On May 2, 2013 The Billfish Foundation submitted their official comments for Draft Amendment 8 for swordfish management in the United States as part of the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fisheries Management Plan. Draft Amendment 8 proposes the establishment of a new Open-Access Commercial Handgear Permit for Swordfish as a means to increase access to fishery and decrease the amount of unharvested quota.
Even though the North Atlantic swordfish stocks are fully recovered, which represents a success story for international fisheries management, the U.S. has failed to catch its allocated quota in recent years. From 2007 to 2011, a persistent underharvest of quota at roughly 70% of the baseline has put the U.S. in jeopardy of losing unharvested quota. A number of factors have contributed to this issue including failure by many recreational anglers to report swordfish landings as well as the lack availability of commercial permits.
The authorization of new gear types into the commercial swordfish fishery, as proposed in Draft Amendment 8, may increase landings and the likelihood of the U.S. retaining its quota. The National Marine Fisheries Service believes that there will be a large shift from the recreational sector to the commercial sector since it would provide a legal way to sell swordfish to licensed dealers. It is believed that a large number of recreationally caught swordfish enter the market illegally, something that poses problems for not only fisheries management, but also health concerns. NMFS believes that more than 4,000 vessels will obtain this permit, more than 1,2000 of those coming from the ‘Florida Swordfish Management Area’. The Billfish Foundation believes that these numbers are over-inflated and have caused significant opposition by some commercial fishermen because of their inaccuracies.
NMFS is also proposing retention limits that would reduce the incentive for fishermen to obtain these permits. Additionally, these retention limits are less than what is currently allowed for a recreational vessel. The Billfish Foundation believes that in order for this permit to be effective, a retention limit must be equal to that of the recreational catch limit (1 per person, up to 4 per vessel) for the Florida Swordfish Management area and six swordfish for the other areas. This will provide the economic incentive for individuals to obtain this permit and provide a legal avenue to sell swordfish, hopefully reducing the amount of illegal sales and transfers from recreational vessels. To read The Billfish Foundaiton’s full comments, please read below.
THE BILLFISH FOUNDATION’S OFFICIAL COMMENTS FOR DRAFT AMENDMENT 8:
BF’s comments can can also be read by clicking here.
The Billfish Foundation has particular interest in the swordfish fishery and the development of Amendment 8 because of the importance of the fishery to both the recreational and commercial fishing industries.
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