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Good News from ECTA
March 07, 2007
Released by Rich Ruais, East Coast Tuna Association
At the Maine Fishermen’s Forum last Thursday, Pat Kurkul (NMFS Regional Administrator said publicly that the final regulations implementing the midwater trawl ban in Area 1A from June 1 to September 30 would be released within about 10 days. She was very emphatic that there are no changes to the ban. The rule has been slow to come out because of the complicated limited access program.
Many of the herring industry members present at the herring conference let it be known that they would likely be suing over the midwater trawl ban. This was expected and because of a Magnuson Act Amendment, they can sue but there is no “injunctive relief” possible. The entire case could take years to resolve and in the meantime the ban will be in place.
At the same conference the State of Maine announced new regulations eliminating the tolerance of spawning herring when the three rolling herring closures begin this summer and fall. Now all three states will prohibit any fishing in the spawning closure for the duration of the closure. This is huge and puts teeth into closures that have been abused so badly by the midwater fleet the last several years.
The combination of the above two measures means the inshore Gulf of Maine ecosystem should get a real break this summer and provide better conditions to hold any visiting giant tuna. We will still have to deal with considerable purse seine effort but tuna fishermen coexisted with seine gear for over 40 years.
Finally, giant and large medium bluefins have been found the last few weeks on the inshore and offshore longline grounds. The offshore grounds are so loaded with bluefins, the longline fleet had to move especially after learning the purse seine boats could not begin fishing until July 15. The charter boats of the Winter Bluefin Associaton were looking for an emergency reopening (i.e. closed February 1) of the General category to land some of the fish they were encountering. It is not possible to reopen by emergency outside of the regular June-February season.
These could be a very good signs.
Hope all is well and look forward to seeing you at the NSCTA Annual Meeting.