Calling Bluefin Tuna Anglers: Survey to Inform Study on Rec Release Mortality of Giants

The University of Maine’s Pelagic Fisheries Lab is beginning work on a study to determine the catch and release mortality of giant (commercial-sized) bluefin tuna. As many of you New Englanders likely know, the past several bluefin seasons have been incredible, and many observant anglers have noticed strong year classes maturing over the years. The recreational-sized fish (27″-73″) that have provided tons of light-tackle (comparatively speaking) opportunity in the Northeast are quickly approaching giant status (over 73″), where NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species regulations dictate recreational anglers are required to release their catch (yes, there are some narrow exceptions…). This means that there will likely be an increase in recreational anglers releasing commercial-sized bluefin tuna–with it, important management considerations of the impact of release mortality on this internationally-quota-managed fishery.

The good folks at the Pelagics Fisheries Lab are hoping to assess what that release mortality rate might be by deploying satellite tags later this summer. However, the first step of this study is to survey the broader recreational community to learn how people recreationally fish for commercial-sized bluefin tuna. This will then inform how the research team designs their study–i.e., how they target and catch bluefin tuna for the study to inform an accurate representation of the fishery (e.g. what type of gear and fishing techniques).

“The consistent and high abundance of commercial sized Atlantic bluefin tuna in New England waters coupled with the rapid filling of commercial sub-quotas has led to an increased interest in a recreational catch and release fishery for giant Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Joe Dello Russo, the PhD Graduate Assistant managing this project. “The Pelagic Fisheries Lab at the University of Maine seeks assistance from anglers to learn more about the catch and release techniques used by the fishing community. This information will be used to inform how we deploy electronic tags on caught and released Atlantic bluefin tuna in order to quantify survival and short-term behavior responses. The data obtained from these tags will be used to develop a set of best practices to ensure the maximal survival of these fish and the long-term sustainability and conservation of the resource.”

If you are a bluefin tuna angler up in the Northeast be sure to complete this quick survey!

If you are a bluefin tuna angler up in the Northeast be sure to complete this quick survey! Pictured: Saltwater Edge Crew

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