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Research/management plan proposed for Atlantic highly migratory species

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce has released its proposed research and priorities plan for Atlantic highly migratory species. NMFS announced in the Federal Register of Thursday, July 11, 2014 that it proposing a plan for public comment on the steps it should take to manage bluefin, bigeye, albacore, yellowfin and skipjack tunas; swordfish, billfish (blue marlin, white marlin, roundscale spearfish, longbill spearfish and sailfish); and sharks.

The public can comment until Aug. 11. Refer to NOAA-NMFS-2014-0080. Email your thoughts to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail and click on Comment Now! Or send them by mail to Margo Schulze-Haugen, NMFS/SF1, 1315 East-West Hwy., NMFS, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910. If you have questions, call Steve Durkee (202) 670-6637.

NMFS' Highly Migratory Species Management Division developed the proposal. It discusses possible short- and long-term research needs, ways to avoid duplication, how to apportion limited funding, and thoughts about to to secure funding in the future. Topics range from biology of the fish to the economic needs of the fishing industries.

The document is part of a continuing effort by NMFS to identify its research needs. It already developed a research plan based on the recommendations of the Highly Migratory Research Advisory Panel. NMFS is currently revising that document because the panel said it needed more specifics.

NMFS is working simultaneously on other research projects, including its National Recreational Action Agenda, regional plans and the National Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program. NMFS is trying to balance what scientists think with needs identified by fishery managers.

NMFS acknowledges it needs to come up with better stock assessments. It considers the survey and monitoring efforts a top priority. But the documents only discuss them when they come up with specific suggestions. NMFS also is looking at ways to reduce bycatch and fishing mortality.

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