Highly Migratory Species Report
by John T. Koegler
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2000 Newsletter)
NMFS Bluefin Tuna Quota Transfer Reverse required.
Two years ago NMFS clearly separated the commercial and recreational bluefin tuna fishermen and their quotas. Starting two years ago if you had a General Category license you could not land and keep angler sized angler-sized bluefin tuna. Anglers could not sell bluefin tuna of any size and could keep only one bluefin a year over 73".
Last year near the end of the season NMFS transferred 60 MT of angler bluefin tuna to the General Category. In the past all uncaught quota carried forward to the next season. Transferring 60 MT of angler uncaught Tuna to the General Category must be reversed and returned to the angler category. 60 MT. represents 50% of anglers yearly total allocation for this bluefin size class. Just imagine the screams of protest if 60MT of general category fish were transferred to anglers insert a period NMFS must reverse this improper transfer of 60 Mt of bluefin and return it to the angler category.
Major Changes in HMS Management
The ICCAT recreational commissioner, Mike Nussman, reached the end of his appointed term on March 1. The surprise was the new recreational commissioner was not chosen from the group that had submitted their names last fall. A new procedure has been created where the candidates for this appointment resubmitted their names to Rollie Schmitten C/O the ICCAT secretary instead of the acting head of NMFS. Now, who will make the choice of new recreational commissioner?
The 2001-2002 ICCAT advisory board and their technical advisors have been appointed. Locally Pete Barrett and Steve Sloan retained their seats. Molly Lutcavage of the New England Aquarium replaced Eleanor Bochenek who had served two terms on this committee. Eleanor did get an appointment to the important BAYS tuna working group.
Early March weather is like the blizzard of regulations now facing anglers. At least it sure seems that way from the many meetings scheduled for late March and early April.
1-Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel meeting.
April 2 through 4, NOAA Fisheries will hold a joint meeting of the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species and the Atlantic Billfish Advisory Panels(AP), and a public hearing to receive comments from fishery participants and other members of the public regarding proposed regulations.
The joint AP meeting and public hearing will be held in the NOAA Science Center, 1301 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The AP meeting is scheduled from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday (April 2 and April 4). The public hearing will be held from 7p.m. until 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, 2001. Materials related to the AP meeting and public hearing are available from Othel Freeman, NMFS Highly Migratory Species Management Division, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, 301-713-2347.
The Tuesday April 3 meeting will discuss implementing extended HMS vessel Logbook Reporting and HMS charter and headboat plus the US 2001 Bluefin Quota and its allocation. Later that day from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM a public hearing will be held to inform the public of the proposed Bluefin tuna rule changes for the 2001 season.
2-The following week on April 9-10 the ICCAT advisory panel will meet in Silver Spring Maryland and discuss ICCAT issues. It will be most important that anglers and the commercials work together to bring ICCAT issues before the politicians to see if enough support cannot be found to save both the concept and function of ICCAT. At last falls yearly meeting the European Union and the African Coastal countries chose to flaunt most of ICCAT's rules and regulations about the quota control of their bluefin tuna landings. Unless something major is accomplished at the State Department level before next falls meeting, ICCAT will become an empty management shell.
Commercial HMS fishing rule changes
As you know large increases in commercial fishing effort over the last 30 years has greatly reduced the recreational catches of HMS species. Recently due to changes in rules designed to conserve and rebuild these depleted HMS fish stocks tough NMFS rules have been written. In all cases these new rules have been delayed and major changes made to avoid lawsuits. In too many cases lawsuits to stop the new rules were filed anyway. This delays these new rules and allows these fishermen to fish for several more years under the old rules while the lawsuit works it way through the federal court system. Two major changes have been reported and filed.
1- The total closure of the East Coast of Florida year around to Longlining has been imposed but the original size has been slightly reduced. The Charleston Bump closed area lines were redrawn and will be closed from February 1 to April 30 in future years.
2- The Large coastal shark fishery lawsuit filed by Gulf of Mexico shark fishermen re-established the Atlantic Commercial Large and Small Coastal Shark Quota at the 1997 levels.
This is the result of a partial settlement of their lawsuit and specifies that an independent review of the reduced 1998 large coastal shark assessment be conducted by The Center for Independent Experts. NMFS is on strong ground to win this lawsuit and it is most difficult to understand why they did not win without this postponement. But since I have never
heard of The Center for Independent Experts I do not have a clue as to the final result.
Note the commercial return to their 1997 shark quota, which is a 100% increase from their current LCS limit. I do not hear any noise about returning to the recreational 1997 shark limit.