Pelagic Longline Bluefin Tuna Area-Based and Weak Hook Management Measures

Overview

Fishing Type
Commercial
Action Status
Final Rule
Effective
04/02/2020
Point of Contact
Craig Cockrell, (301) 427-8503, or Jennifer Cudney, (727) 824-5399.

Summary

NOAA Fisheries has adjusted regulatory measures put in place to manage bluefin tuna bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery for Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS), specifically addressing the Northeastern United States Closed Area, the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area, and the Spring Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area as well as the weak hook requirement in the Gulf of Mexico.

The new measures affect the HMS pelagic longline fishery in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. 

Summary of Actions

Topic Action
Northeastern United States Closed Area

Undertake a review process to evaluate the continued need for the Northeastern United States Pelagic Longline Closure. Includes provisions to reduce the threshold in the event that the U.S. allocation of bluefin tuna is reduced at a future International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting and to clarify the timing of certain operational processes associated with this alternative.

Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area Eliminate of the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area.
Spring Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area Undertake a review process to evaluate the continued need for the Spring Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area. Includes provisions to reduce the threshold in the event that the U.S. allocation of bluefin tuna is reduced at a future International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting and to clarify the timing of certain operational processes associated with this alternative.
Weak hooks Seasonal requirement for weak hooks.


Compliance Requirements

To comply with this rule, fishermen must take the following actions. These are in addition to other requirements for the pelagic longline fishery.

  • NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the fishing locations of vessels via vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and monitor bluefin tuna catch via VMS set reports. Additionally, as of April 2, and as soon as VMS forms are updated by vendors (update currently in progress), vessels fishing with pelagic longline gear in the monitoring areas must select specific location codes when submitting set reports through their VMS systems:
    • Spring Gulf of Mexico Pelagic Longline Monitoring Area: Area 4
    • Northeastern United States Pelagic Longline Monitoring Area: Area 5
  • Pelagic longline vessels fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use weak hooks from January 1–June 30.

 Area Map

HMS gear restricted and closed areas.png
 

Changes Since Draft Environmental Impact Statement

This rule includes minor clarifying changes from the DEIS and proposed rule for the Northeastern United States Closed Area and Spring Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area. We included a provision to ensure that the threshold for the closure of the area effectively remains the same (percentage-wise) in the event that the U.S. allocation of bluefin tuna is reduced at ICCAT.

Another minor change that has been made since the DEIS clarified the timing of inseason closure notices that could occur in response to thresholds being met for the Northeastern United States Monitoring Area and the Spring Gulf of Mexico Monitoring Area.

Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on 09/03/2020

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna