Catch & release still permitted during closure NOTE: This story was posted today on TampabayOnline.com by Special Correspondent Frank Sergeant The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission ruled this …
Save Billfish by Closing Loophole
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer
Bill Shedd– president of AFTCO Manufacturing Co., and a principal in Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts–was asked last year by Marlin magazine what would be the single most important change we could make to current management policy in 2016 to benefit billfish stocks.
His answer: for NOAA Fisheries to get on with finalizing its promised rulemaking on the Billfish Conservation Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012. The law bans importation and sale of billfish (marlin, sailfish and spearfish) into the continental U.S., but still allows traditional fisheries within the Hawaiian Islands and Pacific territories. More than three years after the law was adopted, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has yet to propose rules to implement it.
According to Shedd: “The law intended that the Hawaiian exemption allow only for traditional harvest and consumption within the islands, and that billfish should not be allowed to be shipped from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland. A ruling from NOAA Fisheries is needed to close a possible loophole and prevent possible cheating of billfish caught in other parts of the world being shipped through Hawaii and labeled as caught in Hawaii.”
“This clarification would not only protect billfish stocks in Hawaii, but in other parts of the world as well,” Shedd added. “The U.S. has been the world’s largest market for billfish. The Billfish Conservation Act was passed to prevent billfish importation into the U.S. by removing economic incentive in other countries to catch billfish and export them to the U.S. Allowing the Billfish Conservation Act to proceed as intended will have a huge positive impact on billfish stocks.”
Some knowledgeable observers say the delay in implementation may have to do with tasking bureaucrats at NMFS to draft what may turn out to be trade regulations rather than fisheries regulations–not normally their purview even though the agency is under the Department of Commerce.
But of one thing Shedd and other fisheries conservationists are adamant: no billfish, whether from the U.S. or foreign countries, may be sold in the continental U.S.
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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