NOAA Fisheries adjusts the General category Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota by transferring 25.6 mt from the Harpoon category to account for overharvests of the September and October through November subquotas, and utilize the unused portion of the adjusted Harpoon category quota. This action results in an adjusted General category subquota of 12.7 mt for the December subquota period. It is intended to preserve the opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the December General category fishery, which reopens December 1, 2017. 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. NOAA Fisheries 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 October 31, 2017, indicate that the General category has landed 676 mt this year, which exceeds the adjusted General category quota of 663.1 mt. NOAA Fisheries closed the General category fishery when the October through November subquota (60.7 mt) was projected to be met, effective October 5, 2017. The Harpoon category is now closed for the year as of November 15. Without a quota transfer at this time, there would be no quota available to General category participants in December because the entire adjusted General category quota of 663.1 mt has been reached and exceeded. Therefore, NOAA Fisheries adjusts the General category quota to 688.7 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 Harpoon category quota to 43 mt. This results in 12.7 mt being available to the General category for the December subquota period. NOAA Fisheries reminds General category participants that when the fishery reopens December 1, 2017, the BFT General category daily retention limit will be one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73½ or greater) per vessel per day/trip.
This action applies to vessels permitted in the commercial Atlantic tunas General category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category while fishing commercially. NOAA Fisheries 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 NOAA Fisheries ability to timely implement actions such as quota and retention limit adjustment, as well as closures, and may result in enforcement actions. Additionally, and separate from the dealer reporting requirement, 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, NOAA Fisheries 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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