NOAA Fisheries has published a proposed rule (83 FR 31517, July 6, 2018) to increase the baseline U.S. bluefin tuna quota. The quota will increase from 1,058.79 metric tons to 1,247.86 metric tons and subquotas for 2018 (including an expected increase in the General category September time period subquota from 123.7 metric tons to 147.3 metric tons). The quota rule will not be effective until late September 2018. The transfer of 60 metric tons from the Reserve to the General category quota results in an adjusted subquota of 183.7 metric tons for the fishery (207.3 metric tons if the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) quota rule is finalized as proposed) and 18.5 metric tons in the Reserve category. It is intended to provide limited additional opportunities to harvest the U.S. bluefin tuna quota while avoiding exceeding it.
Increases in available 2018 quota are resulting from:
- ICCAT quota rule increase
- The recalculation of available 2018 Purse Seine category quota and transfer to the Reserve category
- Carryover of 2017 underharvest
- Any unused General category quota that will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year
Thus, this quota transfer will allow fishermen to take advantage of the availability of fish in different geographic regions.
Closure of the bluefin tuna General Category September Fishery:
Based on the best available bluefin tuna General category landings information as well as average catch rates and anticipated fishing conditions, NOAA Fisheries projects that the General category September subquota of 183.7 metric tons, as adjusted in this action, will be reached by September 23, 2018, and that the fishery should be closed to avoid exceedance of the adjusted quota. The General category bluefin tuna fishery will close effective 11:30 p.m., September 23, 2018, until it reopens on October 1, 2018, with a baseline quota of 60.7 metric tons (72.2 metric tons under the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas quota rule, if finalized as proposed) available for the October through November time period.
Retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant bluefin tuna by persons aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas General and HMS Charter/Headboat categories must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on September 23, 2018, through September 30, 2018. The intent of this closure is to prevent overharvest of the available General category September bluefin tuna subquota.
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 bluefin tuna. For information regarding the charter/headboat commercial sale endorsement, see 82 FR 57543, December 6, 2017. For more information on bluefin tuna fishing regulations, including size and retention limits, please go to the HMS Permit Shop.
NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the bluefin tuna fisheries closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving bluefin tuna. Late reporting by dealers compromises NOAA Fisheries ability to timely implement actions such as quota and retention limit adjustment, as well as closures, and may result in enforcement actions. Additionally, and separate from the dealer reporting requirement, General category and HMS Charter/ Headboat category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all bluefin tuna 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, NOAA Fisheries may determine that additional action (i.e., quota and/or daily retention limit adjustment, or closure) is 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 bluefin tuna 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.
For more information call (978) 281-9260 or go to the HMS Permit Shop.