Court Upholds Commercial Vessel Monitoring and Protection for Tuna and Swordfish

A federal court upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regulation requiring electronic monitoring on all Atlantic Ocean pelagic longline vessels. The Washington, DC, district court rejected the commercial fishing industry's challenge to the federal requirement that vessel monitoring systems (VMS) be installed in boats that pursue highly migratory species such as swordfish and tuna. NMFS officials can track a vessel with VMS because the device transmits the vessel's global positioning system information. With this information, NMFS officials can determine the location and movement patterns of fishing vessels. This allows NMFS to monitor and enforce area closures that prevent overfishing and the bycatch of juvenile and undersized fish, sea turtles and marine mammals. The VMS requirement first appeared in the May 1999 fishery management plan to manage and conserve the Atlantic highly migratory species, including Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, bluefin tuna and swordfish. For more information, visit the website for the National Coalition for Marine Conservation at www.savethefish.org.