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Bluefin catch limits adjusted for the rest of the year

The Atlantic bluefin tuna daily retention limit has been altered for the rest of the year. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration announced in the Federal Register of Tuesday, May 6, 2014 that it is adjusting the catch limit for both angling and charter/headboats for recreational fishing. The new limits take effect on Thursday, May 8 and last through December 31.

The revised limit will consist of one school (smallest category) bluefin tuna and one large school/small medium tuna per vessel per day or trip. Sizes are defined by curved fork length as a tuna measuring 27 to less than 47 inches as school and 47 to less than 73 inches as large school/small medium. Boats with highly migratory species charter/headboat permits will consist of two school fish and one large school/small medium bluefin per boat each day or trip.

NMFS is following the procedures of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The limits apply everywhere except in the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS already prohibits fishermen targeting bluefin. If you have questions, contact Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale at 978-281-9260.

NMFS periodically adjusts the retention limits based on information it gathers regarding its own sampling and monitoring on what gets caught, shifts in the population of fish, migration patterns, how catch rates in one area may reduce fishermen's chances of catching fish in another area because of migration patterns and so on. NMFS also considers economic factors. Charter operators, for instance, say that to attract customers, they need to be able to catch more than one fish per trip. Charter boats capture about 30 percent of the bluefin caught.

The adjustments are made from the default level of one school and one large school /small medium. NMFS generally lumps large school and small/medium together. The rules do not affect catch and release or tag and release fishing. NMFS notes that it may alter the limits again if conditions warrant.

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