Pelagic longline “research” decisions not yet issued that could authorize the gear to fish inside waters closed for 19 and 20 years off of Florida’s east coast, Charleston and in the Gulf of Mexico. The closures were implemented to reduce longline bycatch mortality of overfished swordfish, marlin, sailfish, tunas, sharks, sea turtles and marine mammals. Swordfish stocks have recovered, but not the other species for which the waters were closed. If “longline research” inside the closed waters is authorized, it will be a clear indication the NMFS is writing- off the recovery of overfished billfish and the other species for which the waters were closed. Gear conflicts and overfishing will increase as well.
Individual Bluefin tuna Quota (IBQ) management modifications have yet been announced. The pivotal issue is whether the Purse Seine Category (PS), which has not landed a bluefin since 2015 due to small fish comprising most of the targeted schools, will be abolished or temporarily suspended. If so, the PS quota allocation may be distributed among other authorized fishing Categories, which may result in the Angling Category receiving increased tonnage.