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NOAA Says Swordfisheries Are No Longer Depleted

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On: Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 1:01PM | By: Lee Clymer

The Deleware II

Even though we have extremely distressing news about Snapper fishing on the east coast of Florida and Georgia, in that over 4800 square miles closed to bottom fishing, NOAA and the FWC brought good news about Swordfish in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has agreed and have decided to match NOAA in their regulations. Both state and federal waters and will up the limit on Swordfish from three to four on private vessels, six on charter boats, and fifteen on headboats. Additionally the thirty-three pound minimum weight requirement will be lifted.These new rules will probably be implemented in August.

NOAA, in some ways blowing their own horn, or possibly passing government propaganda, stated the strict federal regulations has not only raised the Swordfish population, but eliminated both overfishing and has successfully reduced sea turtle bycatch. With that in mind, we may be able to quit imports of Swordfish from Canada, Panama, Ecuador, and even Singapore.

Dating back to 1985 Swordfish management began with the Fishery Management Plan. The plan was concerned primarily with the taking of juveniles but later expanded into awareness that Swordfish stocks were being depleted due to overfishing, as well. Part of the regulations came as a result of the U. S. joining with Canada, Europe, and Japan to form an organization known as the ICCAT (International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), which was established in 1969. Not limited to Tuna, the organization meets once a year to determine actions necessary for fisheries to not only survive but thrive. In 1990 the commission developed a plan for Atlantic Tuna, Swordfish, and sharks, eventually expanding the plan to a ten-year plan that was initiated in 2000.

According to their reports, by 2006 the rebuilding plan was three years ahead of schedule and they had reached 99% of the target level. By 2009 the commission found the stock completely rebuilt. Especially of note is NOAA’s continued research about Swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico. On June 25th the NOAA ship Deleware II departed Key West on an expedition to track Swordfish and other migratory species.

The Delaware II will spend two weeks on the water. During that time they will fish like any longline fisherman except they will make every effort to ensure the safety of the animals, taking only those absolutely needed for research, according to Dr. Steven Murawski of NOAA. Some of the fish will be tagged with satellite tags to not only trace their migratory habits but also determine their time in oiled waters.

The Delaware II will be accompanied by a variety of other vessels including The Pisces, The Oregon II, The Gordon Hunter, and the Thomas Jefferson. The other four ships will have various missions in the Gulf assessing the quality, variety, and quantity of different sea life including marine mammals.

Dr. Murawski, who is leading NOAA’s science response to the BP spill, stated, “These vessels are providing a variety of seafood and water samples from locations throughout the Gulf—nearshore and offshore, shallow water and deep, oiled and unoiled. This is baseline information we need to measure any effects on seafood attributable to the spilled oil and to make sure our fishery closures are effective and in place for as long as they need to be, but no longer.”


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