NOAA Fisheries announces the implementation of Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), as approved by the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission). Amendment 7 implements the following management measures for the Atlantic bluefish fishery:
- Re-allocation of the annual bluefish quota between the commercial and recreational fishery sectors to better represent current catch and landings trends. This action allocates 14 percent of the fishery annual catch limit to the commercial fishery and 86 percent to the recreational fishery, which is a 3-percentage point shift to the recreational sector from the prior allocations;
- Revision and update of the Bluefish FMP goals and objectives to reflect the current needs of the fishery. The revisions were developed with input from the public and fishery stakeholders and focus on conservation of the resource, equitable access for all user groups, and effective coordination of management;
- Re-allocation of the annual bluefish commercial quota among the states within the management unit (Maine to Florida) to better represent current landings trends in the fishery (Table 1). This action is intended to reduce the need for in-season state-to-state quota transfers, and includes a 0.1-percent minimum default allocation to ensure that no state is excluded from the fishery entirely. To allow industry and states to adjust to these changes more easily, the changes in allocation will be phased in equally over a period of seven years;
- A 7-year rebuilding plan using a constant fishing mortality model to rebuild the overfished bluefish stock;
- Revision of the sector quota transfer provisions to allow quota to be transferred in either direction (from commercial to recreational sector or vice versa), with a revised maximum transfer cap of 10-percent of the acceptable biological catch;
- Revision of the specifications process to account for sources of management uncertainty separately between the commercial and recreational fishery sectors.
This action was developed through the Council rulemaking process, using the best available science and with many opportunities for public comment, including multiple scoping and public hearings. These new management measures were used to develop specifications for the 2022 fishing year, beginning on January 1, 2022. Therefore, 2022 will be the first year of the phase-in period for commercial quota reallocation to the states, as well as the first year of the rebuilding plan.