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Atlantic billfish FMP approved, challenged.

The Fishery Management Plan for the Atlantic Billfishes (FMP) was approved in September 1988 by the Secretary of Commerce, according to Joseph W. Angelovic, Acting Director, Southeast Region Office, National Marine Fisheries Service. The FMP was developed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in cooperation with the New England, Mid-Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils. The principal objective of the FMP is to maintain the highest availability of billfishes to the traditional recreational fishery by reducing commercial and recreational fishing mortality on billfishes. The final rule implementing the FMP was published in the Federal Register on 28 September 1988 and was scheduled to become effective on 28 October 1988.

The regulated species are blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, and longbill spearfish. The rule regulates: 1) Fishing for and possession of billfish aboard a vessel of the United States shoreward of the outer boundary of the exclusive economic zone (i.e., in Federal and state waters from 0-200 n. mi.) in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea, and 2) possession and sale in any state of a billfish harvested from its management unit. Management units are defined as follows: 1) Blue marlin and white marlin-North Atlantic Ocean north of lat. 5 [degrees] N; 2) Sailfish-North and South Atlantic Oceans west of long. 30*W; and 3) longbill spearfish-the entire North and South Atlantic Oceans. The Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are included in all management units.

The major provisions of the rule include:

1) Prohibition of sale in the United States of a billfish harvested from its management unit. Seafood dealers possessing billfishes harvested prior to 28 October 1988 would be given until 27 December 1988 to sell or dispose of those fish. A requirement that any billfish possessed by a seafood dealer or processor must be accompanied by documentation that it was harvested from an area other than its management unit was scheduled to become effective on 27 December 1988, pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget.

2) Minimum size limit (expressed in terms of length from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the tail) for blue marlin is 86 inches; white marlin, 62 inches; sailfish, 57 inches.

3) Prohibition of possession of billfishes by pelagic longline and drift net vessels.

4) Restriction of possession or retention of billfishes to those caught by rod and reel.

5) Mandatory reporting of catch and effort information from selected billfish tournaments.

For copies of the rule or for further information, contact Rodney C. Dalton, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, St. Petersburg, Fla., or phone 813-893-3722.

(On 26 October 1988 the billfish regulations were challenged in Federal district court by the National Fisheries Institute and the Southeast Fisheries Association, contending that the measures were in violation of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.)
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Title Annotation:Fishery Management Plan
Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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