No Protection for Overfished Atlantic Blue Marlin as Protections for Sharks Grow Stronger

The Final Amendment 15 was recently issued by NMFS and fails to provide protections for overfished blue marlin. Instead, the text reflects the government’s lack of understanding of the highly migratory nature of blue marlin, treating them more like residential sailfish. The text even fails to reflect a general understanding of billfishing, insinuating that all billfishing takes place within 40 miles of shore.

What is clear, however, is the accommodations for the pelagic longline fleet, specifically regarding a reduction in the size of areas previously inaccessible to longliners. Compared to the proposed sizes in 2023, there is a 68% reduction of inaccessible waters off the Charleston Bump for pelagic longlining. For restricted waters off the East Florida Coast, there is a 41% reduction. This reduction also coincides with a dramatic increase in the number of authorized pelagic longline sets, with the waters off the Charleston Bump increasing from 69 to 380 sets and 124 to 250 off the East Florida Coast. Even more shocking is the lack of oversight, with regulatory measures being reduced by half, despite the increase in number of hooks. Opening up these zones could have adverse effects on surrounding regions, local communities, and industries that have undeniably experienced substantial economic growth since these regulations were implemented 24 years ago.

If that isn’t enough of a threat, a proposal to list Oceanic White Tip Sharks under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has the potential to create even more restraints for our community.

These actions are blatantly contrary to blue marlin conservation, responsible management, and billfishing in general! Action must be taken!