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


    South Florida fishing report: April 23, 2014

    Captain Rick Thomas from the charter boat Thomas Flyer out of Bayside Marina reported large amberjacks are spawning over the County wrecks and can be caught on vertical jigs and live baits. The wrecks are also producing nice catches of cobia. Mark Escobar of BJ’s Bait & Tackle in Plantation reported all of the canals in the Everglades Conservation areas are producing almost nonstop action from largemouth bass to seven pounds, plus Oscars, bluegills, pickerel and lots of gars and mudfish.

Mike Russo, owner of Coastal Marine Diving Supplies in Dania Beach, unloads his harvest of stone crab claws in the Intracoastal Waterway near North Miami Beach.


    In a pinch, you can hunt stone crabs yourself

    Harvesting stone crabs is not for the casual diver; it’s a lot harder than grabbing lobster.

Some of the members of the UM Corporate Run team get together Monday April 21, 2014.


    More than 25,000 participants expected for Miami Corporate Run

    The Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run will wrap up its 2014 5K series Thursday night at Bayfront Park, where more than 25,000 participants – including thousands from UM and Baptist Health – will compete.

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