To Ft. Pierce Sportfishing Club,
Thanks so much for taking my call this afternoon about the important public hearing happening tomorrow, June 25 5-8pm in Ft. Pierce at the Susan Broom Kilmer Branch Library, 101 Melody Lane. I am highly concerned that this hearing could only ‘hear’ from members of the pelagic longline industry without help from your club and others in the area alerting offshore recreational anglers to turnout. See below for more details on these concerning actions by the National Marine Fisheries Service that could harm billfish and other prized offshore species.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Highly Migratory Species Division is considering moving forward on several fronts that would undermine and eliminate proven area-based protections for Atlantic bluefin tuna, juvenile swordfish and other species from pelagic longlines. This includes the two Gulf of Mexico Gear-Restricted Areas that are working incredibly well to protect spawning, western Atlantic bluefin tuna (proposed rule stage) and other areas including the Florida East Coast (FEC) closure are under consideration as well. To get a sense for what this effort could mean to Florida anglers, consider the highly controversial and eventually denied FEC Exempted Fishing Permit from Nova Southeastern to fish pelagic longlines off our coasts a few years ago, pursued at a larger scale and minus the scientific rigor.
The agency is soliciting public comment until July 31 and is holding public hearings on three separate, but related actions. These include a draft regulatory amendment to modify pelagic longline bluefin tuna area-based (Gulf of Mexico and off North Carolina and NJ) and weak hook management measures (Gulf), Amendment 13 that could cover all other aspects of the PLL fishery (e.g. individual bluefin quota, electronic monitoring, quota allocations) and an issues and options paper for data collection and research to support spatial fisheries management (looks at all closed areas, including FEC). See the links below for more information from NMFS. In addition and in theme with the agency’s overall push to revitalize the PLL swordfish fishery is a Gulf of Mexico oil spill restoration project to be led by NOAA Fisheries that will shift focus away from transitioning to more selective gears and instead experiment with deep-set PLL in the Gulf to reduce bluefin bycatch and dead discards.
The Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Areas are the best tool we have to protect spawning western Atlantic bluefin tuna (see a few incredible stats below). Similarly, the Florida East Coast time-area closure and Gulf of Mexico Desoto Canyon closures dramatically reduced bycatch and dead discards of short swordfish and is credited by Florida anglers as a critical action that helped bring back the once severely depleted swordfish population and other HMS, such as sailfish, caught as bycatch by this unselective gear.
Please let me know if I can provide you any further info. 202-590-8954
Principal Associate, U.S. Oceans, Southeast |
The Pew Charitable Trusts | c: 202-590-8954 |
Show up and attend tomorrow JUNE 25 at 5-8 pm.