The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) adjusts the General category Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota by transferring 156.4 mt from the Reserve category to account for overharvests of the January, June through August, and September subquotas. The allocated subquotas for October through November and for December are 60.7 mt and 8 mt, respectively. This action is intended to preserve the opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the October through November and December General category fisheries to the extent that transferrable quota is available. This action is also intended to provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; help achieve optimum yield in the BFT fishery; and collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes. NMFS takes this action after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, which involve considerations about, among other things, available quota, fishery performance in recent years, the anticipated availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, the effects of the adjustment on the BFT stock and on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan and amendments.
Preliminary landings data as of September 22, 2017, indicate that the General category has landed 596 mt this year, which exceeds the overall General category quota of 506.7 mt. NMFS closed the General category fishery when the September subquota (123.7 mt) was met, effective September 17, 2017. Without a quota transfer at this time, the October through November and December General category subquotas would not be available to General category participants because the entire General category quota of 506.7 mt has been reached and exceeded. Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category quota to 663.1 mt for the 2017 General category fishing season (i.e., through December 31, 2017, or until the General category quota is reached, whichever comes first), and adjusts the Reserve category quota to 0 mt. NMFS reminds General category participants that when the fishery reopens October 1, 2017, the BFT General category daily retention limit will be one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73” or greater) per vessel per day/trip.
Who is Affected?
This action applies only to Atlantic tunas General category (commercial) permitted vessels. NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. Late reporting by dealers compromises NMFS’ ability to timely implement actions such as quota and retention limit adjustment, as well as closures, and may result in enforcement actions. General and HMS Charter/Headboat 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 by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov or by using the HMS Catch Reporting App. Depending on fishing effort and catch rates, NMFS may determine that additional adjustment or closure is necessary to ensure available subquotas are not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas.
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