Carolina watermen will benefit from expanded bluefin season
By CATHERINE KOZAK
revised rule expanding the winter commercial bluefin tuna season by up
to two months was filed on Tuesday, Nov. 29, by the National Marine
The rule, which will be effective in 30
days, allows bluefin to be caught off North Carolina through March 31,
or until the January sub-quota is gone.
migratory fish often not arriving in large numbers off the coast until
late January or early February, North Carolina fishermen have been
frustrated because the bluefin season has closed on Jan. 31 with quota
“This is a good day for North Carolina tuna
fishermen,” Rep. Walter B Jones, R-NC, said in a prepared statement.
“We’ve worked on this issue for a long time, and today’s action will
help provide an economic boost to North Carolina fishing communities
during the winter.”
Charley Pereira, president of the Winter
Bluefin Association and a Buxton waterman, said he is pleased that the
expanded season will allow the quota not to be wasted as it has in the
past, although he wishes it gave more.
“What we got is good,” he said. “But it’s not what we asked
for. It’s not what the preferred alternative was.”
said that initially the season was proposed to end on May 31, but it
ultimately was shortened because of some concern that it fell too close
to the start of the bluefin season off the northern Atlantic coast.
new rule also increases the number of fish in the general category that
can be kept daily from three to five. Despite that, Periera said that
he has his doubts that watermen fishing off North Carolina will be
allowed to retain that amount. In prior seasons, he said, fisheries
officials have restricted allowable catch off North Carolina to one or
two bluefin daily as a way to prevent the small quota from being caught
But he said the agency should leave it up to the watermen, and not
dictate how to fish such an unpredictable fishery.
McLaughlin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fishery
management specialist, said that bluefin tuna management overall is
being reviewed, including the potential to increase winter
it is currently, the January subquota of 23.1 metric tons is only 5.3
percent of the total quota for the Atlantic bluefin fishery.
“Discussions are open and ongoing,” she said.
his part, Pereira said that his group’s next step is to lobby to get
more quota allocated for the winter season. In the meantime, he and
other Outer Banks fishermen plan to make the most of what they’ve got.
“We’re happy and we appreciate it,” he said, “and we’re looking forward
to further improving our fisheries.
is good news for North Carolina fishermen, and they should consider it
a Christmas present from the Winter Bluefin Association.”