The National Marine Fisheries Service’s recently issued its final decision on Gear Restricted Areas (GRA) and Weak Hook use by pelagic longline vessels. These decisions ARE NOT related to the more serious pending rule on whether to open Closed Zones to pelagic longline fishing under the guise of research.
The GRA decision abolished the area off Hatteras and converted those off New Jersey and in the Gulf of Mexico to pelagic longline Gear Monitoring Areas from which data is to be collected on bycatch of bluefin tunas.
The 12-month requirement for pelagic longline vessels fishing in the Gulf of Mexico to use weak hooks is amended to require only a six-month use, January – June. Not requiring the hooks to be used through September leaves some billfish tournaments in the Gulf exposed to greater longline bycatch mortality of marlin, likely resulting in fewer marlin hook ups by anglers.