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NMFS Announces Final 2014 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quotas

Posted July 3, 2014

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces final quota specifications for the 2014 Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery.  NMFS is adjusting the annual U.S. baseline bluefin quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to account for underharvest of the adjusted 2013 U.S. bluefin quota.

As detailed below and shown in the attached table, the final rule:

In the proposed rule (79 FR 18870, April 4, 2014), NMFS used a 219.5-mt estimate, based on the 2012 estimate of 205.8 mt for the pelagic longline fishery and the 2013 observed dead discards of 13.7 mt for the purse seine fishery, as a proxy for potential 2014 dead discards.  The 2013 pelagic longline dead discard estimate of 127.1 mt is now available.  Adding the 2013 observed dead discards of 13.7 mt for the purse seine fishery, the best available annual estimate of U.S. dead discards that could be expected in 2014 is now 140.8 mt.   

The 2013 estimate of pelagic longline dead discards is about 79 mt less than the 2012 proxy of 205.8-mt used in the proposed rule.  The difference between the 2012 and 2013 pelagic longline dead discard estimates largely can be attributed to a decrease in estimated dead discards for the Gulf of Mexico in 2013.  In 2012, a higher number of bluefin dead discards were observed in the first and second quarters (10 fish and 52 fish, respectively) and there was a lower observer coverage rate (8 percent and 40 percent, respectively) compared to 2013, resulting in a higher extrapolated estimate (about 255 fish).  In the 2013 first and second quarters, there were fewer bluefin dead discards observed (6 fish and 35 fish, respectively) and a higher observer coverage rate (24 percent and 60 percent, respectively), which resulted in a lower extrapolated estimate (about 83 fish) compared to 2012.

Based on preliminary data available as of May 30, 2014, bluefin landings in 2013 totaled 518.6 mt.  Adding the 140.8-mt estimate of dead discards results in a preliminary 2013 total catch of 659.4 mt, which is 384.2 mt less than the 2013 U.S. adjusted bluefin tuna quota (1,043.6 mt).  ICCAT limits the amount of underharvest that can be carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 10 percent of a country’s quota, which limits the amount of 2013 U.S. underharvest that may be carried forward to 2014 to 94.9 mt.  

As proposed, NMFS is accounting up front for half of the expected dead discards for 2014, using the best available information, from the baseline Longline and Purse Seine category subquotas, as applicable.  NMFS had proposed to carry 94.9 mt of available underharvest forward to 2014 and apply the full 94.9 mt to the Longline category.  NMFS stated that any necessary adjustments to the 2014 specifications would be made in the final rule after considering updated 2013 landings information and the 2013 pelagic longline dead discard estimate.

Considering the best available information regarding 2013 landings and dead discards, as well as actual 2014 Longline category bluefin tuna landings to date and domestic management needs for 2014, NMFS has decided to provide 6.9 mt of the 2013 underharvest that can be carried forward to 2014 to the Purse Seine category and provide the remainder (88.0 mt) to the Longline category.  Given the reduction in the pelagic longline dead discard estimate from 2012 to 2013, and the associated reduction in the deduction from the Longline category to account for one half of dead discards up front, NMFS has determined that providing 6.9 mt of the available underharvest to the Purse Seine category is appropriate as it provides the Purse Seine category its baseline subquota amount (i.e., 171.8 mt – 6.9 mt + 6.9 mt = 171.8 mt).  It also provides the Longline category a reasonable amount of quota for 2014 and reduces potential “regulatory discards” that may otherwise result if closure of the Longline category fishery to bluefin tuna retention is necessary mid-year, as it was in 2012 and 2013.  Thus, the adjusted Longline category subquota is 74.8 – 63.6 + 88.0 = 99.2 mt, not including the 25-mt allocation for the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area. 

Although these final quota specifications adjust the Longline subquota to an amount greater than its baseline subquota, it is important to note that in 2011 and 2013, the adjusted Longline category subquota was substantially lower than the baseline subquota, and it was necessary to close the Longline category fishery to bluefin retention in June 2013 (the Longline category was also closed in June in 2012 when the base quota was reached).  Landings by the directed handgear categories in 2013 did not approach the available quotas for those categories (e.g., 64%, 48%, and 72% of the General, Harpoon, and Angling categories were harvested, respectively).  Thus, there is not a demonstrated need for NMFS to provide available underharvest to the directed handgear categories or the Reserve category at this time.  NMFS may transfer quota among categories later in the fishing year, if appropriate, based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments.  In these specifications, NMFS is balancing the need of the pelagic longline fishery to continue fishing for swordfish and Atlantic tunas with the need of directed bluefin fisheries participants to receive their base quota. 

NMFS considers the specifications approaches taken in 2011 through 2014 as a transition from the method used for 2007 through 2010, as NMFS continues to develop Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP).  Among other things, Amendment 7 would reallocate bluefin tuna quota among categories in a way to more accurately reflect annual fishery operations and needs while decreasing bycatch in the non-directed fisheries.  This amendment will address related bluefin tuna fishery management issues consistent with the need to end overfishing and rebuild the stock, including revisiting quota allocations; reducing and accounting for dead discards; adding or modifying time/area closures or gear-restricted areas; and improving the reporting and monitoring of dead discards and landings in all categories (78 FR 52032, August 21, 2013).

Depending on the management measures implemented in the Amendment 7 final rule, the quota specifications process may be substantially different in upcoming years.  NMFS anticipates publishing a final rule to implement Amendment 7 in Fall 2014, with implementation dates varying by topic.

See attached table for final 2014 bluefin quotas and quota specifications.  See http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/breaking_news.html to view the final rule and supporting documents.

This notice is a courtesy to bluefin tuna fishery permit holders to keep you informed about the fishery.  For further information contact the HMS Management Division at 978-281-9260 or go to hmspermits.noaa.gov.  Official notice of Federal Fishery Actiona is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.

 

Final 2014 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quotas and Quota Specifications (in metric tons)

   

2014 Quota Specifications

Category   (% Share of Baseline Quota)

Baseline Allocation

(per Current ICCAT Recommendation and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP Allocations)

Dead Discard Deduction

 

2013 Underharvest to Carry Forward to 2014 Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota
Total (100)

923.71

-70.5

+94.9

948.1

Angling (19.7)

  

   182.0

SUBQUOTAS:

School                94.9

    Reserve   17.6

    North      36.5

    South      40.8

LS/SM               82.9

    North      39.1

    South      43.8

Trophy                4.2

    North       1.4

    South       2.8

 

 

182.0

SUBQUOTAS:

School                94.9

     Reserve  17.6

     North      36.5

     South      40.8

LS/SM               82.9

     North      39.1

     South      43.8

Trophy                4.2

     North        1.4

     South        2.8

General (47.1)

                             435.1

SUBQUOTAS:

Jan                     23.1

Jun-Aug          217.6

Sept                 115.3

Oct-Nov            56.6

Dec                    22.6

 

 

                             435.1

SUBQUOTAS:

Jan                     23.1

Jun-Aug          217.6

Sept                 115.3

Oct-Nov            56.6

Dec                    22.6

Harpoon (3.9)

36.0   

 

 

36.0

Purse Seine (18.6)

171.8

-6.92

+6.9

171.8

Longline (8.1)

 

                               74.8                

SUBQUOTAS:

North (-NED)    29.9

NED    25.0*

South                  44.9

-63.63

+88.0

99.2

SUBQUOTAS:

North (-NED)    39.7

NED    25.0*

South                59.5

Trap (0.1)

0.9

 

 

0.9

Reserve (2.5)

23.1

 

 

23.1

1 25-mt ICCAT set-aside to account for bycatch of bluefin tuna in pelagic longline fisheries in the NED.  Not included in totals at top of table.
2 (1/2 of 2013 observed purse seine dead discards of 13.7 mt as estimate for 2014)
3 (1/2 of 2013 pelagic longline dead discard estimate of 127.1 mt as estimate for 2014)

 

 

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