National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.



Dec. 31 isn't even upon us and foreign fishing nations are already making a New Year's resolution for 2010: try really, really hard to cut their catches of beleaguered Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Of course, we know how well New Year's resolutions go, don't we? They usually have to do with willpower. And the spirit is usually willing, but the flesh is weak.

Not that our foreign fishing brethren have shown any great desire in the past to curb their bluefin appetite. Yes, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas lowered the 2009 catch limit from 28,500 metric tons to 22,000 metric tons. But scientists had sought to cut the catch by another 7,000 metric tons.

At this year's ICCAT meeting, which concluded Nov. 15, the organization cut the harvest limit to 13,500 metric tons for 2010. NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco says the cutback is "a marked improvement over the current rules, but it is insufficient to guarantee the long-term viability of either the fish or the fishery."

The U.S. ICCAT delegation sought a package of measures for eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna that would end overfishing and offer a high probability of successfully rebuilding bluefin stocks by 2023. According to NOAA, scientific data suggests a total quota of 8,000 metric tons or lower would have been ideal.

But NOAA says that under U.S. leadership in the Compliance Committee, ICCAT made unprecedented progress and held countries accountable for compliance infractions. And the meeting yielded a commitment to implementing a science-based catch level for 2011 to 2013 with a 60 percent chance of meeting the rebuilding target by 2023.

Maybe 2010 will finally be the year our fishing brethren across the sea will commit to curtailing their bluefin harvests. Their past fishing practices don't suggest that will happen, but I'll make a New Year's resolution to try really, really hard to keep an open mind. But you know how New Year's resolutions go.

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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