The American National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has just released the Final Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, which provides much needed protection for western Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Most notably, new seasonal closures will protect western bluefin tuna when they are in the northern Gulf of Mexico—their only known spawning grounds.
Additional seasonal closures off of North Carolina provide further protection to the western stock that has declined by as much as 64% since 1970. These longline closures will also benefit billfish, sharks and a myriad of other ocean life that are vulnerable to the indiscriminate nature of longlines.
Amendment 7 further controls the pelagic longline fleet by establishing an annual cap on the number of bluefin that are caught as bycatch. Once this cap is exceeded, the longline fleet must cease fishing for the remainder of the year. This action will be enforced by electronic monitoring technology that is mandatory for all longline vessels.
The only downside to the amendment is that quota from other categories (including rod and reel and harpoon) was reallocated to the longline category. This is unfortunate because these other categories are much more sustainable and incur less bycatch than the longline fleet. Still, despite this, Amendment 7 is overwhelmingly positive and should provide significant conservation benefits to western Atlantic bluefin tuna.