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Atlantic Bluefin Tuna General Category Fishery: NMFS Transfers 21 mt from December 2015 Subquota to January 2015 Subquota and Adjusts Daily Retention Limit for January 2015 Subquota Period to Three Fish; New reporting requirements effective January 1

Posted December 23, 2014

Actions being taken and important dates

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) transfers 21 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the General category (commercial handgear) December 2015 subquota period to the January 2015 subquota period, and adjusts the Atlantic tunas General category BFT daily retention limit for the January 2015 subquota period to three large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73” or greater) per vessel per day/trip.  Although called the “January” subquota, the General category fishery under this quota may continue until the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first.  Hence, the retention limit adjustment is effective January 1 through March 31, 2015, or until the January subquota is reached, whichever comes first 

Quota Transfer:  During the Amendment 7 rulemaking, NMFS received comment from General category participants that NMFS should provide more quota to the January subquota period and shift subquota from December to the January period.  Some of the comments expressed concern that, due to the timing of NMFS’ implementation of quota rules and/or quota specifications (which are usually finalized mid-year), General category participants in the January period do not benefit from any increased opportunities that may become available to those fishing in the summer and fall.  The final rule implementing Amendment 7, effective January 1, 2015, responded to this concern and allows NMFS to proactively transfer General category quota from one time period to an earlier time period in the same calendar year. 

For the 2015 fishing year NMFS transfers the 21 mt to the General category January period, resulting in a subquota of 42.4 mt for that period and a December period subquota of 0 mt.  NMFS will close the General category fishery when the adjusted General category January period subquota has been reached or it will close automatically on March 31, 2015, and it will remain closed until the General category fishery reopens on June 1, 2015.  

NMFS also anticipates that up to 94.9 mt of underharvest of the 2014 adjusted U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2015 to the Reserve, in accordance with the regulations implementing Amendment 7.  This, in addition to the fact that any unused General category quota will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year, and the anticipated increase in the U.S. quota and subquotas for 2015, make it very likely that General category quota will remain available through the end of 2015 for December fishery participants, even with the transfer.  Therefore, General category participants in all areas and time periods should have opportunities to harvest the General category quota.

Daily Retention Limit:  Based on recent fishery performance and the quota transfer, among other things, NMFS anticipates that the default one-fish limit likely would be overly restrictive and would not provide opportunities to harvest the full January subquota without exceeding it.  Although NMFS may set the daily retention limit to up to five fish, the January subquota could be caught quickly under a higher limit (and higher fish availability), resulting in a short fishing season which may preclude or reduce fishing opportunities due to the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of BFT.  NMFS has determined that a three-fish limit is warranted.

NMFS takes this action after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, which include available quota, fishery performance in recent years, availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, and the effects of the adjustment on the stock and on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan and Amendments.  This action should provide opportunities to harvest the available U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it; preserve the opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the winter BFT fishery in the mid-Atlantic region when commercial-sized BFT become available in that area; and collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes.

Through December 31, 2014, the current General category retention limit of four large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip remains in effect.  For more information on BFT fishing regulations, including recreational size and retention limits, please go to:

Who is affected?

These actions apply to vessels permitted in the commercial Atlantic tunas General category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category while fishing commercially.  The daily retention limit is effective for all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, which is designated as BFT spawning grounds and where NMFS does not allow targeted fishing for BFT.  Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon landing.  For example, during the January 2015 subquota period, whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the day/trip limit of three fish applies and may not be exceeded upon landing.

NMFS will continue to monitor the General category BFT fishery closely through the mandatory landings and catch reports.  Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT.  Consistent with the regulations implementing Amendment 7, General category and HMS Charter/Headboat vessel operators are required to report the number and length of all BFT retained or discarded dead through an online catch reporting system within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing  Depending on fishing effort and catch rates, additional retention limit adjustments or fishery closures may be necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas.

NMFS 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 available at

This notice is a courtesy to BFT fishery permit holders to help keep you informed about the fishery.  For additional information, call (888) 872-8862 or (978) 281-9260, or go to  Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.



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