Feds Propose New Bluefin Regs

OCEAN CITY — Federal fisheries officials this week opened the public comment period on a series of recommendations aimed at further protecting Atlantic bluefin tuna, a stable of Ocean City’s commercial and recreational fishery.
NOAA Fisheries is considering a rule change and associated draft environmental assessment aimed at reducing discards of Atlantic bluefin tuna and outlined a series of recommendations proposed that would reduce incidental by-catch by commercial long-liners targeting other species. The draft environmental impact statement also includes the ecological and socioeconomic analyses of the proposed amendment change.
“All of those involved in the bluefin tuna fishery, including scientists, managers, fishers and environmentalists, share a common concern about the large number of dead discards of incidentally caught bluefin tuna,” said NOAA Fisheries Acting Assistant Administrator Sam Rauch. “The proposed measures filed today underscore the nation’s commitment to sustainable, science-based management of this vital fish stock. These proposed rules help to end overfishing and are consistent with the rebuilding program for western Atlantic bluefin tuna.”
Atlantic bluefin tuna are regarded as one of the most important and prized species in the ocean. Often weighing over 500 pounds and reaching more than six feet in length, bluefin tuna are near the top of the ocean food chain, giving them an important role in the marine ecosystem. They are also valuable on the commercial market, which makes them particularly vulnerable to unreported and unregulated fishing internationally. As a result, NOAA Fisheries has identified bluefin tuna as a species of concern, but it is not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The proposed conservation measures include revising the bluefin quota allocations among fishery participants to increase the allocation to the long-line fishery because dead discards would then be counted against the individual vessel allocations. The proposal would also allocate individual shares of bluefin catch, both landings and discards, to increase accountability.
In simpler terms, the proposal would reward those commercial long-liners who have exhibited the ability to avoid bluefin tuna when targeting other species, while holding accountable those fishermen who have not demonstrated the ability to avoid bluefin tuna.