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Highly Migratory Species Report
By John Koegler

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 1999 Newsletter)

 

Important Meetings On Highly Migratory Species and Billfish

Thursday February 18, 1999,
Barnegat Light Firehouse, 7 PM
Friday February 19, 1999, Toms River, Quality Inn, 290 Route 37 East, 7 PM

The proposed new regulations are covered in detail in over 500 pages for Billfish and over 1,100 pages for HMS. The proposed plans are so deceitfully written that it is a miracle that the writers did not expire of from the audacity of the outrage they proposed for the recreational fishing community and the huge industry spending its supports. At the same time NMFS-HMS deliberately avoided meaningful regulation for controlling the devastation caused by the continued expansion of nonselective longline fishing gear.

Every recreational fishermen, Marina owner, Charterboat and Headboat captain, who fails to write his or her congressman, federal Senators, President Clinton, and Vice President Gore on this plan deserves, what they get if they do not complain, write and call. You may think I am overstating the issue, when in all truth I am understating the seriousness of what is being proposed. Remember that you have until March 3, to complain.

Let me outline just a few of the many outrages proposed by these plans:

White Marlin

ICCAT requires a reduction in landings of 25% of 1996 landings in 1999.

NMFS recreational 1996 White Marlin landings reported to ICCAT were based on NMWS reports that reported on 40 of the 300 US billfish tournaments

1996 recreational White Marlin landings 3.3 mt. minus the1999 recreational White Marlin limits 2.47 mt. yields a total proposed reduction of 0.82mt.

NMFS proposes to impose 11 new draconian regulations on recreationals to achieve a total reduction of 8/10ths of one metric ton of White Marlin.

In the same year, longliners self reported 67.7 mt. of dead White Marlin discards. Understand, 67.7 mt is what they self- reported, 80 times more Marlin thrown back dead than reported by recreationals.

Proposed rules: ONE It is proposed they can now get their hook back by dehooking the fish to save their hook, instead of cutting the leader to give the fish a reasonable chance to survive. Their eight-year average of self reported dead discards is 79.97 mt. This action violates planed objective and Magnuson/Stevens.

Steve Sloan, long time ICCAT advisor who was part of the US delegation in Spain when the rules were written believes none of this is required, since the US already had a Billfish management plan. ICCAT Billfish regulations do not apply to any country with a Marlin Management plan, only yearly reporting is required.

A Tuna Review for NWFS's MES hearings:

Bluefin Tuna- proposed rules to be issued, shortly

Albacore Tuna- no rules proposed

Bigeye tuna- Declared overfished by US - October 1998-new rules due within one year.

Yellowfin tuna (YFT)

NMFS's new FMP proposes a recreational 3 YFT bag limit per person per trip. A 3 YFT will reduce US recreational landing numbers before a YFT quota is required!

Yellowfin tuna have not been declared overfished by anyone, making this rule illegal.

No effort reduction was mandated for the commercial fishers, who increased their effort. A 1992 ICCAT YFT effort cap has never been defined. This despite US requests. This cap is ignored by all ICCAT nations, thus requiring more unilateral US conservation.

 

The US leads the world in Yellowfin tuna conservation and this is documented.

1-A valid US tuna permit is required for anglers to land any tuna in US waters. This permit replaced a regional bluefin tuna permit and now applies to all recreationally landed tunas in the Atlantic & Gulf of Mexico. This expanded permit area greatly increases the numbers of boats required to have a permit from a regional regulation (Maine to Virginia) to a comprehensive Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico requirement. This permit is accompanied by a rapidly growing NMFS list of prohibitions & regulations.

 

2- The ICCAT minimum size for Yellowfin tuna is 3.2kg. US minimum Yellowfin size was initially increased to 6.4kg to make it consistent with the US Bluefin tuna size limit. Recently, the US minimum size was again increased to allow for curved fork length size. ONLY the US enforces a 27-inch curved fork length minimum. It has never been stated what weight 27" represents but is estimated at 7.0kg. 6.4kg, is over 100% greater than ICCAT requires and 27" is greater yet. This is a huge unilateral US conservation measure unmatched by any other nation.

 

3- ICCAT's latest reports documents that over 50% of Atlantic Yellowfin tuna landings as measured by weight are Yellowfin tuna less than ICCAT's mandated 3.2 kg. Minimum. The 3.2kg (7-lbs.) minimum was agreed to by all ICCAT parties over 22 years ago and was reaffirmed in recent years. This minimum has an allowance for undersized fish but it is 15% of the boats landed numbers not weight. This is estimated at 5% by weight. This data proves over 45% of other ICCAT's members Yellowfin tuna landings are illegal undersized YFT, documenting that ICCAT's Yellowfin tuna rules are not observed. Since other nations do not observe this rule, it is counter productive for the US alone to require more US conservation, and that conservation only from US recreationals.

4-The US has closed the experimental fishery for pair trawl fishery that targeted tuna.

5-The US closed the pelagic drift closed for swordfish only and has asked for comments on extending this closure to tunas as well. If this gear is not banned for tuna, the entire issue becomes useless NMFS spin doctoring, since the gear is so non-selective.

6- HMS proposed rules will now require commercial HMS fishers to possess a swordfish or shark permit to legally land bay tunas. No effort reduction is proposed.

NMFS has imposed far more restrictions on US HMS commercials and recreational YFT fishers than any other nation. No additional US Yellowfin restrictions are needed nor required, until ICCAT ends illegal harvest of undersized Yellowfin tuna with compliance. Shark rules are similar-recreationals will be barred for landing Large Coastal Sharks. They will also be banned from Landing Small Coastal Sharks because NMFS believes we can not tell the difference, so it is best to ban all recreational landings.

 

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