Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: NMFS Maintains Four-fish General Category (Commercial) Daily Retention Limit for September through December 2014
Actions being taken and important dates
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) maintains the current Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category (commercial handgear) daily retention limit of four large medium or giant BFT (i.e., four BFT measuring 73" or greater) per vessel per day/trip for September 1 through December 31, 2014. NMFS takes this action after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, which include, among other things, available quota, fishery performance in recent years, the anticipated availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, and the effects of the adjustment on the BFT stock and on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan. This adjustment is intended to provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; help achieve optimum yield in the BFT fishery; and collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes.
Given the rollover of unused quota from one time period to the next, current catch rates, and the fact that the daily retention limit will automatically revert to one large medium or giant bluefin tuna per vessel per day on September 1 absent agency action, NMFS anticipates that a one-fish limit would result in underharvest of the 2014 General category quota. A four-fish limit provides reasonable opportunity to harvest the available subquota without exceeding it while also maintaining equitable distribution of fishing opportunities, helping to achieve optimum yield, and collecting a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes. Although NMFS has the authority to set the daily retention limit to up to five fish, a limit of more than four fish could risk exceeding the available General category quota.
In accordance with NMFS regulations, the default retention limit would be one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip unless changed via this action.
Who is affected?
The General category daily retention limit applies to vessels permitted in the commercial Atlantic tunas General category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category while fishing commercially. This limit is effective for all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, which is designated as BFT spawning grounds and where NMFS does not allow targeted fishing for BFT. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon landing. For example (and specific to the September through December 2014 limit), whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the daily limit of four fish may not be exceeded upon landing.
NMFS will continue to monitor the fishery closely through dealer reports. Depending on fishing effort and catch rates, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustment or fishery closure is necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas.
NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 635.21(a)(1) require that all BFT that are released be handled in a manner that will maximize their survival, and without removing the fish from the water. For additional information on safe handling, see the Careful Catch and Release brochure available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.
This notice is a courtesy to BFT fishery permit holders to help keep you informed about the fishery. For additional information, call (888) 872-8862 or (978) 281-9260, or go to hmspermits.noaa.gov. Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.