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Quarter Of US Bluefin Quota Is Accidental Longline Catch United States, June 20, 13

NOAA has revealed that about a quarter of the United States’ 2012 annual quota of about 1,000 metric tons of the fish was wasted on bluefin tuna that was accidentally caught in a practice known as pelagic longline fishing. Vessels are mostly targeting swordfish and yellowfin tuna. But other species -- including bluefin tuna, but also turtles and dolphins -- sometimes take the bait and are caught as “accidental by-catch” by the pelagic longline fishermen, according to a report by NOAA. Bluefin tuna need to swim to breathe, so they sometimes die after being hooked in this process. According to the new NOAA data, these wasted tuna weighed a total of 239.5 metric tons in 2012, up about 70 percent from 2011.

This increase in accidental by-catch has prompted NOAA to suspend longline fishing for bluefin tuna for the remainder of 2013, starting on June 25. The restriction won't keep bluefin tuna from being accidentally caught by pelagic longline fishermen, whose activities are not being restricted -- rather, if they are caught, the fishermen are no longer allowed to keep them on board. They have to throw them back into the sea, dead or alive.

NOAA is expected to revise its regulations on bluefin tuna fisheries this summer. Its new rules may limit certain types of pelagic longline fishing that present a high risk of bluefin tuna by-catch.