Fish Agency Increases Bluefin Tuna Catch Limit

     WASHINGTON (CN) – One week after its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, declined to protect the western Atlantic population of the bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service has increased the number of the fish that U.S. fishing boats can take per trip.

     The service increased its old limit of two fish that are 6 feet and 1 inch or larger to three fish of the same size per trip.
     The change is temporary, extending from June 3 to Aug. 31, 2011. After that, unless the agency acts, the catch limit will default to just one medium- or larger-sized fish per trip.
     The domestic bluefin tuna fishing year operates in rotating segments through out the calendar year, allowing the agency to adjust retention limits to reflect catch in the previous period. The agency compares the number of fish already taken with the overall yearly quota set by the International Convention for the Conservation of Tunas, of which the United States is a member.
     For 2011, the U.S. fishing industry is limited to a total of 923.7 metric tons of bluefin catch, plus an additional 25 metric ton allotment for bycatch of the fish in the longline fisheries off the northeast coast.
     If the agency had not issued the temporary increase, the retention limit would have defaulted to just one tuna per trip.
     The agency said that reversion to the default would have kept the domestic fleet from meeting the yearly subquota for the June-August, September, October-November and December fishing periods.

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