NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

2013-14 Bluefish Harvest Levels

NMFS issues final specifications for the 2013 and 2014 Atlantic bluefish fishery, including annual catch limits, total allowable landings, commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits, and a recreational possession limit. This action establishes the allowable 2013 and 2014 harvest levels and other management measures to achieve the target fishing mortality rate, consistent with the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan and the recommendations of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

The final specifications for the 2013 and 2014 Atlantic bluefish fishery are effective June 6, 2013, through December 31, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, including the
Environmental Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
(EA/IRFA) and other supporting documents for the specifications, are
available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street,
Dover, DE 19901. The specifications document is also accessible via the
Internet at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carly Bari, Fishery Management
Specialist, (978) 281-9224.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic bluefish fishery is managed cooperatively by the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission). The management unit for
bluefish specified in the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan
(FMP) is U.S. waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. Regulations
implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A and J. The
regulations requiring annual specifications are found at Sec.  648.162.
    The FMP requires the Council to recommend, on an annual basis, an
annual catch limit (ACL), annual catch target (ACT), and total
allowable landings (TAL) that will control fishing mortality (F). The
Council may also recommend a research set-aside (RSA) quota, which is
deducted from the bluefish TALs (after any applicable transfer) in an
amount proportional to the percentage of the overall TAL as allocated
to the commercial and recreational sectors.
    Pursuant to Sec.  648.162, the annual review process for bluefish
requires that the Council's Bluefish Monitoring Committee and
Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) review and make
recommendations based on the best available data. Based on the
recommendations of the Monitoring Committee and SSC, the Council makes
a recommendation to the NMFS Northeast Regional Administrator. Because
this FMP is a joint plan, the Commission also meets during the annual
specification process to adopt complementary measures.
    The Council's recommendations must include supporting documentation
concerning the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the
recommendations. NMFS is responsible for reviewing these
recommendations to assure that they achieve the FMP objectives, and may
modify them if they do not. NMFS then publishes proposed specifications
based on the recommendations in the Federal Register, and after
considering public comment, NMFS publishes final specifications in the
Federal Register. A proposed rule for this action published in the
Federal Register on February 20, 2013 (78 FR 11809), and comments were
accepted through March 7, 2013.

Final 2013 Specifications

    A description of the process used to estimate bluefish stock status
and fishing mortality, as well as the process for deriving the ACL and
associated quotas and harvest limits, is provided in the proposed rule
and in the bluefish regulations at Sec. Sec.  648.160 through 648.162.
The stock is not overfished or experiencing overfishing, and the catch
limits described below reflect the best available scientific
information on bluefish. The final 2013 bluefish ABC, ACL, and ACT are
specified at 27.472 million lb (12,461 mt).
    The ACT is initially allocated between the recreational fishery (83
percent = 22.801 million lb, 10,342 mt) and the commercial fishery (17
percent = 4.670 million lb, 2,118 mt). After deducting an estimate of
recreational discards (commercial discards are considered negligible),
the recreational TAL would be 19.190 million lb (8,704 mt) and the
commercial TAL would be 4.670 million lb (2,118 mt).
    However, the FMP specifies that, if 17 percent of the ACT is less
than 10.5 million lb, and the recreational fishery is not projected to
land its harvest limit for the upcoming year, the commercial fishery
may be allocated up to 10.5 million lb as its quota, provided that the
combination of the projected recreational landings and the commercial
quota does not exceed the ACT. The recreational harvest limit (RHL)
would then be adjusted downward so that the ACT would be unchanged.
Based on updated data, the recreational fishery landed 11,184,173 lb
(5,073 mt) of bluefish in 2012. Assuming recreational landings in 2013
are consistent with those from 2012, the Council's proposed transfer of
4.686 million lb (2,126 mt) from the recreational sector to the
commercial sector can be approved. This transfer results in an adjusted
commercial quota of 9.357 million lb (4,244 mt), and an adjusted RHL of
14.504 million lb (6,579 mt).

Final 2013 RSA, Commercial Quota, and RHL

    Two projects that will utilize bluefish RSA were approved by NOAA's
Grants Management Division. A total RSA quota of 715,819 lb (325 mt)
was approved for use by these projects during 2013. Proportional
adjustments of this amount to the commercial and recreational
allocations result in a final commercial quota of 9.076 million lb
(4,117 mt) and a final RHL of 14.069 million lb (6,382 mt).

Final 2014 Specifications

    The final 2014 bluefish ABC, ACL, and ACT are specified at 27.057
million lb (12,273 mt). The ACT is initially allocated between the
recreational fishery (83 percent = 22.458 million lb, 10,187 mt) and
the commercial fishery (17 percent = 4.600 million lb, 2,087 mt). After
deducting an estimate of recreational discards (commercial discards are
considered negligible), the recreational TAL would be 18.846 million lb
(8,548 mt) and the commercial TAL would be 4.600 million lb (2,087 mt).
    Assuming recreational landings in 2014 are consistent with those
from 2012, the Council's proposed transfer of 4.342 million lb (1,969
mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial sector can be
approved. This transfer results in an adjusted commercial quota of
8.942 million lb (4,056 mt), and an adjusted RHL of 14.504 million lb
(6,579 mt).

Final 2014 RSA, Commercial Quota, and RHL

    The Council preliminarily approved 703,385 lb (319 mt) of RSA quota
for future research projects. Proportional adjustments of this amount
to the commercial and recreational allocations results in a final
commercial quota of 8.674 million lb (3,934 mt) and a final RHL of
14.069 million lb (6,382 mt).

Final Recreational Possession Limit

    The current recreational possession limit of up to 15 fish per
person is maintained to achieve the RHL for both 2013 and 2014.

Final State Commercial Allocations

    The final state commercial quotas for 2013 and the preliminary 2014
commercial quotas are shown in Table 1, based on the percentages
specified in the FMP. If any state overages occur in 2013 that alter
the 2014 quotas, NMFS will publish a rule to implement the revised 2014
quotas.

                                     Table 1--Final Bluefish Commercial State-by-State Allocations for 2013 and 2014
                                                               [Including RSA deductions]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                               2013 Commercial    2013 Commercial    2014 Commercial    2014 Commercial
                          State                              Percent share        quota (lb)         quota (kg)         quota (lb)         quota (kg)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ME.......................................................             0.6685             60,673             27,521             57,985             26,302
NH.......................................................             0.4145             37,620             17,064             35,953             16,308
MA.......................................................             6.7167            609,606            276,513            582,603            264,264
RI.......................................................             6.8081            617,902            280,275            590,531            267,860
CT.......................................................             1.2663            114,929             52,131            109,838             49,822
NY.......................................................            10.3851            942,548            427,533            900,796            408,595
NJ.......................................................            14.8162          1,344,713            609,952          1,285,146            582,933
DE.......................................................             1.8782            170,465             77,322            162,914             73,897
MD.......................................................             3.0018            272,443            123,578            260,374            118,104
VA.......................................................            11.8795          1,078,179            489,054          1,030,419            467,390
NC.......................................................            32.0608          2,909,829          1,319,876          2,780,933          1,261,410
SC.......................................................             0.0352              3,195              1,449              3,053              1,385
GA.......................................................             0.0095                862                391                824                374
FL.......................................................            10.0597            913,014            414,136            872,570            395,792
                                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total................................................           100.0001          9,075,976          4,116,795          8,673,941          3,934,435
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments and Responses

    The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on March 7,
2013. Two comments were received from individuals on the proposed rule.
A summary and response to the concerns raised by the commenters are
included below.
    Comment 1: One commenter generally criticized NMFS and the data
used to set catch limits, but had no clear evidence to support their
claims.
    Response: Atlantic bluefish are not overfished, nor are they
subject to overfishing; therefore, there is no scientific basis for
making changes to the quotas based on this comment. NMFS used the best
scientific information available and is approving specifications for
the bluefish fishery that are consistent with the FMP and
recommendations of the Council.
    Comment 2: A charter/party boat operator in the Atlantic bluefish
fishery in Massachusetts opposed the recreational possession limit of
15 fish due to increased fishing pressure and recommended reducing the
possession limit.
    Response: Atlantic bluefish are not overfished; nor are they
subject to overfishing. There is no scientific basis for reducing the
recreational possession limit. The RHL has not been exceeded in recent
years with a possession limit of 15 fish, so it appears that a
reduction in the possession limit would unnecessarily reduce
recreational landings. NMFS used the best scientific information
available and is approving specifications for the bluefish fishery that
are consistent with the FMP and the recommendations of the Council.

 

 

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