NOAA Fisheries has decided to close the Angling category fishery for large-medium and giant, “trophy,” Atlantic bluefin tuna in the southern area, beginning March 17, 2018 and lasting the rest of the year.
The size applies to Atlantic bluefin measuring 73” or greater, and the southern area refers to the Atlantic Ocean south of Great Egg Inlet, NJ (39°18’N), but excluding the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA Fisheries has determined that the Angling category southern area trophy bluefin tuna subquota has been reached and exceeded, prompting the closure. The decision is based on reported landings of 2.1 mt of bluefin from the Automated Catch Reporting System and the North Carolina Tagging Program.
At 11:30 p.m. on March 17, 2018, retaining, possessing, or landing large-medium or giant bluefin tuna in the specified area (south of 39°18’N and outside the Gulf of Mexico) must cease by those aboard vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category. The measure, effective through December 31, 2018, is to prevent further overharvest of bluefin in this category.
Quota remains for vessels fishing in the northern area and the Gulf of Mexico area, where the Angling category trophy limit of one large-medium or giant bluefin tuna per vessel still applies. In all areas except the Gulf of Mexico, the Angling category fishery for bluefin measuring more than 27” but less than 73” is open. Catch and release or tag and release of bluefin tuna of all sizes is still permissible in all areas, assuming proper handling techniques are employed to maximize survival of the fish without removing it from the water.