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Summer Atlantic bluefin tuna catch quota quadrupled to four fish

The Atlantic bluefin tuna catch limit has once again been readjusted for the summer. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is announcing in the Federal Register of Thursday, May 29, 2014 that it is increasing the general category daily retention limit for Atlantic bluefin tuna from the default level of one medium or giant fish all the way up to four fish. The new limit takes effect June 1 and runs through Aug. 31.

The tuna involved measure at least 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length. NMFS reminds fishermen that the limit applies per day or trip – four bluefin per day if a boat takes two trips a day, or four fish if it stays at sea overnight. If you have any questions, call Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale at (978) 281-9260.

The tuna are now swimming north toward the northeast coast fishing areas, as they do this time of year. Based on fishing patterns over the last few years, NMFS figures that boats could take up to four of the tuna without exceeding the quotas assigned under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. In fact, NMFS figures that with a lower limit than four, it might have to increase the catch limit substantially for the rest of the year. The agency reserves the right to alter the catch limit if circumstances warrant.

But if it allowed a five-fish limit, it would have to cut back for the fall, the agency figures. Besides, fish caught in the summer tend to taste better. NMFS notes that it will collect more data over the summer to assess the fishery.

Because of timeliness, NMFS says it could not put the rule up for public comment before implementing it. It based the decision on information that came in right up to the last minute. And delaying the increase could result in underharvest.