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NOAA / BFT ESA Public Hearings Sandy Hook, New Jersey on 1/5/2011 Prepared by John LoGioco. Aggregate Sample # BFT Per Year. ~22%. ~57%. Typical upward YOY trend line for BFT recreational fishermen ~22% increase last two years Sample taken from several most active NJ charter boats
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Sandy Hook, New Jersey on 1/5/2011
Prepared by John LoGioco
2010 Avg #/Trip:
QUESTIONS:1. What are your general impressions of the abundance and distribution of Atlantic bluefin tuna over time? There has been a steady increase of new class Tuna over the past three years. I have seen more 20-80 lb fish appear earlier and stay longer in Cape Cod (Wood End Beach area and Naussett). Last year’s slot fish has grown and now appear individually as large school tuna. We saw this increase starting in 2009. Fish were more spread out this year versus last year, but in 2008 they were again congregated. Pattern?2. If you have experienced a decline or increase in bluefin tuna catches what do you attribute this to (abundance, distribution, availability, gear changes, regulatory effects, etc.)? While environmental factors play a role in the number of fishermen going for tuna (weather, financial cost), the other regulation of monitoring the illegal sale of tuna directly to restaurants has also been a factor in decreasing the high kill rate. There has also been an increase in bait fish in the fishing area longer. Sand eels stayed much longer this year and in higher numbers while half beaks decreased in the Cape Cod area. From the Fairway buoy to Cox ledge, there used to be a transient amount of tuna, while this year, they stayed much longer, while the bait was still in the area.Gear has been developed extensively for tuna fishermen over the past few years. While we have slot limits in place and with the number of light tackle fishermen, the amount of treble hooks on tuna have increased. With the number of break offs, the fish would have a better chance of feeding (and shaking the single hook) versus having a treble. This should be a mandatory change with the number of break offs reported this year.
Total catch decreased this year by charter captains due to the decrease in bookings with the regulation changes. I personally did 27% less tuna charters this year versus 2009. The slot size definitely impacted catch rates.3. Are there particular areas where you typically encounter larger numbers of bluefin tuna? There were less tuna inside Cape Cod bay this year (2010), but larger numbers on Stellwagon Bank and off Chatham. From June to July, most tuna encountered were from Provincetown to Naussett. Over the past three years, most of the tuna my charters have seen have been following the three mile line around Provincetown.4. If so, where are they (e.g., inshore or offshore)? 3 miles to 6 miles off shore for Provincetown to Stellwagon5. Do these areas change on an annual basis? Yes, based upon the bait supply and tides. Slack tide produces larger numbers of fish on Stellwagon, while incoming tides produce more fish closer to shore. As the bait gets pushed out with the outgoing tides, we have seen tuna out for 12 miles northeast of Naussett beach.6. What is the average size of bluefin tuna being caught by different gear types or fisheries? Most of the fish caught this year were 55 to 65 inches via rod and reel. There were many break offs of larger fish this year (but also an increase in smaller fish). As noted above, there were a larger amount of smaller fish seen this year closer to shore (20-80 lbs). Due to the large number of "lost fish", Fishermen either need to increase their gear, get a charter captain to teach them or eliminate the slot size and make it one fish per boat per day for all categories. That many fish with trebles in their mouth will not help the survival rate post release.
7. Has this changed over the time that you have been fishing for bluefintuna? There have been more light tackle fishermen over the past 5 years. There has also been an increase in live liners going for giants. I don’t believe this impacts the fishery due to their low catch rate per day. The amount of school tuna has increased over the past three years while last years slot fish has dispersed to random giants.8. What other information can you share with us that you believe is relevant to the review of the status of bluefin tuna? (Please focus your response on pertinent information on the status of the species that needs to be considered in the status review and not on the petition).In 2010, my season started on June 12. June 15th, we saw fish in the usual spots off Provincetown, MA with 2 break offs. June 16, they were off Naussett, again, normal activity. June 19th, Naussett again with a slot size tuna that was released. This activity continued through July with both large and small fish from Wood end beach to STellwagon with two more fish that were broken off during the fight. High temperatures and low bait in August to September did lower the amount of fish seen. Many people had to travel north to find fish. As the temperatures and the wind patterns stabilized (many more days with North winds this year) and we returned to the southwest winds, the fish did return to the stellwagon bank area for a productive fall.Tally for 2010 was a total of 11 tuna caught on my charters with on one kept (55 inches). We had one tagged fish and the rest broke off during the fight.2009, we had a total of 14 fish landed, 2 tagged and 7 lost during the fight.
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