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More harpoon fishing will be allowed for bluefin tuna

If you like to catch Atlantic bluefin tuna with a harpoon, you may be in luck. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce has just increased the harpoon quota by 15 metric tons (mt) for the remainder of the year. NMFS announced the decision in the Federal Register of Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

NMFS increased the Harpoon Category by transferring the quota from the Reserve Category. The change takes effect immediately and lasts until Nov. 15, the end of the bluefin season, or until the harpoon category quota is reached, whichever comes first. If you have any questions, call Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale at (978) 281-9260.

The rules allow NMFS to transfer from the Reserve to other categories (except the Angling Category, which has its own reserve). Based on information provided by fishermen, NMFS figures that as of Aug. 4, harpooners had landed 29.7 mt, with 6.3 mt available for the rest of the year. NMFS assumes that about now, the quota could be used up already.

So if it doesn't increase the quota, harpooners would have to stop and commercial fishermen could keep going. NMFS figures that harpooners could easily use up the additional 15 mt, depending on factors such as the weather. The transfer complies with the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan and it should not affect stock health, NMFS determined. The agency reserves the right to alter the quota again if landing reports indicate it becomes necessary.

Time did not allow advance notice or a public comment period before the change. Doing so would have required closing and then reopening the fishery and possibly losing great fishing opportunities. NMFS controls the harvest under the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation & Management Act.

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