Fishing | swordfish

New rule could provide opportunities for new entrants into the commercial swordfish fishery

For about $20, South Florida recreational swordfish anglers could become commercial fishers under a new rule amendment proposed by NOAA Fisheries.

For about $20, South Florida recreational swordfish anglers could become commercial fishers under a new rule amendment proposed by NOAA Fisheries.

The agency is seeking public comment on a tentative plan to expand the U.S. commercial harvest of swords by issuing open-access, year-round permits to fishermen in Florida, the northwest Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Caribbean. The preferred alternative would set trip limits by region and restrict fishing gear to rod-and-reel, hand line, harpoon, green-stick (commercial trolling gear), and bandit rigs (electric or hydraulic reels)

NOAA says swordfish stocks are now fully rebuilt; Amendment 8 would allow fishermen to fulfill the U.S. commercial quota allotted by the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

“The main purpose is to provide U.S. fishermen with additional opportunities to harvest swordfish with gears generally low in bycatch,” said Randy Blankinship, NOAA’s southeast U.S. branch chief of highly-migratory-species.

A numbers game

Last year, U.S. commercial swordfishers brought in about two-thirds of their quota. Federal fisheries managers are concerned that any unused quota could be given out to other, less conservation-oriented countries.

“I can’t remember the last year we fully harvested it, but it was awhile back,” Blankinship said.

The agency’s preferred alternative under the amendment proposes initial retention limits of one sword per vessel per trip in the Florida swordfish management area, which extends from Jekyll Island, Ga., south to Key West, and includes Gulf waters of Monroe County. This is roughly the same area where pelagic long-line gear for swordfish was prohibited in 2001 mainly to protect juveniles. Higher trip limits are proposed in the northwest Atlantic, Gulf, and U.S. Caribbean. Fishermen could sell their catch only to permitted dealers. Blankinship said limits could be lowered midseason if the quota was being filled too quickly.

For a small fee

Recreational anglers and charter- and head-boat operators are expected to cheer the proposal.

But conservationists are concerned that increasing the harvest will result in more juvenile swords being killed. And commercial buoy-gear fishermen in South Florida who operate under costly, limited-access permits fear their businesses will be devalued, even though they would still be able to catch as many swordfish as they want.

NOAA Fisheries will accept public comment through April 23. The agency will hold a conference call/webinar from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 11, followed by a public hearing from 5 p.m. to 7p.m. April 10 at the Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale.

Blankinship said a final rule could be out as early as this summer, with possible implementation in January 2014.

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  • Swim Miami offers multiple courses

    Whether you are an advanced swimmer or an amateur looking to improve your time, the 2014 Swim Miami presented by Nike will have something for you.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Tribute: </span>Runner’s shoes are laid out in a display titled, ‘Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,’ in the Boston Public Library.

    In My Opinion

    Linda Robertson: Runners remember Boston Marathon tragedy

    Amber Seidle-Lazo had run 26 miles of the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon when she was stopped by police one year ago on April 15 and told the finish line was closed.

  • Tarpon fishing

    Controversial PTTS goes on with added scrutiny

    When the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided last year to ban the use of a popular type of fishing tackle for pursuing tarpon in Southwest Florida’s Boca Grande Pass, many thought that would be the end of the zany reality show/fishing contest known as the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category