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NOAA to Enforce Compliance Measures for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Dealers

Atlantic Yellowfin tuna are a highly migratory species and covered under NOAA's HMS edealer program. Dealers are required to report commercially harvested catch on a weekly basis.

All federally permitted Atlantic HMS dealers are required to electronically report commercially harvested species on a weekly basis. Weekly electronic reporting ensures timely information regarding HMS stocks from Maine to Texas, including the U.S. Caribbean. These dealer reports are used to estimate landings of Atlantic HMS in order to conduct in-season monitoring of HMS commercial quotas and to determine if it is appropriate to close a fishery. This is particularly important for fish stocks with small quotas, such as many shark species. Dealers are required to submit reports for purchases of all fish from Sunday through Saturday (the reporting week) to NOAA Fisheries no later than midnight, local time, of the first Tuesday following the end of the reporting week. Dealers are also required to submit “negative” reports, indicating no receipt of any species within the same specified time frame.

NOAA worked closely with the HMS fishing community in advance of the final rule to provide information and education on the reporting requirements, including 19 in-person training workshops with dealers. A compliance guide was developed and distributed to industry representatives, and the electronic dealer reporting regulations were delayed until 2013 to provide time for dealers to prepare for electronic reporting (e.g., purchase computers, if needed) and to become aware of the new requirements.

Although most dealers are reporting as required, some are not. This hampers the effective management of the fishery and isn’t fair to those who are complying. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is currently processing violations and issuing citations to dealers who are not in compliance with the requirements. Enforcement personnel will take an active approach in monitoring violations to ensure compliance with the regulations.

“Enforcement of the reporting measures is necessary to ensure timely and accurate reporting, which is critical for quota monitoring and helps ensure timely tracking of annual catch limits, which in turn helps prevent overfishing,” said Matthew Brandt, Acting Director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. “We will continue to monitor these dealer reports to ensure consistency and timeliness in reporting and contact dealers who are not in compliance.”

Atlantic highly migratory species are not only vital to the natural balance of marine ecosystems, but they are also a valuable recreational and commercial resource and food source.

”Weekly electronic dealer reporting has helped NOAA with in-season monitoring of HMS stocks. However, in order to receive timely data, it is essential that dealers submit their reports on time,” said Margo Schulze-Haugen, Chief of NOAA Fisheries’ Highly Migratory Species Division. “Dealers that purchase HMS product and fail to report, or fail to report in a timely manner, can negatively impact the entire fishery by causing overharvests of the HMS resources and shortened fishing seasons in subsequent years.”

For more information, please visit the HMS eDealer webpage or contact the HMS Management Division at 301-427-8590 or via email at HMS.DealerReports@noaa.gov.

Story by John Thibodeau, communications specialist for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. To contact him, please call 301-427-8234 or email john.thibodeau@noaa.gov.