NOAA Fisheries is adjusting the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category daily retention limit from the current limit of three to one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73” or greater) per vessel per day/trip for the remainder of the June 1 through August 31, 2018 subquota period. Per the regulations regarding adjustment of General category BFT daily retention limits, the adjustment from three to one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip will be effective Thursday, August 23, 2018.
NOAA Fisheries takes this action after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, which include considerations about the amount of available quota, effects of the action on the continuation of the fishery, availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, the value of information obtained from the fishery, and the effects of the adjustment on the stock and on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan and amendments.
This action should provide opportunities to harvest the available U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it; prevent overharvest of the 2018 General category quota; and collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes. NOAA Fisheries anticipates that General category participants in all areas and time periods will have opportunities to harvest the General category quota in 2018, through proactive inseason management such as retention limit adjustments and/or the timing and amount of quota transfers (based on consideration of the determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments), as practicable.
Unless NOAA Fisheries publishes a subsequent adjustment in the Federal Register, the default daily retention limit of one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip (§ 635.23(a)(2)) will apply for the September 2018 General category fishery, which begins September 1, 2018.
Who is affected?
This action applies to General category permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing commercially for BFT. It is effective for all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, which is designated as BFT spawning grounds and where NOAA Fisheries does not allow targeted fishing for BFT. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon landing. For example, 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 one fish may not be exceeded upon landing.
NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. In addition, General category and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessel owners are required to report their own catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing the HMS Permit Shop, using the HMS Catch Reporting app, or calling (888) 872-8862 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.). Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NOAA Fisheries may determine that additional adjustments are necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas.
NOAA Fisheries regulations at 50 CFR 635.21(a)(1) require that all BFT that are released be handled in a manner that will maximize survivability, and without removing the fish from the water. For additional information on safe handling, see the Careful Catch and Release brochure.
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 to the HMS Permit Shop. Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.