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NOAA Fisheries Announces Final Rule for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quotas

Posted: August 28, 2015

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is modifying the baseline annual U.S. quota and subquotas for Atlantic bluefin tuna.  The final rule increases the baseline annual U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna quota from the 923.7-mt level established via a 2011 quota rule (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011) by 135 mt to 1,058.79 mt, as recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for 2015 and 2016.  NMFS is adjusting and codifying the baseline annual subquotas for the domestic fishing categories consistent with the process established in Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (Amendment 7; 79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014) as shown in the table below.  As described below and specifically for 2015, NMFS augments the Reserve category quota with available underharvest of the 2014 adjusted U.S. BFT quota and also recalculates the Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas that were announced earlier this year (consistent with the Amendment 7 annual reallocation process) to reflect the increased U.S. BFT quota.  NMFS is also making minor modifications to the regulatory text regarding Atlantic tunas purse seine auxiliary vessel activity under the "transfer at sea" provisions.  This action is necessary to implement binding ICCAT recommendations, as required by the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, and to achieve domestic management objectives under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Amendment 7 changed the way that NMFS adjusts the U.S. annual quota for any previous year’s underharvest. Rather than publishing proposed and final quota specifications annually to adjust the quota for the underharvest as NMFS has in the past, NMFS will automatically augment the Reserve category quota with any available underharvest from the prior year, consistent with ICCAT limits, when complete Atlantic bluefin tuna catch information for the prior year is available and finalized.  As anticipated in the proposed rule, 94.9 mt, of that underharvest is carried forward to the 2015 fishing year (and placed in the Reserve category).  NMFS may allocate any portion of the Reserve category quota for inseason or annual adjustments to any fishing category quota pursuant to regulatory determination criteria described at 50 CFR 635.27(a)(8), in addition to using the Reserve category quota for scientific research.

Consistent with the process adopted in the Amendment 7 implementing regulations, NMFS calculated at the beginning of the year the quota available to individual Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine category fishery participants for 2015 based on BFT catch (landings and dead discards) by those fishery participants in 2014.  Based on that information, 87.4 mt of the baseline Purse Seine category quota of 159.1 mt was reallocated to the Reserve category for the 2015 fishing year.  This process resulted in a total of 71.7 mt for Purse Seine fishery participants for 2015 and 108.8 mt (i.e., the base Reserve quota of 21.4 mt + 87.4 mt from the Purse Seine category) for the Reserve category (80 FR 7547, February 11, 2015).  As discussed in the proposed rule, NMFS is first adjusting the 2015 Purse Seine category quota based on the ICCAT quota increase in this rule.  As a result, the baseline Purse Seine category quota would increase by 25.2 mt to 184.3 mt.  We then recalculate the amounts of quota available to individual Purse Seine fishery participants for 2015 applying the final baseline Purse Seine category (184.3 mt), and adjust the 2015 Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas as appropriate.  This process results in a total of 82.9 mt for Purse Seine fishery participants in 2015, with the remainder (i.e., 184.3 - 82.9 = 101.4 mt) added to the Reserve category.  NMFS will notify Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine fishery participants of the adjusted amount of quota available for their use in 2015 through the Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) electronic system and in writing.

NMFS recently implemented two inseason transfers from the Reserve category for 2015 (34 mt to the Longline category and 40 mt to the Harpoon category), so the adjusted 2015 Reserve category quota as of publication of this action, including the allowable underharvest described above, would be 24.8 - 34 - 40 + 101.4 + 94.9 = 147.1 mt (80 FR 45098, July 29, 2015 and 80 FR 46516, August 5, 2015, respectively).

NMFS is making minor modifications to regulatory text regarding Atlantic tunas purse seine “transfer at sea” to clarify that this text was not meant to allow "transfer at sea," which is prohibited by ICCAT Recommendation 14-05, but is only meant to allow the routine, limited operations of an auxiliary vessel (i.e., a skiff) in assisting its associated purse seine vessel in catch operations for bluefin tuna.
See the table below for the final 2015 Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas. To view the final rule and supporting documents, see

This notice is a courtesy to fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fishery. Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register. For further information, contact the HMS Management Division at (978) 281-9260.

Final annual Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas (in metric tons)

Category Annual Baseline Quotas and Subquotas







































Purse Seine



















     North of 39°18′ N. lat.





     South of 39°18′ N. lat.





Large School/Small Medium




     North of 39°18′ N. lat.





     South of 39°18′ N. lat.









     North of 39°18′ N. lat.





     South of 39°18′ N. lat.





     Gulf of Mexico







U.S. Baseline BFT Quota




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





1 January 1 through the effective date of a closure notice filed by NMFS 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.


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