WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), in association with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce, announced in-season changes to the daily retention limit of Atlantic bluefin tuna. NMFS published the announcement in the Federal Register on April 30.
In-season changes were made for the angling and charter categories; charter expeditions must be engaged in recreational fishing for bluefin for the in-season changes to apply.
The Federal Register stated the in-season adjustment as follows: “NMFS is adjusting the Angling category BFT daily retention limit from the default of one school, large school, or small medium BFT to two school BFT and one large school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip for private vessels with HMS Angling category permits; to three school BFT and one large school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip for charter boat vessels with HMS Charter/Headboat permits when fishing recreationally; and to six school BFT and two large school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip for headboat vessels with HMS Charter/Headboat permits when fishing recreationally.”
NMFS staff added the limits are effective everywhere except the Gulf of Mexico. Targeting bluefin tuna for fishing is prohibited in the Gulf of Mexico by NMFS.
Atlantic bluefin tuna class sizes are noted as follows:
- school, 27 to less than 47 inches
- large school, 47 to less than 59 inches
- small medium, 59 to less than 73 inches
- large medium, 73 to less than 81 inches
- giant, 81 inches or larger.
“The 2019 school BFT landings represent 6 percent of the total U.S. quota for 2019, well under the ICCAT recommended 10 percent limit,” NMFS staff said in the Federal Register document. “Given that the Angling category landings fell short of the available quota and considering the regulatory criteria above, NMFS has determined that the Angling category retention limit applicable to participants on HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels should be adjusted upwards from the default levels.”
NMFS staff, according to the Federal Register document, will closely monitor the fishery.
“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,” NMFS staff said in the Federal Register document.