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June 08, 2011

Recent fisheries news in brief

Headlines regarding open seasons, release programs and more...

Black Sea Bass opens in South Atantic

Fishing for black sea bass opened June 1 and is scheduled to open until May 31, 2012 or until the annual recreational catch limit is met,at which point a closure will be announced.  Bag limit for the species is 15 fish per person per day. A final rule for Regulatory Amendment 9 to the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region  is under review. If approved, the final rule would reduce the limit from to 5 fish per person per day. NOAA Fisheries Service will provide notice of these regulation changes should they go into effect.


Gag Grouper Season Announced

Gag grouper season this year will run from September 16 through November 15. Gag grouper is considered an overfished species. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that overfished stocks be rebuilt and that overfishing be halted. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) requested NOAA Fisheries Service implement this temporary rule to revise 2011 measures in light of the rerun of the gag update stock assessment. In recommending the season, the Council examined several options for the fishing season including summer, fall, and winter openings. They recommended a fall season as a compromise between public testimony for summer and winter seasons. In addition, a fall season maximizes the season length.

The Council is developing a long-term plan address gag stock rebuilding through Amendment 32 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

The current bag limit of two gag within the four fish aggregate grouper bag limit and the minimum size of 22 inches total length will be in effect during the fishing season.


Release program for shortfin makos

Anglers are encouraged to release Atlantic shortfin mako sharks alive and report the releases to NOAA for posting on an online map. The most recent assessment of North Atlantic shorfin makos found that the population had declined about 50 percent from the 1950s.The new program is designed to encourage the conservation of North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks.

Fishermen can submit an online form to NOAA with information about where and when the sharks, and their information will be posted on a map that documents the releases.

“We are working with the fishing community to encourage fishermen to voluntarily release these sharks alive to help sustain the shortfin mako population,” said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “By releasing sharks that are unintentionally caught or caught for sport, U.S. fishermen will be leaders in encouraging fishermen from other nations to conserve this shark species.”

Shortfin mako sharks, like other shark species, grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young, making them vulnerable to fishing. The average female shortfin mako shark becomes sexually mature at 18, while males are mature at 8.

It is legal to keep short fin mako sharks over 54 inches from the tip of the shark's nose to the fork of its tail. While some fishermen continue to retain shortfin makos for food, fins, and jaws, NOAA’s Fisheries Service encourages fishermen to consider the effect on the stock in the long-term and choose to release them. A brochure on the safe release of sharks is available at nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/shortfinmako/index.htm


No ES listing for bluefin tuna


NOAA has determined that Atlantic bluefin tuna do not warrant species protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency will revisit the decision in 2013, when more information will be available about the effects of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, as well as a new stock assessment from the scientific arm of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

NOAA is however designating both the western Atlantic and eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin tuna as “species of concern.” This places the species on a watchlist for concerns about its status and threats to the species.

“NOAA is concerned about the status of bluefins and the impact of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill on the western stock of Atlantic bluefin, which spawns in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “We will revisit the status of the species in early 2013 when we will have a new stock assessment and information from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment of the oil spill. We will also take action in the interim if new information indicates the need for greater protection.”

NOAA’s status review indicates that assuming countries comply with the bluefin tuna fishing quotas established by ICCAT, neither western or eastern Atlantic stocks are likely to become extinct.

NOAA also recognized the need to continue to monitor the potential long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill on bluefin tuna and the overall ecosystem. New scientific information is expected in a 2012 bluefin tuna stock assessment and as part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. To read the status review report on Atlantic bluefin tuna go to: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2011/05/bluefin_tuna.html