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Action needed now to fight proposed fishing rule

You might never fish in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, but if you’re a dealer selling fishing boats anywhere, or you just love to fish, it’s important you stand with fishermen everywhere when they’re fighting back proposals that will hurt recreational angling.

Such is the case with a proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service to side with commercial longliners and grant them virtually unfettered and unlimited access to already threatened bluefin tuna. The proposal is called Amendment 7 and it’s bad policy

The Recreational Fishing Alliance has sounded the alarm. The RFA says Atlantic and Gulf longliners are actually targeting swordfish or yellowfin, but its known they also catch more than 80 different bycatch species including a substantial bycatch of bluefin ranging from young juveniles to giants. The result is tons of dead bluefin bycatch each year.

Several years ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service opened the door by granting longliners’ requests to allow them to retain and sell some of the bluefin bycatch. It was limited to 8.1 percent of the U.S. bluefin quota. But it should have been obvious that the longliners would later push for an increase, claiming they kill more every year — and they do.

Catch this: Rather than put forth a plan and regulations to control and reduce this bycatch, the best idea put forth from the National Marine Fisheries Service is Amendment 7. If adopted, it would convert all longline bluefin discards to legal landings by making it illegal for longliners to discard bluefin over 73 inches in length. With bluefin dockside prices from $7 to $18 per pound – one giant tuna famously sold for $1.76 million a year ago – longliners must be ready to celebrate while the National Marine Fisheries Service demonstrates a blatant bias toward the longline fleet at the expense of the recreational community. The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing to reward longliners for killing Bluefin.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will say they are complying with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas that recommends all Atlantic bluefin fishing countries account for bluefin mortality, including bycatch and discards within each country's quota. This is not the way to do it.

Wouldn’t this make more sense? Require an observer aboard longliners or implement an electronic surveillance of longline vessels to ensure compliance with needed regulations and equipment that reduce bluefin mortality. And definitely do not create a profit incentive for longliners to embrace bluefin bycatch by legalizing it under Amendment 7.

How does this impact recreational anglers, you ask? Simply, Amendment 7 would reduce the quota allocation to all others and hand it to longliners.

Right now, the National Marine Fisheries Service is taking public comments on Amendment 7. The RFA is urging all anglers to respond directly to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The deadline for comments is Friday. Click here and click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments.

To make it even easier, here’s some suggested bullet points you can use:

Gentlemen: As a recreational fisherman, I am opposed to Amendment 7. I favor:

• Strictly maintaining the longline allocation for bluefin at 8.1 percent of the total US quota.

• Establishing a time-area closure to longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico that closes when bluefin tuna are present.

• Increasing the size and number of time-area closures in the Atlantic, preventing longliners from fishing in areas where they incur bycatch of bluefin.

• Establishing an annual bluefin bycatch "cap" for every longliner, the total of which cannot exceed their 8.1 percent allocation.

• Eliminating the incentive for longliners to incur bluefin bycatch by removing the potential to profit from the sale of bluefin discards contained in Amendment 7.

• Establish an industry-funded observer or electronic surveillance plan for every longliner

• I oppose any attempt to give any of the recreational and commercial handgear quota to the longliners.

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