Proposed Rule for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and Northern Albacore Quotas and a Minor Change in Regulations

July 03, 2018

NOAA Fisheries proposes to modify the baseline annual U.S. quota and subquotas for Atlantic bluefin tuna, as well as the baseline annual U.S. North Atlantic albacore quota and allow retention of shark-damaged tuna.

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Adjustment of bluefin tuna quotas

Because bluefin tuna quotas, allocations, and resulting subquotas are codified in the HMS regulations at 50 CFR § 635.27, rulemaking is necessary to modify the baseline annual U.S. bluefin tuna quota (from  1,058.79 mt to 1,247.86 mt) and subquotas (in mt) to the General, Angling, Harpoon, Purse Seine, Longline, Trap, and Reserve categories per the process established in Amendment 7. The recommended total U.S. quota, including 25 mt to account for bycatch related to pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant gear restricted area, is 1,272.86 mt.

This proposed rule would modify the baseline U.S. quota and subquotas, which would be effective for the 2018 fishing year and annually until changed, for instance as a result of a new western Atlantic bluefin tuna International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas recommendation. See the table below for the proposed Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas. The proposed rule also would amend the regulations regarding annual quota adjustments to specify that NOAA Fisheries may adjust the annual school bluefin tuna subquota to ensure compliance with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas-recommended procedures for addressing overharvest of school bluefin tuna. 

Adjustment of northern albacore quota

Rulemaking is also necessary to modify the baseline annual U.S. northern albacore quota codified at 50 CFR § 635.27 (from 527 mt to 632.4 mt). This proposed rule would modify the baseline U.S. quota, which would be effective for the 2018 fishing year and annually until changed, for instance as a result of a new northern albacore International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas recommendation. 

Modification of the Atlantic tuna size limit regulations (for shark-damaged tunas)

NOAA Fisheries also is proposing minor modifications to the Atlantic tunas size limit regulations to address retention, possession, and landing of bigeye and yellowfin tunas damaged by shark bites. NOAA Fisheries implemented similar measures for shark-damaged swordfish in 1996. This change would allow retention, possession, and landing of tunas for which a measurement to the fork of the tail may not be possible, provided that the remainder of the fish meets the applicable minimum sizes (e.g., 27 inches for yellowfin, and bigeye tunas). For enforcement purposes to preserve evidence that the carcass was shark-bitten, the action also proposes that no tissue may be cut away from or other alterations made to the shark-damaged area of the fish.

Proposed annual Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas (in metric tons)

Category

Quota

Subquotas

 

 

General

555.7

 

 

 

 

 

January-March1

29.5

 

 

 

June-August

277.9

 

 

 

September

147.3

 

 

 

October-November

72.2

 

 

 

December

28.9

 

Harpoon

46.0

 

 

 

Longline

163.6

 

 

 

Trap

1.2

 

 

 

Purse Seine

219.52

 

 

 

Angling

232.4

 

 

 

 

 

School

127.3

 

 

 

     Reserve

 

23.5

 

 

     North of 39°18′ N. lat.

 

49.0

 

 

     South of 39°18′ N. lat.

 

54.8

 

 

Large School/Small Medium

99.8

 

 

 

     North of 39°18′ N. lat.

 

47.1

 

 

     South of 39°18′ N. lat.

 

52.7

 

 

Trophy

5.3

 

 

 

     North of 39°18′ N. lat.

 

1.8

 

 

     South of 39°18′ N. lat.

 

1.8

 

 

     Gulf of Mexico

 

1.8

Reserve

29.52

 

 

 

U.S. Baseline Quota

1,247.863

 

 

 

Total U.S. Quota, including 25 mt for NED (Longline)

1,272.863

 

 

 

1 January 1 through the effective date of a closure notice filed by NOAA Fisheries announcing that the January subquota is reached or projected to be reached, or through March 31, whichever comes first.

2 Baseline amount shown. Does not reflect the annual adjustment process (for the Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas) adopted in Amendment 7.

3 Totals subject to rounding error.

Public comment requested

You may submit comments (identified by “NOAA-NMFS-2018-0004”) through August 6, 2018, by using one of the following methods:

  • Electronic Submissions:  Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal and click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments.
  • U.S. Mail: Sarah McLaughlin, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930 

Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries. All comments received are a part of the public record and generally will be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible.  NOAA Fisheries will accept anonymous comments (enter "N/A" in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

Public Hearing Webinar

NOAA Fisheries will hold a public hearing conference call and webinar on July 17, 2018, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, to allow for an additional opportunity for interested members of the public from all geographic areas to submit verbal comments on the proposed rule.

NOAA Fisheries will show a brief presentation followed by public comment.

  • Conference call: 1-800-593-7188;
                                  participant passcode 6548000.
    (Participants are strongly encouraged to log/dial in 15 minutes prior to the meeting.)
  • Webinar: Meeting number: 993 478 244;
                     Password: NOAA.
    (Participants who have not used WebEx before will be prompted to download and run a plug-in program that will enable them to view the webinar.)

This notice is a courtesy to permit holders to help keep you informed about the Atlantic tuna fisheries. For further information, contact the HMS Management Division at (301) 427-8503, or visit the Atlantic HMS Management Division. Official notice of federal fishery actions is made through filing notice with the Office of the Federal Register.

Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on September 25, 2018