Annual Adjustment of the Bluefin Tuna Purse Seine and Reserve Category Quotas: In accordance with the Atlantic bluefin tuna quota regulations, NOAA Fisheries has determined the 2018 Purse Seine category quota available to Purse Seine category participants is 46.1 mt. The amount of Purse Seine category quota reallocated to the Reserve category is 138.2 mt. This reallocation would result in an adjusted 2018 Reserve category quota of 153 mt (14.8 mt + 138.2 mt), before any further transfers to other categories (see below).
Quota Transfer from the Reserve Category to the Longline Category: NOAA Fisheries has transferred 44.5 mt of bluefin tuna quota from the 2018 Reserve category to the 2018 Longline category, resulting in an adjusted 2018 Longline quota of 192.8 mt. This transfer is intended to increase the amount of quota available to individual vessels, and therefore help vessel owners account for incidental bluefin tuna landings and dead discards while fostering conditions in which permit holders become more willing to lease IBQ to other vessels. Specifically, NOAA Fisheries has taken this action after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments. As a result of this quota transfer, the adjusted 2018 Reserve category quota is 108.5 mt.
Distribution of Quota Transferred Inseason to Longline Category: In 2017, NOAA Fisheries modified the HMS regulations regarding the distribution of inseason bluefin tuna quota transfers to the Longline category (81 FR 95903, December 29, 2016) to provide NOAA Fisheries the ability to distribute quota inseason either to all qualified IBQ share recipients (i.e., share recipients who have associated their permit with a vessel) or only to permitted Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity, whether or not they are associated with IBQ shares.
NOAA Fisheries has examined the logbook, Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), dealer, and electronic monitoring data for 2017 and for 2018 as of March 31, and has determined that 89 vessels have recent fishing activity. Of the vessels with recent fishing activity, 85 were IBQ share recipients. Any vessel activity in the pelagic longline fishery during this date range is sufficient to qualify as “recent fishing activity.” For comparison, there are 136 IBQ share recipients under Amendment 7.
NOAA Fisheries has determined that distribution of quota only to Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity fulfills IBQ Program objectives. Such a distribution would provide transferred quota only to the vessels that have recently fished and are therefore most likely to need quota in order to account for BFT interactions. This would include the four Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity that are not associated with IBQ shares, as well as the 85 IBQ share recipients with recent fishing activity (representing 63 percent of all IBQ share recipients). Some inactive share recipients participate in the IBQ Program through leasing out quota; however, a majority of inactive share recipients (36 of 51) did not lease out quota in the period analyzed. After considering this information, NOAA Fisheries has decided to distribute the 44.5 mt of quota transferred from the Reserve to the Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity.
As a result of this quota transfer, NOAA Fisheries is distributing 1,102 lb (0.5 mt) of quota to each of the 89 permitted Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity. IBQ allocation will be distributed by April 16, 2018, via the electronic IBQ system to the vessel accounts with valid permits associated with a vessel. For comparison, if the 44.5 mt were distributed to all qualified IBQ share recipients, each would receive 721 lb (0.33 mt). When a qualified IBQ share recipient with recent fishing activity receives inseason quota, the quota will be designated as either Gulf of Mexico (GOM) IBQ, Atlantic (ATL) IBQ, or both GOM and ATL IBQ, according to the share recipient's regional designations. Those vessels that are participating in the voluntary Deepwater Horizon Oceanic Fish Restoration Project repose period through June 30, 2018, and that have recent fishing activity, would receive a distribution of inseason quota once the repose period ends. For vessels with recent fishing activity that are not qualified IBQ share recipients, NOAA Fisheries will assign the distributed quota a regional designation based on where the majority of the vessel's “recent fishing activity” occurred for the relevant period analyzed.
This action should enhance the ability of vessel owners to account for bluefin tuna catch, reduce quota debt, facilitate quota leasing, and reduce uncertainty in the fishery.
Longline category permit holders are reminded that all bluefin tuna discarded dead must be reported through the Vessel Monitoring System, and accounted for in the electronic (online) IBQ system. NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the bluefin tuna fisheries, including the pelagic longline fishery, through the mandatory landings and catch reports.
This notice is a courtesy to BFT fishery permit holders to help keep you informed about the fishery. For additional information, call (978) 281-9260, or go the HMS Permit Shop or call (978) 281-9260. Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.
The following table summarizes the available quotas and subquotas for 2018 as of this action.
*2018 subquotas adjusted via inseason action (82 FR 60680, December 22, 2017), reflecting transfer of 14.3 mt from the December 2018 subquota period to the January 2018 subquota period and inseason action (83 FR 9232, March 5, 2018), reflecting transfer of 10 mt from the Reserve category to the General category. **2018 quota adjusted via inseason action (83 FR 9232, March 5, 2018), reflecting transfer of 10 mt from the Reserve category to the General category.
The above quotas are based upon the currently codified U.S. quota of 1,058.79 mt and category subquotas. NOAA Fisheries anticipates that it will consider additional bluefin tuna quota adjustments during 2018 for all quota categories, to provide reasonable fishing opportunities throughout the year. An ICCAT recommendation adopted at the annual meeting in November 2017 for western Atlantic bluefin tuna management would result in an increase to the baseline U.S. bluefin tuna quota (i.e., from 1,058.79 mt to 1,247.86 mt) and subquotas for 2018, and NOAA Fisheries will undertake domestic implementation of that recommendation through rulemaking in the near future. NOAA Fisheries also anticipates that some underharvest of the 2017 adjusted U.S. bluefin tuna quota will be carried forward to 2018 and placed in the Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations, in mid-2018 (when complete 2017 catch information is available and finalized). Subsequent notices will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access the HMS Permit Shop, for updates.