The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closes the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) Angling category fishery for large medium and giant "trophy" BFT (measuring 73" or greater) in the southern area effective 11:30 p.m. local time, Sunday, June 7, 2015, through December 31, 2015. The southern area is the area south of 39°18'N (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ), outside the Gulf of Mexico.
Reported landings from the NMFS Automated Catch Reporting System and the North Carolina Tagging Program total approximately 2 mt and NMFS has determined that the codified Angling category southern area trophy BFT subquota has been reached and that a closure of the southern area trophy BFT fishery is warranted at this time. Retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT south of 39°18' N. lat. and outside the Gulf of Mexico by persons aboard vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category (when fishing recreationally) must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on June 7, 2015. The intent of this closure is to prevent any further overharvest of the Angling category southern area trophy BFT subquota. The annual Angling category trophy limit of one large medium or giant BFT per vessel remains in effect for vessels fishing in the northern area and in the Gulf of Mexico area. The Angling category fishery for BFT measuring 27 to less than 73" is open except in the Gulf of Mexico. Catch-and-release fishing is permissible as described below.
NMFS has considered the fact that it is in the process of proposing a rule that would implement and give domestic effect to the 2014 ICCAT recommendation on western Atlantic BFT management, which increased the U.S. BFT quota for 2015 and 2016 by 14 percent from the 2014 level. The domestic subquotas to be proposed in that action would result from application of the allocation process established in Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan to the increased U.S. quota, and would include an increase in the southern trophy BFT quota from the currently codified 1.3 mt to a total of 1.5 mt. However, because current landings exceed both the currently codified and the anticipated proposed quota for the Angling category southern area, closure of the southern area trophy BFT fishery needs to occur regardless of the proposed quota increase.
Who is affected?
This closure applies to vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category fishing in the southern area (defined in bold above).
Fishermen may catch and release or tag and release BFT of all sizes, subject to the requirements of HMS catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs. NMFS regulations 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 more information on BFT fishing regulations, including recreational size and retention limits, please go to hmspermits.noaa.gov or call (978) 281-9260. Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.