Comment Now on Draft Amendment 7 - Your Voice is Needed!
Keep the Longlines Out of the Current Longline Closed Zones!
The closed areas along Florida's East Coast (FEC) and the DeSoto Canyons in the Gulf of Mexico were established to reduce the bycatch and discards of juvenile swordfish, billfish and other marine life. The benefits of these longline closed zones have been instrumental for the recreational fishing community with great numbers of billfish and swordfish caught in recent years. NMFS is proposing to allow access for longline vessels into these closed zones and must be stopped! If NMFS allows longline fishing in these areas, it could not only have large ecological impacts but tremendous socio-economic impacts on the sportfishing community.
The Longline Closure Established in 2000 Have Resulted in a Beneficial Reduction of Billfish Bycatch
Between 2001 and 2003, the years immediately after the longline closures were established, a 49.7% reduction in blue marlin bycatch, a 47.0% reduction in white marlin bycatch, and a 74.6% reduction in bycatch of sailfish resulted compared to the years preceding the longline closures.
Between 2005 and 2011, blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish bycatch reduced by 61.6%, 59.8%, and 66.9%, respectively compared to when longlining was permitted.
Support New Gear Restricted Areas (GRA) in the Gulf of Mexico
NMFS is proposing the use of Gear Restricted Areas (GRAs) in the Gulf of Mexico which would prohibit the use of longlines, but still allow the use of alternative gear like buoy gear or greenstick gear. The most favorable of the proposed alternatives, a 3-month Gulf of Mexico Closure (March-May), would reduce for bluefin harvested by 12% and a reduce the discards of bluefin tuna by 10%. Billfish will also benefit in the Gulf of Mexico with a 3-month GRA and is estimated to reduce bycatch of blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish by 8%, 4%, and 10% respectively. A 3-month Gulf of Mexico GRA would also result in an additional 12% reduction of under-sized swordfish discards.
TBF's Suggestion for Gulf of Mexico GRAs
To further increase the conservation benefits associated with the Gear Restricted Areas (GRA) in the Gulf of Mexico, TBF suggests a 4-month Gulf of Mexico GRA (March-June). If implemented, a further reduction of reduce the bluefin tuna bycatch and discards as well as double the conservation benefits for blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish.
More Equitable Distribution of Quota for Gulf of Mexico Anglers
Due to the early season closures of the Southern Trophy bluefin tuna fishery that excludes Gulf of Mexico anglers from incidental catches of bluefin tuna, NMFS is proposing a separate region for the Gulf of Mexico which would provide them 33% of the trophy quota. Due to the nature of the fishery and the need to balance the demand from other regions like North Carolina, TBF suggests the following quotas: 33% (1.4 mt) for the North, 50% (2.1 mt) for the South, and 17% (0.7 mt) for the Gulf of Mexico. This provides the most equitable distribution for anglers by providing some incidental take for anglers in the Gulf of Mexico without taking away from the important sportfishing industry in other areas.
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