Stricter Measures Not Included In NMFS Options For Longlines

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently issued a plan (Scoping Document, March 2018) to reinvigorate the longline fishery rather than proposing stricter conservation measures. If actions to reinvigorate the longline industry are approved, the seriously overfished Atlantic spawning bluefin tuna and marlin will continue to decline.

Atlantic bluefin tuna and both white and blue marlin remain seriously overfished after decades of inadequate longline gear restraints, the gear responsible for much of the overfishing. The Billfish Foundation is calling for anglers and those in the recreational industry to submit comments to NMFS in opposition of a longline reinvigoration.

In the Scoping Document, NMFS proposes the following options:

  1. take no action, letting current longline measures remain in place
  2. abolish areas, leaving no longline restraints in place
  3. modify the size and number of months for each area – enlarge or reduce
  4. establish bycatch triggers (threshold levels), which if met require longline vessels to stop longlining, but allows the vessels to fish with other gear (buoy or green stick)
  5. only for the Gulf of Mexico areas, allow longline vessels to fish inside the zones if their reported bluefin bycatch numbers are low, and if the vessels complied with logbook and observer requirements.

TBF’s position is to tighten longline restraints in all of the areas by increasing the size and extending the number of months with restraints, not lessening them. In the Gulf of Mexico, TBF prefers a buyout of longline permits and vessels to achieve the greatest conservation benefits.  TBF expresses support for the following:

  1. Enlarging the size of and extending the number of months for longline restraints.
  2. In the Gulf of Mexico, facilitate a buyout of longline permits and vessels with those willing to sell. For those not desiring to sell their vessel, transition those to buoy or green stick gear.
  3. At a minimum, the take “no action” option at least leaves the current restraints in place.

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