NOAA Distributes Full U.S. Quota for Bluefin

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has allocated the full U.S. quota of 957 metric tons of bluefin tuna among U.S. fisheries for 2012, according to the agency.
The tonnage is what the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas has allotted the nation, according to an agency notice announcing the distribution.
     The United States receives the single largest portion of the total allowable catch of 1,750 metric tons of western Atlantic bluefin tuna set by the international commission for the 2012-2013 fishing year.
     Earlier this year, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declined to protect the western Atlantic population of bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act, despite a decline in catch from a 1964 peak of 18,671 metric tons to just over 1,900 metric tons in 2009.
     The distributions to the various domestic fisheries, based on the gear used to land the highly prized tuna, are essentially unchanged from last year except for a slight reduction in the tonnage for the longline fishing fleet. The reduction is to account for dead discards from boats not actually targeting the bluefin.
     The traditional rod and reel commercial sector was given the largest portion of the U.S. quota with 435 metric tons, followed by the recreational sector with 182 metric tons.
     Allocations of the other sectors were: purse seine – large nets – 172 metric tons; longline, 61 metric tons; harpoon, 36 metric tons; traps 1 metric ton and a reserve of 70.6 metric tons. The reserve is set aside to account for dead discards and scientific research.
     The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), a voluntary organization representing 47 nations and the European Union, sets quotas of member nations for both the western Atlantic population of the bluefin tuna and the eastern Atlantic population, which includes the waters of the European Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean Sea.
Member nations are not required to use their entire ICCAT quota, but a NOAA spokesperson said it has always been agency practice to allocate the full ICCAT quota, less a reserve, to domestic fisheries.
     In June, the agency temporarily increased the per trip catch limit for the domestic fishery because landings were not projected to meet the allocated national quota for 2011.

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