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Atlantic Bluefin Tuna General Category Fishery: NMFS Transfers 40 mt from the Reserve Category and Adjusts the Daily Retention Limit to One Fish for the “January” Subquota Period

Posted March 2, 2017

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) transfers 40 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the Reserve category to the General category January 2017 subquota and adjusts the Atlantic tunas General category BFT daily retention limit from the current level of three to one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73” or greater) per vessel per day/trip for the remainder of the January 2017 subquota period.  Although it is called the “January” subquota, the regulations allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first.  Per the regulations regarding adjustment of General category BFT daily retention limit, the adjustment from three to one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip will be effective Sunday, March 5, 2017.

Quota Transfer:  As of February 27, 2017, the General category landed approximately 52 mt of its adjusted January subquota of 41 mt.  Without a quota transfer, NMFS would have to close the January 2017 General category fishery, while unused quota remains in the Reserve category and while commercial-sized BFT may remain available in the areas where General category permitted vessels operate at this time of year.  The quota transfer results in an adjusted January period subquota of 81 mt for the General category and 78 mt for the Reserve category.  NMFS will close the General category fishery when the adjusted 81-mt subquota has been reached, or it will close automatically on March 31, 2017, whichever comes first, and it will remain closed until the General category fishery reopens on June 1, 2017.

NMFS also anticipates that some underharvest of the 2016 adjusted U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2017 and placed in the Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations.  This, in addition to the fact that any unused General category quota will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year along with NMFS’ plan to actively manage the subquotas to avoid any exceedances, makes it likely that General category quota will remain available through the end of 2017.  NMFS also may conduct other allowable transfers among categories throughout the year after considering the regulatory determination criteria for such adjustments.  NMFS anticipates that General category participants in all areas and time periods will have opportunities to harvest the General category quota in 2017, through active inseason management such as retention limit adjustments and/or the timing of quota transfers, as practicable.  Thus, this quota transfer would allow fishermen to take advantage of the availability of fish on the fishing grounds, consider the expected increases in available 2017 quota later in the year, and provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the full U.S. BFT quota.

Daily Retention Limit Adjustment:  Based on recent fishery performance and the quota transfer, among other considerations, NMFS has determined that a daily retention limit of one fish is warranted for the remainder of the January 2017 subquota period. 

NMFS takes this action after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, which include considerations about the amount of available quota, effects of the action on the continuation of the fishery, availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, the value of information obtained from the fishery, effects of the adjustment on the stock, and consistency with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species 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 BFT fishery; and collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes.  For more information on BFT fishing regulations, including recreational size and retention limits, please go to hmspermits.noaa.gov.

Who is affected?

This action applies to vessels permitted in the commercial Atlantic tunas General category and the Highly Migratory Species (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 2017 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 one fish applies and may not be exceeded upon landing.

NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries closely.  Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT.  General category, HMS Charter/Headboat, Harpoon, and Angling category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov or by using the Android or iPhone app.   Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates, NMFS may determine that additional action (i.e., quota and/or daily retention limit adjustment, or closure) is 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.

This notice is a courtesy to BFT 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.

 

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