Highly Migratory Species Report

by John Koegler

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2013 Newsletter)


NMFS closed the commercial Bluefin tuna category as of Feb 15, 2013. This category will reopen on May 31, 2013. This is an amazing fishery that is now centered in North Carolina. For over 50 years this fishery was centered in New England from Montauk to Maine. New England fishermen have gone from landing 100% of the US Bluefin tuna quota for over 20 year starting in the 1960ís to zero in the late 1990ís. There was wide debate about the reason these tuna bypassed New England. A large number began being landed from Canada. Commercial interests blame global warming as the reason these tuna could not be found in New England waters. Some fishermen blame the out of control spiny dogfish shark population because they eat all the bait chunks that are thrown overboard to attract the Bluefin tuna. Currently there is no debate the out of control spiny dogfish population has a major negative impact on all New England fisheries. Spiny dogfish commercial landings have been greatly increased during the last three years. Commercials can again target the female spiny dogfish. They have made a start but the out of control spiny shark numbers have yet to be noticeably reduced. Commercial must also land and sell the male spiny dogfish to reduce their unbelievable population numbers. So far fishery managers have yet to make that choice.

Other observers blamed the huge purse seine fishery that has grown to land the vast schools of herring that school in New England waters each summer. Herring were originally used mostly as bait in the huge lobster trap fishery. Herring fishers began selling their bonanza for many different uses. New England Fishery Management first imposed major herring landing limits inshore and later offshore in an attempt to again be rewarded with a Bluefin tuna fishery. The result is a few giant Bluefin are now being again landed each year from New England waters despite Global Warming. I guess that this proves beyond any doubt an honestly managed fishery benefits both commercial and recreational fishermen. The real problem is the managers have to get the quota numbers right.

Another valuable fishery is lobsters that are now available live in most east coast areas all summer long. Landing limits have been imposed for the entire east coast in both Federal and State waters. The result is this fishery has continued to land huge number of lobsters. In fact, where most New England commercial fishermen had caught and sold many different fish species, many have shifted to landing lobsters.

Naturally conservation groups believe lobster landings should be reduced but New England fishery managers have permitted lobster landings to continue at a high quota level for the last ten years. This has enabled east coast customers to enjoy live lobsters all summer long. Live lobsters retail price has remained at a modest price. Shore customers enjoy live lobster dinners at a reasonable price all summer long.


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