Friday, August 28, 2009

URGENT- Your Comments Needed to Help Marlin & Bluefin Tuna by Aug. 31st

Bluefins and blue marlin need your help. Public comment period ends Monday.


The highest level of marlin bycatch in the U.S. is taken by U.S. pelagic longline vessels in the Gulf of Mexico targeting yellowfin tuna. According to NOAA observer data, the bycatch of documented discarded billfish in the Gulf in 2007 and 2008 included 1031 billfish caught, with 400 dead discards, 589 live releases, 36 lost, and 7 unknown condition.

And the only offshore Atlantic species in worse shape than marlin is the North Atlantic bluefin tuna. Yet this summer, the National Marine Fisheries Management Service (NMFS) issued a notice that they may allow longliners in the Gulf of Mexico to take even more bluefin where they are spawning, catch even more swordfish and encourage more longline effort into the marlin spawning season.

“Directed” fishing for bluefins or marlin while targeting swordfish and yellowfin tuna is illegal. But longliners are allowed to keep up to three bluefins as “bycatch,” and the fish are worth so much on the market they are incentivized to set out miles and miles of baited hooks in the bluefin’s only known spawning aggregation in the Western Atlantic, the gyres off the loop current in the Gulf of Mexico. ...

A broad coalition of fishing and conservation groups see this threat as an opportunity to judo-flip longline industry pressure on NMFS into a ban of pelagic longlining in the Gulf of Mexico, at least during bluefin spawning season (February through May), and marlin spawning season, which occurs in the late spring and summer months. ...

Public comment on the proposed bluefin and swordfish rule changes ends Monday, August 31. Bluefin, marlin and the many types of bycatch including sea turtles need your support. Please send NMFS a strong, two-fold message: 1, You demand an extension of the public comment period so that you have adequate time to make detailed comments; 2, You oppose increases in allowable bluefin bycatch; and 3, You want to see the spawning areas of bluefin tuna and marlin closed to longlining. ...

You can copy the attached letter (scroll down) and modify it as you see fit and email it to the NMFS, USFWS and also to your Congressmen and Senators. It is time they realize that the recreational billfishing community, which also fishes for tunas in the Gulf, is one that needs to be counted and its economic impact and voluntary conservation ethic appreciated. ...

EMAIL NMFS: Margo.Schulze-Haugen@noaa.gov
& Randy.Blankinship@noaa.gov
Margo Schulze-Haugen, Chief
NMFS Office of Highly Migratory Species

EMAIL USFWS: Scientificauthority@fws.gov
Rosemarie GnamChief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service

Last Chance for the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna?

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