LARGE PELAGIC REPORT
by John Koegler
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 1995 Newsletter)
Last fall, NMFS held a series of scoping meetings on blufin and yellowfin tunas, and shark plans. As a result, many recreationals believed thay had to stop complaining and start working for meaningful, realistic, and fair regulations that are accepted and implemented by ALL nations who fish in the Atlantic Basin.
The result was many asked for appointment to ICCAT advisory boards as technical advesors. John Koegler, Dr. Eleanor Bochenek and Pete Barrett were appointed. They attended their first three day meetingin early March. The recommendatiions from the four working groups (bluefin tuna - other tunas - swordfish - billfish) were directed at issues important to all U.S. fishermen.
One recommendation that was unexpected was a resolution from the bluefin tuna working group informing Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council about the noticeable reduction in forage species. This reduction of forage and/or bait was noticed by both commercial and recreational fishermen from Maine to Florida, both inshore and offshore. The March 10 letter stated: "The ICCAT Advisory Committee is concerned that increases and shifts in commercial fishing effort on these forage species may have a negative impact on the distribution and health of stocks of large pelagic species." Left unsaid is that the lack of forage/bait affects ALL species recreational and commercial fishermen catch. A lack of forage/bait will destroy all the progress hoped for in all the council's fishery management plans. Council must fix this problem !
The billfish working group suggested ICCAT consider the economic importance of recreational fisheries.
The intent of all groups was directed at demanding that the U.S. commissioner get the other member nations and non-members into compliance with ICCAT regulations and agreements. Their focus was on the problems in the swordfish fishery, where all the landings and conservation measures observed by U.S. fishermen has been destroyed by increases in other nation's landings. What makes this unacceptable is the trade data that shows that all these increased catches were exported to the United States and other ICCAT nations. The principals will be the same as other species that come under management quotas. If the results are the same, we better CHANGE THE RULES !
The Atlantic Tuna Convention Act states that U.S. can restrict the imports of any fish products from any nation that violates international fishery conservation agreements. ICCAT, at their last meeting, approved similar regulations that member nations can apply to all non-member nations who fosh the Atlantic Ocean.
Events have speeded up and new rules or proposed rules, effecting recreational fishing, are surfacing with every passing hour. Will NMFS understand and regulate fairly all U.S. HMS fisheries? It's a brave new world.......I pray we can survive its progress.
John Koegler is a member of the Thousand Fathom Club -South Jersey and Chairman of the JCAA Tuna Committee.