NMFS Proposes Alternatives for Atlantic Billfish: Comment Period Ends August 14

Under the rules proposed by NMFS, beginning in 2007 all billfish tournaments would be required to use only non-offset circle hooks.

On July 6, 2007, The National Marine Fisheries Service announced the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Final Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan, which includes Atlantic billfish. A number of important changes, expected to be in the final rule mid-August, will affect tournament anglers in 2007.

The first major change would be requiring the use of circle hooks in billfish tournaments–Beginning January 1, 2007, anglers fishing in a billfish tournament would be required to use only non-offset circle hooks when using natural bait or natural bait/artificial lure combination. J-hooks would still be allowed on artificial lures.

Another would be adopting the ICCAT Landing Limit for Atlantic Blue Marlin and White Marlin–An annual 250 landing limit for white and blue marlin combined that would begin on January 1, 2007.

This alternative would allow NMFS to adjust the legal size limit and or restrict the recreational marlin fishery to catch and release only, if the 250 landing limit is approached or exceeded.

A copy of the FEIS is available at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms. or by contacting Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

The 30-day review period ends August 14, 2006. The final rule is expected to publish soon after and regulations will become effective 30 days after the final rule is published or at the date specified in the regulations.

You can still make a difference with written comment to: Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  Comments may be faxed to 301-713-1917 or e-mailed to FinalHMSFMP@noaa.gov and must include FEIS HMS FMP in the subject line.

It is requested you also send a copy of your comments to: NOAA Office of Program Planning and Integration, SSMC3, Room 15603, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  The copy may also be faxed to 301-713-0585 or e-mailed to nepa.comments@noaa.gov.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1170 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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