News has come out that fisherman may have to abide by new rules regarding bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The new rules include the banning of long fishing in certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico during April and May. That is probably the best part about these rules. The rest of the rules state that long line fisherman will take a hit of about 7% in their quotas. Once a boat reaches their limit, they would have to stop using the lines. The rules also state that any vessel using long lines that are not intended for bluefin tuna would be allowed to keep one bluefin tuna for every 2,000 to 30,000lbs of their intended catches. The new rules would also force long line fisherman to keep track of any bluefin tuna that are caught on their lines, even if they are thrown back. These rules sound like a great plan, but they lack a few things.
First of all, there is no physical way to track whether or not the fisherman are actually keeping track of their catches. If a fish gets caught, there will be nobody there to force a fisherman to record whether or not the fish was ever even caught. Another thing that is lacking is a solution to bycatch. These animals get caught on long lines and die long before some fisherman even know they are there. For those fisherman who are not licensed to catch bluefin, but are going to be able to keep them anyway, there is nothing stopping them from catching bluefin and claiming that they are bycatch. There is one foolproof way to put an end to the bycatch and waste of this endangered species. That would be an all out ban on long line fishing. Not only would this drastically reduce the amount of bluefin tuna being caught as bycatch, but it will also drastically reduce the bycatch of other animals including sharks, rays, seals, sea turtles, birds, etc. Long line fishing is one of the greatest hazards that Oceanic wildlife has to deal with. Lines can extend over twenty miles in length and are not monitored nearly as well as they should be, often leading to the death of an incredible number of animals that the fisherman were not even targeting.
Governments can put as many rules and regulations out there to protect bluefin tuna as they like, but the fact remains. That fact is it doesn't matter how much protection you give them if long line fishing continues to be legal. Yes, these protections will help by limiting the use of long lines, I am not denying that at all. What I am saying is that it will only do so much. There is still that untold number of bluefin tuna that are dying without any records being made because they are considered bycatch and from what I have seen from many fisherman, I seriously doubt that many instances of bluefin tuna bycatch will be recorded.