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last updated: 4/16/2014
Preliminary 2014 BFT Commercial Landings

As of April 16, 2014, preliminary commercial landings for the 2014 fishing year are as follows: The General category is closed, having landed 35.6 mt, and will reopen June 1; Longline North has landed 13.8 mt and Longline South has landed 16.9 mt. Landing updates will be made as necessary.


2014 Recreational Atlantic Tunas Retention Limits

Effective January 1, the daily retention limit that applies to HMS Angling category and HMS Charter/Headboat vessels (when fishing recreationally) is one school, large school, or small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip, (i.e., one fish measuring 27 to <73"). These BFT retention limits are effective for all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, which is designated as spawning grounds for BFT and therefore NMFS does not allow recreational caught BFT to be retained while fishing in this area (except for incidental trophy fish). The recreational BFT trophy fishery is closed for the southern area (for landings south 39°18’N, i.e., south of Great Egg Inlet, NJ), but is open for the northern area (for landings north of Great Egg Inlet, NJ) with a limit of 1 BFT measuring 73" or greater/vessel/year. The recreational yellowfin tuna daily retention limit is 3 yellowfin/person/day/trip. The minimum size for yellowfin and bigeye tuna is 27" curved fork length. There are no recreational limits for bigeye, skipjack or albacore tunas.


Bluefin Tuna Angling Category Southern Trophy Fishery CLOSED

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed 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, April 11, 2014, through December 31, 2014. The southern area is the area south of 39°18’N (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ) and includes the Gulf of Mexico. The intent of this closure is to prevent any further overharvest of the Angling category southern area trophy BFT subquota. 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. For further information, please see the notice in the library (link at left of page) or at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/breaking_news.html.


Atlantic Bluefin Tuna General Category Fishery CLOSED Until June 1

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category fishery for large medium and giant BFT (73" curved fork length or greater) on March 21, 2014, until it reopens on June 1, 2014, for the June through August period. Based on the best available BFT landings information for the General category BFT fishery, NMFS determined that the General category January BFT subquota of 23.1 mt has been reached. Although it is called the “January subquota,” the regulations allow the January fishery to continue until the 23.1-mt subquota is reached, or March 31, whichever comes first. Retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT by persons aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas General and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/ Headboat categories (while fishing commercially) is prohibited through May 31, 2014. The General category will reopen automatically on June 1, 2014, for the June through August period. The intent of this closure is to prevent any further overharvest of the General category January BFT subquota. 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. For further information, please see the notice in the library (link at left of page) or at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/breaking_news.html.


Other 2014 HMS Recreational Limits

The recreational daily swordfish retention limit is 1 fish per person, with maximums of 4 fish per private vessel, 6 for a charter vessel, and 15 for a headboat vessel. The minimum size for swordfish within the recreational fishery is 47 inches, lower jaw-fork length. You may not keep longbill spearfish. There are no retention limits for Atlantic sailfish, blue marlin and white marlin, but the NOAA Fisheries encourages recreational anglers to release all billfish alive. The minimum sizes for billfish are as follows: Blue Marlin: 99 inches lower jaw fork length; White Marlin: 66 inches lower jaw fork length; Sailfish: 63 inches lower jaw fork length; Spearfish: Retention prohibited. Lower jaw fork length is a straight line measurement from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the caudal fin. The recreational limit on sharks is 1 shark per vessel per trip with a minimum size of 54 inches fork length; plus one Atlantic sharpnose shark per person per trip (no minimum size); plus one


PERMITS FOR 2014 NOW AVAILABLE, INCL. NEW SWORDFISH GENERAL COMMERCIAL PERMIT

This notice outlines the procedure for obtaining a 2014 Atlantic Tunas Permit, which allows you to commercially fish for and/or retain Atlantic bluefin, yellowfin, skipjack, albacore, and bigeye tunas; a Swordfish General Commercial Permit, which allows you to commercially fish for and/or retain Atlantic Swordfish; an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling Permit, which allows you to recreationally fish for and/or retain any regulated Atlantic HMS (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish, or billfish); or an HMS Charter/Headboat Permit, which is required by vessels taking fee paying passengers fishing for or retaining HMS. The permits issued for the 2014 season will be valid from the date of issuance through December 31, 2014. The permit fees will vary between $20.00 and $40.00 depending on the permits you apply for, and is payable by credit card (Visa, Master Card, Discover, or American Express) or check/money order. You will need your Atlantic tunas or your Atlantic HMS permit number to renew your permit for this up-coming season. If you do not have your permit number from last year available, you may look it up at https://hmspermits.noaa.gov using your last name, phone number, and zip code, or a Customer Service representative may assist at the number below. Please check your current permit information carefully prior to renewing your permit. Please Note: Changes to your permit category may be made under the following circumstances: a) When you renew the permit for the upcoming season; b) Within 10 calendar days from the permit's date of issuance, to correct any errors in permit category. If you have questions regarding the permit process, our Customer Service representatives are available at (888) 872-8862, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.


Proposed Amendment 7 (Atlantic bluefin tuna)

NMFS is proposing Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP to address bluefin tuna management concerns due to recent trends and characteristics of the bluefin fisheries. This action is necessary to meet domestic management objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act including preventing overfishing, achieving optimal yield, and minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable, as well as the objectives of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and obligations pursuant to binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). NMFS would take these actions to reduce and account for bluefin dead discards in all categories; optimize fishing opportunities in all categories within the U.S. quota; enhance reporting and monitoring; and adjust other management measures as necessary. The full range of alternatives considered are included in the draft Environmental Impact Statement, which, along with the proposed rule and information about public hearings can be found at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/FMP/AM7.htm. The comment period has been extended and now ends 1/10/14.


ESA listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna not warranted

After an extensive scientific review, NOAA announced today that Atlantic bluefin tuna currently do not warrant species protection under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA has committed to revisit this decision by early 2013, when more information will be available about the effects of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, as well as a new stock assessment from the scientific arm of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the international body charged with the fish’s management and conservation. NOAA is formally designating both the western Atlantic and eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin tuna as “species of concern” under the Endangered Species Act. This places the species on a watchlist for concerns about its status and threats to the species.


Tuna Trolling and Whales

Recent evidence show that tuna fishing lines, trolled through areas where both tuna and whales are feeding, have hooked the wrong species. The strong lines and sharp hooks, necessary for catching large tuna, can dig into blubber of these unintended targets, possibly causing harm to the whale and is a violation of federal law. All whales, dolphins and porpoises in the northeast region are federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and most large whales in the area are further protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under these Acts, it is illegal to "harass, hunt, capture or kill" any marine mammal. Prohibited conduct includes any "negligent or intentional act which results in the disturbing or molesting of marine mammals." The following operational procedures, located in full at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/mmv/are, intended to avoid harassment and possible injury to large whales commonly seen by vessels engaged in tuna fishing. These guidelines can help protect both you and the whales and keep you from accidentally violating federal law. ALWAYS approach areas of surface fish activity cautiously - marine mammals might be present. NEVER cast your line or set your gear near marine mammals. An increasing number of large whales have been observed with recreational gear attached to them. Prevent this from happening and set and/or troll your gear elsewhere. If a marine mammal approaches your gear, remove it from the water.


Reminder for Charter/Headboat owners and operators

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) wants to remind fishermen there are several federal regulations regarding fishing for dolphin and wahoo in federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean (Maine through the east coast of Florida). Summary of requirements *Owners and operators of charter vessels, and headboats are required to have a federal vessel permit to fish for or possess dolphin and wahoo in the Atlantic Ocean. *The vessel operator must have an operator card on board the vessel along with one other form of personal identification that includes a picture (driver license, passport, etc.). *How to get a permit or operator card* If you are the owner of a vessel needing a vessel permit and operator card to fish for dolphin and wahoo, please contact the Permits Branch at the address listed below: NOAA Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, Permits Branch, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; Phone: 727-824-5326; FAX: 727-551-5747. For a copy of the offical notice, visit the library (at left of screen).


PERMIT APPLICANTS MUST HAVE VESSEL’S OFFICAL REGISTRATION

Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act governing the harvest of Highly Migratory Species (HMS), including tunas, sharks, swordfish, and billfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Under these regulations vessels are required to posses a permit to fish for HMS, regardless of fishing recreationally or commercially. These permits are legally issued to ONLY those vessels that have a valid registration, which can be verified with the U.S. Coast Guard or by the issuing State. No temporary registrations are allowed. It is unlawful for any person or vessel subject to these regulations to falsify information required on the application, and if discovered the responsible parties may be prosecuted.


Reporting Recreational Swordfish and Billfish Landings

Effective October 17th, 2007, a new internet based reporting system for recreational non-tournament landings of North Atlantic swordfish and billfish will be available. All recreational non-tournament swordfish and billfish landings, including those from Charter/Headboats, must be reported by the permitted owner of the vessel landing the fish, or their designee, within 24 hours of landing. A landed fish means a fish that is kept and has been brought to shore. Vessels landing swordfish or billfish in North Carolina and Maryland must report their landings through the state landing card programs. Vessels landing swordfish or billfish in all other states, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, must report their landings using the new internet reporting portal at http://www.hmspermits.gov or by calling the 1-800-894-5528 reporting line.


LPS BFT Length Validation Assessment Paper

The Large Pelagics Survey (LPIS) collects length data on recreationally landed Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT). The LPS Procedures Manual (prior to 2005) specified that interviewers should measure and record the straight fork length (SFL) of BFT, not the curved fork length (CFL) that is used to define size classes for management purposes. Recently, some members of the recreational and commercial fishing industry have questioned whether or not this procedure has been consistently followed in the field. Some individuals have reported seeing LPS interviewers measuring CFLs of landed BFT. Therefore, they have raised a concern that the interviewers may actually have been recording CFLs rather than SFLs. The CFL of a given fish is greater than its SFL by some small factor (typically between 1-5%). If such errors have occurred, then LPS estimates of landed weight of BFT by size category would most likely be positively biased since length data are converted to weights for landings estimates. This evaluation was conducted to: 1) determine the extent to which CFLs were mistakenly recorded, and the extent to which such errors may have biased the overall BFT landed weight estimate, and 2) investigate the effects that biased measurements could potentially have had on prior stock assessments.



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