NOAA Fisheries wants your input on proposed measures that could benefit Atlantic bluefin tuna and recreational anglers by reducing bycatch on surface longline fishing gear. The agency is also considering a harmful measure that would penalize recreational fishermen for waste in the longline fishery. Make your voice heard today to ensure NOAA takes steps that will improve this proposal!
Surface longlines kill thousands of hard-fighting game fish, including white marlin, sailfish, and bluefin tuna. In 2012, the fishery threw back dead nearly 25% of the U.S. bluefin quota. Action is needed to end the waste of bluefin and ensure that surface longliners, not recreational fishermen, are held accountable for this incidental catch.
Please join us in calling on NOAA Fisheries to implement strong measures that will protect spawning bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico and reduce unwanted catch off North Carolina, hold surface longliners accountable for bluefin bycatch, maintain current bluefin quota allocations, and promote increased fishing opportunities for recreational anglers.
Please take action to reduce wasteful bluefin bycatch on surface longlines by implementing the March through May Gulf of Mexico Exclusive Economic Zone Pelagic Longline Gear Restricted Area and the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area prohibition on all surface longlining from December through April. I also encourage you to implement a strict annual catch cap, individual bluefin quota system, and enhanced at-sea monitoring to limit future catch of bluefin tuna in the surface longline fishery. Finally, I urge NOAA Fisheries to not reallocate additional bluefin quota from other fishermen to the surface longline fishery.
As a recreational fisherman, I am concerned that surface longlines accidentally catch and kill a variety of prized game fish, including blue marlin, sailfish, and depleted bluefin tuna. Bluefin bycatch is especially high off the coast of North Carolina and in the Gulf of Mexico, the only known spawning ground for western Atlantic bluefin. Unfortunately, the Small Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area proposed is too small and too short in duration to provide spawning bluefin adequate protections. This area should be expanded to include the entire Gulf when bluefin spawning is at its peak from March through May. NOAA should also prevent all surface longlining in the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area from December through April, when interactions with bluefin are high.
In 2012, the surface longline fishery discarded dead nearly 25 percent of the U.S. bluefin quota. NOAA should take action to restrict mortality in the surface longline fishery to its current share of 8.1 percent of the U.S. quota and end wasteful discarding. These measures will help protect bluefin tuna and encourage the use of more selective fishing methods capable of avoiding the catch of bluefin, white marlin, sailfish, and other species.
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Thank you for you for taking these comments into consideration. NOAA Fisheries has the opportunity to end the waste of Atlantic bluefin on surface longlines and improve fishing opportunities for America’s recreational anglers. Please don’t let this one get away.
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