The pilot program described in Sue Cocking’s Feb. 24 article, Study contains good news for bluefin tuna, also benefits prized game fish and the recreational anglers who target them.
Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and scientists have been collaborating on this innovative pilot program. Replacing wasteful surface longlines with more selective equipment still allows commercial fishermen to catch yellowfin tuna and swordfish, but with little associated bycatch and mortality of predators such as imperiled bluefin tuna, marlin, sailfish and sharks. These results are particularly timely and relevant because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is expected to issue a new proposed rule for bluefin-tuna fishing in mid-April.
The agency’s rule could protect western Atlantic bluefin — in their only known spawning ground — and hard-fighting game fish by prohibiting surface longlining in the Gulf and encouraging the shift to the more environmentally sound fishing methods highlighted in Cocking’s article. Money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill restoration funds could help pay for this transition.
NOAA Fisheries has a big opportunity to help bluefin and a host of other species. Let’s hope the agency does right by the fish and fishermen.
Jason Schratwieser, conservation director, International Game Fish Association, Dania Beach