Stop the wasteful discarding of bluefin tuna!!

The proposed 2011 bluefin fishery Specifications recently published by NMFS will lead to the lowest quotas ever seen in the directed commercial and recreational bluefin fisheries. This is due, in large part, to the dead discards in the longline fleet. The agency is proposing to penalize all traditional commercial and recreational fishermen by deducting the longline discards off the top of the overall U.S. quota instead of requiring the longline fleet to stay within its own allocation. Furthermore, the proposed rule fails to provide disincentives that limit or control longline discards now and in the future, allowing for an open-ended accumulation of dead discards by that fleet in the years to come.

This year, the bluefin longline dead discard estimate is 160 metric tons or approximately 1,500 individual fish. Given the growing bluefin stock size here in the western Atlantic and the increase in longline effort, interactions between longline gear and bluefin tuna will continue to increase; in turn, the levels of dead discards and the impacts on the traditional user groups will only get worse. Unless steps are taken now to reduce the bluefin bycatch, traditional user groups will be seriously impacted. 

The proposed 2011 bluefin fishery Specifications recently published by NMFS will lead to the lowest quotas ever seen in the directed commercial and recreational bluefin fisheries. This is due, in large part, to the dead discards in the longline fleet. The agency is proposing to penalize all traditional commercial and recreational fishermen by deducting the longline discards off the top of the overall U.S. quota instead of requiring the longline fleet to stay within its own allocation. Furthermore, the proposed rule fails to provide disincentives that limit or control longline discards now and in the future, allowing for an open-ended accumulation of dead discards by that fleet in the years to come.

This year, the bluefin longline dead discard estimate is 160 metric tons or approximately 1,500 individual fish. Given the growing bluefin stock size here in the western Atlantic and the increase in longline effort, interactions between longline gear and bluefin tuna will continue to increase; in turn, the levels of dead discards and the impacts on the traditional user groups will only get worse. Unless steps are taken now to reduce the bluefin bycatch, traditional user groups will be seriously impacted.

We, the undersigned, call on NMFS to hold the longline fishery accountable for its large numbers of dead discarded bluefin tuna and to stop rewarding the longline fleet for its high levels of bluefin bycatch. It is unacceptable for NMFS to punish those commercial and recreational fishermen using sustainable methods because of excessive dead and discarded bluefin tuna caused by the longline fishery. We strongly object to the current proposed rule. The agency should find real solutions to this problem, and not just take the outrageous step of reducing quotas for the traditional bluefin fisheries. We will not stand by and allow NMFS to let the longline fishery decimate the historical bluefin fishery!

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