▪ NOAA Fisheries has adopted new regulations aimed at enhancing protections for Atlantic bluefin tuna — one of the most expensive and intensely managed species in the world. The rules — set to take effect in January — would impose gear restrictions on pelagic long-line vessels in the Gulf of Mexico in April and May when the giant fish spawn, and off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina — a prime bluefin feeding ground — from December through April.
NOAA also set hard limits on bluefin bycatch in other fisheries such as swordfish and those targeting other Atlantic tunas, and required strict accountability for dead discards.
Bluefin, which can exceed 1,000 pounds, are among the most prized fish on earth, commanding prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single fish. Overfishing has reduced populations by as much as 80 percent in some regions, despite worldwide management measures adopted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The U.S. delegation has been a leader in urging science-based management of the species, and it is starting to make a comeback.
▪ Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks are proposing fee increases to offset budget cuts and maintenance and repair backlogs, and they want your opinion.
At Everglades, the park service is proposing to increase vehicle entrance fees from $10 for a seven-day permit to $25; raise the price of an annual pass from $25 to $50; increase front-country camping fees from $16 to $20 and back-country camping from $10 to $15, and impose a boat permitting program coupled with mandatory education. A seven-day boat permit would cost $25, and an annual pass would be $50-$100. A canoe permit would be eliminated.
At Dry Tortugas, which is only accessible by boat or plane, entrance fees would go from $5 to $10, and camping fees would rise from $3 to $10.
Camping at Boca Chita and Elliott Key in Biscayne National Park would increase from $20 to $24.
Public meetings are scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Homestead Agriculture Center, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead and Dec.15 at Key Largo Library, 101485 Overseas Highway, Key Largo. The deadline to submit comments is Jan.15.
▪ The 33-year-old Miami Billfish Tournament has changed its name and format. The April 23-25, 2015 event will be called the Yamaha Contender Miami Sportfishing Tournament. Instead of a primarily all-release billfish tournament, the contest will focus on the heaviest aggregate weight of fun-fish species — dolphin, tuna, kingfish, wahoo and cobia — and points will be added for each billfish release up to three per boat. The top boat will win $30,000. Entry fee is $500. Information: call 305-598-2525 or visit www.miamisportfish.com.