NEW ORLEANS — Boats using surface fishing lines with miles of baited hooks would get individual yearly limits for bluefin tuna bycatch under rules proposed to end the practice of dumping dead bluefin caught on hooks meant for other species.
Bluefin tuna, which can weigh 500 pounds and sell for thousands of dollars — the record is $736,000 — have been severely overfished to feed a worldwide market for sushi.
Groups specifically fishing for bluefin, from anglers to general fishing boats, would lose nearly 69 tons of their current total quotas — or about 7 percent of the total U.S. quota for Atlantic bluefin — to create the new longline quotas proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries division.
But once a longline boat reached its quota it would have to stop using the lines, which can extend up to 20 miles and carry thousands of hooks.
"The longliners will be held to a very strict threshold," said Bradley S. McHale, a fishery management specialist with NOAA Fisheries.
The rules made public Tuesday would also bar surface longlines from part of the Gulf of Mexico during April and May, the peak of spawning season. In an area off Cape Hatteras, N.C., they could be used from December through March only by boats that have proven able to use the gear without catching bluefin.
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