NOAA sets fishing quotas for bluefin tuna

05 Jul 2011
School of bluefin tuna. Credit: NOAA Fisheries Service

School of bluefin tuna. Credit: NOAA Fisheries Service

NOAA has announced quotas and other measures for bluefin tuna that underscore the nation’s commitment to sustainable science-based management of this vital fish stock.

The allocations divide the available 2011 US bluefin tuna quota of 957mt among commercial and recreational fishing sectors for the fishing season that began on 1 June.

In addition, NOAA’s Fisheries Service announced it would begin a review of domestic bluefin tuna management to address allocation issues, discards of dead bluefin tuna and the best ways to reduce unintended catch of bluefin tuna.

The total US quota was set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas in November.

The General category, which includes commercial fishermen who use rod and reel, will receive 435mt, nearly half the 2011 US quota. Allocations for the other categories are as follows: Angling category (which includes recreational fishermen), 182mt; purse seine fishermen, 171.8mt; longline fishermen, 61mt; harpoon fishermen, 36mt; trap fishermen, 0.9mt; and a reserve of 70.6mt. The reserve is set aside for scientific research and to account for landings and dead discards.

The allocations account for potential discards of unintentionally caught bluefin tuna. Bluefin tuna are primarily discarded by longline fishermen who are targeting swordfish and other tunas. Although fishermen attempt to release fish alive, many discarded fish do not survive. The longline fishery was the only sector to receive reductions in its base quota to account for dead discards in advance of them actually being caught.

NOAA says it is working closely with longline fishermen to reduce the amount of bluefin tuna that they catch unintentionally and, in the spring, began requiring longline fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico to use weak hooks to reduce the unintended bluefin catch while still allowing them to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna.

After extensive scientific review, NOAA announced in May that the Atlantic bluefin tuna currently do not warrant species protection under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA also committed to revisit this decision by early 2013, when more scientific information will be available.

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