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Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: Annual adjustment of Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas; 45-mt Quota Transfer from the Reserve Category to the Longline Category; Reminder of 2017 Quotas and Subquotas

Posted February 28, 2017

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has adjusted the Atlantic bluefin tuna Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas for 2017.  NMFS also has transferred inseason 45 metric tons (mt) of bluefin tuna quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category.  See the end of this notice for a table summarizing available quotas and subquotas for 2017.

Annual Adjustment of the Bluefin Tuna Purse Seine and Reserve Category Quotas:  In accordance with the Atlantic bluefin tuna quota regulations, NMFS has determined the 2017 Purse Seine category quota available to Purse Seine fishery participants is 46.1 mt.  The amount of Purse Seine category quota reallocated to the Reserve category is 138.2 mt.  This reallocation would result in a 2017 Reserve category quota of 163 mt (24.8 mt + 138.2 mt), before any transfers to other categories (see below).    

Quota Transfer from the Reserve Category to the Longline Category:  NMFS has transferred 45 mt of bluefin tuna quota from the 2017 Reserve category to the 2017 Longline category, resulting in an adjusted 2017 Longline quota of 193.3 mt.  This transfer is intended to increase the amount of quota available to individual vessels, and therefore help vessel owners account for bluefin tuna landings and dead discards while fostering conditions in which permit holders become more willing to lease IBQ.  Specifically, NMFS has taken this action after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, including optimizing fishing opportunity, accounting for dead discards, and the effects of the adjustment on the stock and on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP as amended.  As a result of this quota transfer, the adjusted 2017 Reserve category quota is 118 mt. 

Distribution of Quota Transferred Inseason to Longline Category:  NMFS recently modified the HMS regulations regarding the distribution of inseason bluefin tuna quota transfers to the Longline category (81 FR 95903, December 29, 2016) to provide NMFS the ability to distribute quota inseason either to all qualified IBQ share recipients (i.e., share recipients who have associated their permit with a vessel) or only to permitted Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity, whether or not they are associated with IBQ shares. 

NMFS has examined the logbook, Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), dealer, and electronic monitoring data for 2016 and for 2017 as of February 22, 2017, and has determined that 90 vessels have recent fishing activity.  Of the vessels with recent fishing activity, 86 were IBQ share recipients.  As described in the final IBQ inseason transfer rule, any vessel activity in the pelagic longline fishery during this date range is sufficient to qualify as “recent fishing activity.” For comparison, there are 136 IBQ share recipients under Amendment 7.

NMFS has determined that distribution of quota only to Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity fulfills IBQ Program objectives as such a distribution would provide transferred quota only to the vessels that have recently fished and are therefore most likely to need quota in order to account for BFT interactions.  One of the principal objectives of the IBQ Program is to provide accountability for BFT catch.  Vessels that are not fishing (i.e., not active) do not need IBQ to account for BFT catch.  Of the 136 IBQ share recipients, only 86 (63 percent) have recent fishing activity.  In addition, there are four Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity that are not associated with IBQ shares.  Vessels with IBQ share that have not been active and would not be given any inseason IBQ through this action may nevertheless become active if they desire, because such vessels were allocated the annual amount of IBQ for 2017, and may lease additional IBQ if necessary.  After considering this information, NMFS has decided to distribute the 45 mt of quota transferred from the Reserve to the Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity.

As a result of this quota transfer, NMFS is distributing 1,102 lb (0.5 mt) of quota to each of the 90 permitted Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity.  IBQ allocation will be distributed by March 2, 2017, via the electronic IBQ system to the vessel accounts with valid permits associated with a vessel.  For comparison, if the 45 mt were distributed to all qualified IBQ share recipients, each would receive 729 lb (0.33 mt).  When a qualified IBQ share recipient with recent fishing activity receives inseason quota, the quota will be designated as either Gulf of Mexico (GOM) IBQ, Atlantic (ATL) IBQ, or both GOM and ATL IBQ, according to the share recipient's regional designations.  Those vessels that are participating in the voluntary Deepwater Horizon Oceanic Fish Restoration Project repose period through June 30, 2017, and that have recent fishing activity, would receive a distribution of inseason quota once the repose period ends.  For vessels with recent fishing activity that are not qualified IBQ share recipients, NMFS will assign the distributed quota a regional designation based on where the majority of the vessel's “recent fishing activity” occurred for the relevant period analyzed.

This action should enhance the ability of vessel owners to account for bluefin tuna catch, reduce quota debt, facilitate quota leasing, and reduce uncertainty in the fishery.

Longline category permit holders are reminded that all bluefin tuna discarded dead must be reported through the Vessel Monitoring System, and accounted for in the electronic (online) IBQ system.  NMFS will continue to monitor the bluefin tuna fisheries, including the pelagic longline fishery, through the mandatory landings and catch reports. 

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

The following table summarizes the available quotas and subquotas for 2017 as of this action.

Quota Category Quota for 2017 (mt) Subquotas (mt), where relevant
General 466.7 January-March: 41*; June-August:  233.3; September: 123.7; October-November: 60.7; December: 8*
Harpoon 38.6
Purse Seine 46.1 (adjusted amount, based on criteria for individual participant allocations, reflecting reallocation of 138.2 mt of Purse Seine category quota to the Reserve category)
Longline 193.3 (not including 25-mt ICCAT set-aside for Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area)
Trap 1.0
Angling 195.2 Subquotas:  School: 108.4 (Reserve: 20.1; North 41.7; South 46.6); Large School /Small Medium: 82.3 (North 38.9; South 43.5); Trophy: 4.5  (North 1.5; South 1.5; Gulf of Mexico: 1.5)
Reserve 118 (adjusted amount, reflecting reallocation of 138.2 mt of Purse Seine category quota and inseason transfer of 45 mt to the Longline category)

*2017 subquotas adjusted via inseason action (81 FR 91873, December 19, 2016), reflecting transfer of 16.3 mt from the December 2017 subquota period to the January 2017 subquota period.

The above quotas are based upon the currently codified U.S. quota of 1,058.79 mt and the application of the Amendment 7 regulations.  The baseline (prior to adjustment) Purse Seine, Longline, and Reserve category quotas were 184.3 mt, 148.3 mt, and 24.8 mt respectively.  NMFS anticipates that it will consider additional bluefin tuna quota adjustments during 2017.  For example, when complete 2016 bluefin tuna catch information is available and finalized, NMFS may augment the Reserve further by carrying forward underharvest, if any, from 2016, consistent with ICCAT limits.  Subsequent notices will be published in the Federal Register.  In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates. 

 

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