South Atlantic Council Takes Big First Step Towards Monitoring False Albacore Fisheries

Here at ASGA, we’ve been slammed these past few weeks as 2022 wraps up. We’ve been dealing with a striped bass commercial transfer addendum at the Commission, potential offshore wind revenue sharing legislation in Congress, forage fish protections in New England, year-end Fishery Management Council meetings, and the great preliminary Albie Project findings! It’s been crazy, but during last week’s South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting, we heard more good news about False Albacore. 

You may recall our efforts earlier this fall, encouraging the SAFMC to consider re-adding albies to the Coastal Migratory Pelagic Fishery Management Plan. That effort was a powerful opportunity to show fishery managers just how important albies are for the entire Coast and that they are a species that deserve respect and some management attention. Since we submitted that letter in September and the Council had some initial discussions, our thinking and strategy shifted slightly. 

While we still want this species to be abundant long into the future and to have some precautionary guardrails, we understand that the process of adding albies to an FMP is long and complicated, considering how little we currently know about them. We figured that while we continue to gather research and data on the species it might make sense to take another approach. Ultimately, we concluded that asking the Council to take a look at landings and details about the false albacore fishery annually would be a positive step in the right direction—this was also a discussion point at the October Cobia-Mackerel Advisory Panel meeting

Management would track landings and regional perspectives and be able to detect a possible emerging fishery or if one region’s albie fishery was showing signs of decline. These fishery performance reports, as they’re technically known as, would also give us at ASGA more time to provide real data as to whether there are distinct populations of albies and what their coastal movements may look like—and not to mention what management could/should look like for a species as widespread and data-limited as albies are. 

So, last week at the Council’s Cobia-Mackerel Committee meeting, the whole ASGA team was anxiously following along to hear how Council Members would receive a staff-developed White Paper on False Albacore and the AP’s discussion. While there were definite points of technical disagreements, there was a unifying message that albies are a valuable species up and down the coast and are deserving of more respect than they traditionally get. 

The discussion, however, really go going when South Carolinian Council Members Gary Borland and Mel Bell made a motion to direct the Advisory Panel to develop a Fishery Performance Report for false albacore every two years. Here we heard a great deal of support for continuing to keep tabs on false albacore and to try to keep a closer “finger on the pulse” of the fishery. Ultimately, the Borland motion was dispensed with and replaced by a final staff directive to develop a Fishery Performance Report every three years with some additional landings analyses and life history characteristics of false albacore. 

Is this our ultimate goal? No, it was not, but in the world of fisheries policy, you take incremental change when it’s on the table—especially with a species like false albacore which have ZERO management and very limited scientific understanding. And in the meantime, we are thrilled to continue the Albie Project and  share our scientific findings and other data with the Council staff for a sustainable, precautionary future for albies. There’s a lot in the works, but this was a good week for our friend the false albacore. Special thanks goes out to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and all of the businesses and anglers for their help on this effort. 

Join the Albie Tag Team and support ASGA’s efforts to learn more about and protect false albacore for generations to come. This sponsorship supports one of the acoustic telemetry tags currently swimming along the east coast attached to little tunny – deployed by ASGA in partnership with the New England Aquarium this fall. All Tag Teams sponsors will receive an exclusive Albie Project “Tag Team” hooded tech shirt produced by SIMMS.

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