includes “charter/headboat” (what I am) and commercial rod and reel and some harpoon boats that opt into “General category”.
Something new this year is an “endorsement” on the “charterheadboat” permit that must be checked if you intend to sell bluefin of the legal >73” sizes. If you do sell tuna, be it on the “General Category” or the “Charter/headboat” category, you must have the required commercial safety gear for where you intend to fish on board your vessel. This includes a life raft, ($3500) an epirb, ($300) and survival suits ($300 per man) for every person on board.
Lastly, I have to offer my personal opinion on last year’s NOAA/NMFS management of Atlantic bluefin tuna. In 2017, NOAA awarded the winter fishery down in the Carolinas roughly triple their allotted quota, due to lax reporting. Then they awarded the June, July & August sub quota an extra 94 metric tons over the usual 233 ton allotment for that period. The September quota period was supposed to get 123.7 metric tons, but ended up with an extra 39 tons. October got an extra 12 tons. In each of these early seasons the quota was filled early and instead of closing them, large amounts of reserve category quota was awarded to each respective sub category. By the time the fall fishery started (late Sept., Oct., and early Nov.) all of the quota was used up and the Cape Cod and Islands fishermen were left with NO SEASON ! The Oct and Nov season lasted 5 measly days ! Why fill the quota with early season fish that are low in fat content and worth less money ? Don’t believe what you see on TV. National Geographic’s Wicked Tuna may be entertaining to folks not knowledgable about the bluefin fishery, but its my opinion it is ruining the fishery by falsely representing the prices paid for bluefin tuna. That is sending more folks out to catch them, and shortening seasons for true fisherman. The seasonal average prices for bluefin tuna are closer to $6 per pound, and I cringe every time some Wicked Tuna truck driver says $17-25 per pound on that show. FAKE NEWS !!! That show also shows a banner across the screen that says the BFT populations are severely depleted since the 50’s. That may be true, but conservation by US tuna fishermen have had incredibly positive results and pressures to rein in European overfishing of BFT has also been positive. As a result, the latest stock assessment of west Atlantic bluefin tuna was the best we have ever had ! The spawning stock biomass of Atlantic BFT is now 69% of what we had in 1974. Compare that with Pacific BFT @ 2.5% of SSB and southern BFT at 13%, we are making huge progresses from US tuna fishermen’s sacrifices. Its time Nat Geo stepped up to the plate with less drama and more factual depiction of the fishery.
Good Fishing to you all,
Captain Bruce & “Marilyn S”