NMFS Introduces Online Reporting System For Fishing Tournaments

An online reporting system will now be available for highly migratory species (HMS) fishing tournaments in the Atlantic Ocean, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced this week.

HMS tournament operators are required to register with NMFS whether targeting sharks, tunas, billfish, or swordfish. The tournaments must also keep records of anglers and the results, and may be required to send a catch report at the end of the event. All billfish tournaments are required to send the catch report.

Reporting is important for the management of the involved species as it helps to characterize a portion of the recreational fishing effort on the stocks, including the details of general location and targeted species. It also provides catch and landings data that are used in stock assessments and to update landings for national and international quota limits.

NMFS is now offering an online system through which tournaments can send these reports. Prior options included traditional mail, email, and fax. The online registration and reporting system also sends email confirmation when NMFS has reviewed an application or information and determined it is complete.

More on Atlantic HMS tournaments here.

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InTheBite Magazine Presents Captain of the Year Award


One of the last billfishing competitions of the summer, the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament concluded this past weekend in Virginia Beach, VA.

The tournament hosted 75 teams this year for three days of fishing. First place went to Capt. Fin Gaddy of the Qualifier, who landed an 801 lb. blue marlin.

Also at the tournament was InTheBite magazine, who recognized an award winner. Elliott Stark, from InTheBite, presented Capt. Harvey Shiflet of Anticipation with the Captain of the Year Award, alongside mate Frank Riganto and boat owner Paul Coury.

The Billfish Foundation will be sponsoring this honor at next year’s tournament.

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Winner of Florida West Coast Bluewater Series Tags Every Billfish

The 46th Annual Old Salt Loop Billfish Tournament concluded in Clearwater, Florida this past weekend, wrapping up the Florida West Coast Bluewater Series (FWCBS) as it was the third and final leg of the series.

First Place Overall Series Winners for the FWCBS went to Twisted Bills, owner Ralph Munyan and crew: Captain RJ Schwab, Daniel Munyan, Robbie Munyan, Grant Johnston, Jason Lozeau, Hugh West and Hunter Gibson. The team was also awarded 1st Place Billfish Release Division and 1st Place Swordfish in the Loop Tournament.

But the most impressive distinction of their victory was that every one of the billfish caught by Twisted Bills successfully had the hooks removed then was tagged and released.

The FWCBS purchased tags from The Billfish Foundation for every vessel involved in the tournament and offered participants 10 points per tag for eligible species. TBF applauds the Series for generating conservation-minded competition.

Twisted Bills, winner of FWCBS, tagged each billfish they caught


Twisted Bills, winner of FWCBS, tagged each billfish they caught

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Rubio & Nelson Introduce Florida Fisheries Improvement Act

Earlier this month U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation designed to enhance and protect Florida’s fishery resources and those who rely on them. The Florida Fisheries Improvement Act comes with a number of changes to improve flexibility for management as well as stakeholder input.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

“This bipartisan bill reflects the best ideas from Florida’s commercial, charter and recreational fishing communities, and would ensure federal fishing laws reflect the realities of our unique Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions while continuing to promote research and conservation efforts,” Rubio stated in a press release. “As Congress works towards a reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens, I remain committed to ensuring Florida’s fisheries are well represented.”

“Florida is the fishing capital of the world,” said Nelson, “and this bill will help to ensure that this celebrated tradition is available for many more generations to come.”

A number of stakeholders from the fishing community support the proposed bill, including The Billfish Foundation. Our President, Ellen Peel, stated “The Billfish Foundation applauds the work of Senator Rubio in drafting the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, which addresses real fisheries problems, including bringing more transparency and accountability to the Exempted Fishing Permit process.”

The proposed legislation came just before the decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service to grant an exempted fishing permit (EFP) for a longline operation in the Florida east coast closed zone. The area has been closed to longlining for 16 years in order to protect juvenile swordfish as well as other billfish, sharks, and sea turtle species. Now, a researcher with conflicting interests will be allowed to use the gear in the area to determine whether the closure was successful and sell the fish caught in the process. TBF strongly opposes this decision and is gathering support to fight it—you can lend your voice here.

The Florida Fisheries Improvement Act proposes the following:

  • Give the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Regional Fishery Management Councils greater flexibility in setting rebuilding timelines for fisheries.
  • Include provisions to increase the availability of funding for stock assessments, surveys and data collection.
  • Require the Secretary of Commerce to create a stock assessment plan to better prioritize stock assessments and submit a report to Congress on how to improve data collection from fishermen and other stakeholders.
  • Include provisions to increase transparency and public involvement in the scientific and statistical committee process, as well as the consideration of experimental fishing permits.
  • Authorize the Councils to consider alternative management measures such as extraction rates or fishing mortality targets in fishery management plans to better reflect the different priorities of each industry.
  • Ensure nominations to the Gulf and South Atlantic Councils reflect the mixed nature of fishery stakeholders by ensuring commercial, charter and recreational fishermen are afforded the opportunity to be nominated.
  • Require the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to review the allocation process every five to eight years and directs the National Academy of Sciences to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator to assist in identifying what Councils should take into account when dealing with the allocation process.
  • Resolve inconsistencies between the Capital Construction Fund and Fisheries Finance Program;
  • Require the U.S. secretary of commerce to make fishery disaster designations within 90 days of receiving information from the state.
  • Exempt fisheries with a mean life cycle of less than 1 year or with spawning areas outside the United States, such as spiny lobster, from unnecessary rebuilding timelines.

Additional supporters of the bill include the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southeastern Fisheries Association, American Sportfishing Association, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman’s Association, and Wild Ocean Seafood Market.

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Submit Comments on Allowing Longlines in Closed Zones to Florida Elected Officials!


Click here to submit comments to FL Senators Rubio and Nelson.

Click here to submit comments to your US & FL House representatives and FL State Senators.

Click here to submit comments to FL Governor Scott.

The Office of Highly Migratory Species (NMFS), a division of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), charged with conserving and responsibly managing highly migratory fish species reversed 16 years of conservation with their approval of an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) on August 10, 2017. The permit will allow pelagic longline boats back into the east coast closed zone to fish. Sixteen years ago the same agency closed the zone to protect juvenile swordfish, billfish, sea turtles and sharks; now the boats will kill and sell the conservation benefits. Unbelievable!

We cannot stand by and watch the east coast closed zone be wiped clean of conservation benefits, we need your help to contact your Senators and US Representatives now and if you haven’t yet, please join TBF.

We have made it easy for you to submit your comments to our FL Senators, US Representatives, FL State Senators, FL State Reps and FL Governor with a ready made template but feel free to modify it.

Thank you very much,


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Hypocrisy – Florida’s $7.6 Billion Dollar Recreational Fishing Industry Slapped by Federal Agency

After the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced today its approval of the Exempted Fishing Permit that allows longline boats to fish in Florida’s east coast closed zone, Ellen Peel, President of The Billfish Foundation (TBF) said, “Florida anglers, all anglers who fish off Florida’s east coast and the recreational fishing industry should be irate at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Office of Highly Migratory Species for not valuing or respecting recreational fishing by their approval of the Exempted Fishing Permit, which allows longline boats to fish inside Florida’s East Coast Closed Zone.

Florida has more anglers than any other state in the nation, 2.4 million, and the related industry generates an economic impact of $7.6 billion dollars (2015/16) and supports 109,300 jobs! This is a slap in the face of all connected to recreational fishing in Florida especially after strong opposition was expressed by the industry and community participants. This decision could have a negative impact on Florida’s wide ranging marine tourism.

Peel added, “she was not surprised, though held out some hope, the NMFS would realize allowing longlines back into Florida’s east coast closed zone to land the conservation benefits accrued over 16 years of closure would be illogical. The NMFS has accommodated the one scientist at NOVA, who filed for the permit, project after project, regardless of prior results or inappropriateness of this project. The hypocrisy of the situation is blatant for the scientist, along with the owner of many of the longline boats that will fish in the zone, were part of a CNN interview in 2012 (see video here), in which they made the argument that longlining was not a clean gear and should be replaced by buoy gear. Now that the scientist and boat owner can sell the conservation benefits their story has changed. The longlines will kill billfish, swordfish, sharks and sea turtles. Be prepared, the NMFS, HMS may issue more restraints on recreational fishing so there will be more fish for the “research longlines” to kill if illogical thinking continues. Keep in mind that the State of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opposed the permit being issued.”

The Billfish Foundation is the world’s leading science-based sportfishing conservation organization that advances research, education and advocacy for responsible management and conservation of billfish (marlin, sailfish, spearfish, swordfish) and other highly migratory fish, including tunas.

A map of the pelagic longline closed zone off Florida’s east coast (credit: NOAA)

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2017 Atlantic Billfish Landings Remain Far Below Allocation

On Wednesday NOAA released preliminary numbers for Atlantic billfish landings in 2017. The estimates show individuals caught (and reported) thus far in 2017, from January 1st through June 30th, for blue and white marlin, roundscale spearfish, and western Atlantic sailfish.

As can be seen in the table below, much of the year’s allocated landings remain available. The Billfish Foundation applauds anglers for supporting the philosophy of catch and release fishing.

Atlantic billfish recreational landings through Quarter 2, 2017 (credit: NOAA)

The landings are compiled from self-reporting from anglers, tournament landings from the Recreational Billfish Survey (RBS), catch card reports from North Carolina and Maryland, and individual billfish intercepted by the Large Pelagic Survey (LPS) and Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). These estimates are subject to change due to late reporting and depend on the accuracy of the reporting entities.

The recreational billfish fishery is limited to 250 landings of Atlantic blue and white marlin and roundscale spearfish combined per year. Western Atlantic sailfish are not included in this limit.

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Pacific Bluefin Tuna Will Not Be Listed As Endangered

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Tuesday that they rejected a petition to list the Pacific bluefin tuna as an endangered species.

A long list of environmental organizations combined efforts to submit a request in June 2016 for the species to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. These groups are vastly disappointed in the decision, and argue that bluefin tuna—a luxury sushi item in high demand globally—are in fact endangered as their populations are at just 3 percent of what the stock once was.

Alternatively, The Billfish Foundation was glad to see that a highly prized game fish will remain accessible to recreational anglers. Although NMFS was considering the option of listing Pacific bluefin tuna on the ESA, the nation’s fishery service concluded after reviewing the petition and stock details that the species is on a positive trajectory. In 2013 the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which manages tunas and tuna-like species in the Pacific Ocean, adjusted the overall catch limit for bluefin, reducing the commercial catch for 40% as well as the recreational bag limit from 10 fish per day to two with a maximum of six fish.

It’s important to note that the Endangered Species Act is national legislation that only applies in the United States. While the bluefin tuna may have severely reduced populations, it is not likely that listing it under the ESA will result in any significant conservation as just five percent of the stock occurs in U.S. waters. High demand for the fish in other parts of the world (Japan, South Korea, etc.) is driving its declining numbers and high price. If conservation measures are to be implemented it must be done at the international level where those heavily fishing for bluefin can be controlled.

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A Fishing Mess in Panama

photo courtesy of Trey Russo in Panama

When a Sea Shepherd boat cruised into Panama’s waters of the Coiba Special Zone of Marine Protection more than what meets the eye was at play. The U.S. environmental organization’s interest in the marine zone stems from their desire, like many other international environmental organizations, to see the resources protected, which to them means “no fishing.”

The Coiba National Park and Special Zone of Marine Protection were created by national legislation in 2004 (Law 44) with strong support from international environmental organizations. The legislation provided for an “innovative model of governance” that allowed representatives of environmental organizations to occupy voting seats on a management committee, along with representatives from several governmental departments. Adding to the uniqueness of the model, the environmental organizations pledged impressive sums of money to assure the establishment and implementation of conservation and management programs within the Park and zone would become a functioning reality. No seat on the Committee was designated for representatives of Panama’s sportfishing eco-tourism industry even though the industry generates millions of dollars into the nation’s economy each year. The industry’s economic value was documented in a socio-economic study the government of Panama (SENACYT – Center for Technology & Innovation) contracted with TBF to conduct. The nation’s Institute of Tourism occupies a voting seat on the Directive Committee and on the Commission for Sustainable Fishing in the Zone, but has not supported sportfishing.

Following the legislation came a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designation of the Park and Zone as a World Heritage Site in 2005. This came with additional scrutiny that conservation and management plans would be implemented and enforced, the failure of which could result in the status of the site being downgraded.

Communications between UNESCO and the government of Panama over management plans for the Zone dragged on for years. A review of the lengthy documents reflects that Panama does not desire their World Heritage site downgraded, yet government actions have done little to engender confidence that it can manage the sites responsibly. Panama did include a fishery management plan, dated 2013, in its 2017 State of the Conservation Report, Annex 8, to UNESCO. Currently, artisanal boats, industrial vessels and sportfishing boats can fish within some waters of the Site, but environmental organizations prefer no fishing be allowed while the government appears frozen.

Sea Shepherd’s visit drew much attention as they took photos of the rampant commercial fishing they witnessed in the Zone. No doubt those images were shared with UNESCO and sent around the world in hopes of generating international pressure on Panama.

A huge disconnect exists in Panama: on one hand desiring to receive international recognition for “world class” resource within its boundaries, meanwhile taking no apparent action to check commercial fishing. In 2015 the former fisheries manager criticized sportfishing in the local newspaper blaming the industry for “harm to… the marine biology”; TBF countered the allegations in a letter to the Editor. A new manager has been appointed, whether better or not is yet known.

Panama should not enjoy the benefits from a World Heritage Site designation nor should it benefit from the sportfishing eco-tourism trade dollars while allowing unregulated, unenforced and at times illegal fishing to continue in the waters of the Zone and beyond. Panama may be viewed in some international arenas as a progressive nation, yet in fishery management the evidence indicates a state of irresponsibility.

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Which Way Will New Head of NMFS Sway On Longline Closed Zone?

Appointed in June with support from over 55 commercial fishing companies and organizations, the new Assistant Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has a number of pressing issues to attend. Chris Oliver, formerly Director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, has three decades of fisheries management experience ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska.

Now that NMFS has a new leader, a decision is approaching on whether to grant requested Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP) in the longline closed zone off Florida’s east coast.

The closed zone was created in response to the need to provide protection to juvenile swordfish in their nursery area and to reduce billfish bycatch. The area has been closed to longline fishing for 16 years. Those applying for an EFP to conduct longlining in the area hope to assess the progress that’s been made. The worry is that granting research permits will open the door to granting commercial fishing permits. TBF has maintained that eradicating the conservation progress made in those 16 years by once again allowing longlines is contradictory.

In his letter to stakeholders and partners, Oliver said he himself is an “avid sportsman, and appreciates the contributions of anglers to conservation and coastal economies.” This may be a positive for the recreational fishing community, and our interests in maintaining the closed zone off Florida’s east coast. However, the long list of commercial fishing interests who endorsed Oliver also raises concern that he may be inclined to approve the Exempted Fishing Permit to allow commercial fishing back in the closed zone.

The public comment period for this issue closed in March, so a decision is expected in the near future.

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Draft Management Plans for Australia Allows for Recreational Fishing

Billfishing is Not Prohibited in Australia

July 21, 2017 – Today Australia’s government released five Draft Management Plans for the Marine Parks within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a UNESCO designated World Heritage site. The accompanying announcement included recognition of the iconic black marlin’s annual aggregations near Osprey Reef and a statement that 97% of the waters will be open to recreational fishing.

In recent years, large environmental organizations convinced Australia’s government to create an expansive 192,000 square mile network of marine reserves to restrict activities in the Park. All of us in the sportfishing industry remained greatly concerned for the distinctions in surface trolling techniques and the highly migratory nature of billfish never seemed to be understood in all the meetings and government documents.

Click on the image to enlarge the map.

Australian anglers, captains and related sportfishing eco-tourism businesses rallied time and again to oppose the closure of all their valued fishing grounds. TBF called upon our members outside Australia to send comments supporting the great Australian billfishing fishery for which we are grateful. Public comments on the Draft Management Plans will be accepted through September 20, 2017. TBF will share our comments once we submit our comments. See included map of the Coral Sea Marine Park. Green areas denote where fishing is not allowed.

We at TBF will review the Draft Management Plans and share our suggested comments to the Australian government with you. We are also monitoring development of specifics to the Reef 2050 Plan, a 35 year management framework for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Thank you for your participation, if you are not a TBF member, now is the time to join and help insure billfishing opportunities remain available.

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Electronic Monitoring

The Enormous Possibilities (And Costs) for Electronic Monitoring at Sea

As fisheries regulations develop, there is often the need for enforcement of compliance—enforcing gear restrictions, enforcing size limits, enforcing the return of non-target species, and ultimately enforcing the law. Ensuring compliance with such regulations on the high seas, however, is easier said than done. Some vessels can spend months at sea, beyond the jurisdiction of any nation, and even when vessels are within national waters their activities are so distant from land and the law that much can go unnoticed.

Observer programs attempt to shrink the room for lawlessness by employing a person to watch the day-to-day operations of a fishing vessel. The presence of an observer, employed by the government to monitor compliance and report any illegal activity, in some cases can be enough to promote the desired adherence to regulations. Other times, though, observers can be coerced so that the vessel’s illicit behavior remains under the radar.

A new strategy has been in development recently, and is becoming a viable solution. Electronic monitoring (EM) of vessels is exactly what it sounds like: technology like GPS and video take the place of an observer to record a vessel’s movements and the crew’s actions. The idea is that technology is unfazed by bribes or threats, and if the costs of not cooperating are high enough, all vessels will comply.


Much of the impetus for improving the feasibility of EM is the growing menace of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU). Up to $23 billion of seafood makes it to the global markets each year, undermining legal fishermen and regional attempts at sustainable fisheries regulations. IUU fishing includes using trawl nets in an area where the gear is restricted, keeping fish that are below the minimum size limit, cutting the fins off sharks but returning their bodies to the sea, and entering protected areas or zones off-limits to fishing, to name a few.

An initiative to publicize the movement of fishing vessels all over the world resulted in the website Global Fishing Watch. The interactive map uses the Automatic Identification System (AIS) of commercial fishing vessels, transmitted by satellite, to show location. Originally used as a safety measure to avoid collisions and disaster, AIS is now being utilized for monitoring: if a vessel suddenly disappears from the map, or a fishing vessel is seen trespassing a protected area, or appears in the Himalayan Mountains, then something suspicious is going on.

As with observers, this technology is incomplete. Vessels may turn off their AIS, broadcast a false location, or simply not be required to use such a device. However, more and more international maritime bodies are requiring AIS for vessels, and if activity appears suspicious it may be reported.

Global Positioning System

While technology is helping to close the loopholes, it is still unclear how to ensure the global fleet of fishing vessels places cameras or GPS onboard, and how to fund it all. The unobtainable 100% observer coverage may be expensive, but cameras are also pricey, with the up front costs of setup and the long term costs of transferring video, storing the high definition footage, and paying someone to watch reels of video.

A solution must be found to refine the technology and to develop an algorithm that will allow cameras to accurately recognize particular fish—identifying yellowfin tuna, swordfish, blue marlin being pulled aboard and even in the distance—and refine this technique so that the camera captures only the activities of interest. Questions remain: would the fish have to be in the center of the frame? What about night operations with limited lighting? And can this tool or algorithm be precise enough to distinguish the confusing life stages of fish, where juveniles of one species may look like the adults of another? Despite the uncertainty, developments in EM continue as fishery management organizations and nonprofits test the technology.

At the center of this endeavor, and controversy, is the question of whether the seas need policing. Unfortunately this has become the case as too many fleets attempt to catch too few fish. Regulations are needed to protect spawning fish stocks, prevent access to sensitive ecosystems, minimize habitat damage, and maintain populations of the species we love to catch and eat. Additionally, considering the massive amount of IUU fishing taking place across the world, monitoring is needed to ensure these regulations are followed and fishery resources sustained. As technology continues to become more efficient and comparable to human capabilities, electronic monitoring may prove crucial to managing our global fisheries. The solution, however, will likely be a hybrid of technology and observers.

If you’d like to see more on this topic, consider becoming a member of The Billfish Foundation to support our work.

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Tag & Release Competition UPDATE!

 We may still be highlighting last year’s award winners, but the Tag & Release Competition update as it stands. Don’t forget, these positions will be shifting constantly until the final deadline, October 31, especially now that the kiddos are out of school and hitting it hard! Check out the link for full details and rules.


As of 7/6/17

Overall Release Captain

  1. Ronnie Fields
  2. Dean Panos
  3. Brad Philipps
  4. Edward Bairez
  5. Victor Julio Lopez Pizarro


Overall Tagging Captain

  1. Pete Wishney
  2. Tim Richardson
  3. Bouncer Smith
  4. Doug Covin
  5. Jaime Gonzalez


Overall Release Angler

  1. Scott Kozak
  2. Gray Ingram
  3. John Duvall
  4. Jacob Lepera
  5. Bill Pino


Overall Tagging Angler

  1. Jacob Lepera
  2. Marco Couto
  3. Mike Mason
  4. Hugo Van Dunem
  5. Nicolas Pariset


Overall Release Lady Angler

  1. Samantha Johns Mumford
  2. Camila Sanches
  3. Skylar Vallancourt
  4. Lisa Everett


Overall Tagging Lady Angler

  1. Luena Amaro
  2. Skylar Vallancourt
  3. Dawn Samuels
  4. Martha Macnab
  5. Denise Wishney


Overall Release Youth Angler

  1. Billy Carson
  2. Parker Brown
  3. Shawn MacMullin


Overall Tagging Youth Angler

  1. Nuno Abohbot
  2. Darren Philipps
  3. Hefner Appling
  4. Billy Carson
  5. Shawn MacMullin



Top Tagging Angler- Atlantic

Blue Marlin

  1. Charles Cooke
  2. Chris Pakarinen
  3. Jean Paul Bonnin
  4. Rene Bonneval
  5. Louie Selen


  1. Jacob Lepera
  2. Marco Couto
  3. Hugo Van Dunem
  4. Nicolas Pariset
  5. Luena Amaro

Top Release Angler- Atlantic

Blue Marlin

  1. Garrett Penley
  2. Bill Pino
  3. Chris Pakarinen


  1. Jacob Lepera
  2. Skylar Vallancourt
  3. J.R. Bergeron
  4. Eric Hull
  5. Justin Curry

White Marlin

  1. Ernesto Vazquez

Top Tagging Captain- Atlantic

Blue Marlin

  1. Tim Richardson
  2. Olaf Grimkowski
  3. Sean Young
  4. Corey Hurst
  5. Stephane Millez


  1. Bouncer Smith
  2. Fernando Duarte
  3. Doug Covin
  4. Rogerio Matos
  5. Jose Silva


  1. Nick Stanczyk

White Marlin

  1. Tim Richardson
  2. Doug Covin

Top Release Captain- Atlantic

Blue Marlin

  1. Tim Richardson
  2. Sean Young
  3. Chuck Gregory


  1. Dean Panos
  2. Doug Covin
  3. Jacob Lepera
  4. Chip Sheehan
  5. Matt Rabenstine


White Marlin

  1. Dennis Endee
  2. Doug Covin


Top Tagging Angler- Pacific

Black Marlin

  1. Aaron Adkins
  2. Bill Boyle
  3. David Richardson

Blue Marlin

  1. Bob Ballenger
  2. Jeff Citron
  3. Denise Wishney
  4. Rich Palys
  5. Chris Brown


  1. Jeff Citron
  2. John Henry David
  3. Darren Philipps
  4. Hefner Appling
  5. Becky Broadbent

Striped Marlin

  1. John Duvall
  2. Blake Quinn
  3. Richard Crowell
  4. Bill Savage
  5. Martha Macnab


Top Release Angler- Pacific

Blue Marlin

  1. Gray Ingram


  1. Scott Kozak
  2. Gray Ingram
  3. John Duvall
  4. Bill Pino
  5. Samantha Johns Mumford


Striped Marlin

  1. John Duvall


Top Tagging Captain- Pacific

Black Marlin

  1. Tim Richardson
  2. Craig Denham

Blue Marlin

  1. Pete Wishney
  2. Ronnie Fields
  3. Chris Choy
  4. Chris Van Leeuwen
  5. Bret Hawes


  1. Jerry Lanzerotti
  2. Sean Swetman
  3. Brad Philipps
  4. Cliff Mountain
  5. Bobby McGuinness

Striped Marlin

  1. Jaime Gonzalez
  2. Sean Holden
  3. Lupe Gomez
  4. Julio Cota
  5. Horace Barge


  1. Chris Choy


Top Release Captain- Pacific

Blue Marlin

  1. Ronnie Fields
  2. Gavilan Cordoba
  3. Brett Alty



  1. Ronnie Fields
  2. Brad Philipps
  3. Edward Bairez
  4. Victor Julio Lopez Pizarro
  5. Daniel Espinoza


Striped Marlin

  1. Lupe Gomez
  2. Nathan Brown
  3. Ronnie Fields



Top Tagging Angler – Indian

Black Marlin

  1. Mike Mason


Blue Marlin

  1. Batias Crais
  2. Mike Mason
  3. Callum Looman
  4. Scott MacGowan



  1. Mike Mason
  2. Callum Looman
  3. Dale Moore
  4. Batias Crais
  5. Bruce Horner


Top Tagging Captain- Indian

Black Marlin

  1. Perry Rosalie
  2. Randy Bradley
  3. Darryn Du Plessis
  4. Bomber Farrell

Blue Marlin

  1. Adam Ogden
  2. Perry Rosalie
  3. Darryn Du Plessis
  4. Randy Bradley
  5. Scott MacGowan


  1. Rolly Pierre
  2. Perry Rosalie
  3. Randy Bradley
  4. Ethan Donnelly
  5. Bomber Farrell



  1. Randy Bradley


Youth Division (Tag)

11 – 12

  1. Rafael Abohbot

13 – 15

  1. Hefner Appling
  2. Oliver Hoffman
  3. Kaleb Richardson
  4. Wil Cunningham

16 – 17

  1. Nuno Abohbot Jr.
  2. Billy Carson
  3. Shawn MacMullin
  4. Toby Mason


Youth Division (Release)

16 – 17

  1. Billy Carson
  2. Parker Brown
  3. Shawn MacMullin

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The Billfish Foundation Announces 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Winners

Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA – June 20, 2017 – Today, The Billfish Foundation (TBF), the world’s leading sportfishing conservation organization for marlin, sailfish, spearfish and associated highly migratory fish, announces this year’s winners of its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards and its Club of Excellence Awards.  The Lifetime Achievement Awards are named in honor of three distinguished gentlemen who made exemplary contributions to advancing billfish research and conservation throughout their lives. The Club Award is in recognition of big game fishing clubs that have contributed to the conservation and management of billfish and other species, responsible sportfishing fishing and support of TBF.

Photo courtesy of IGFA

THE WINTHROP P. ROCKEFELLER LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD will be presented to Michael L. Farrior from Rancho Santa Fe, CA for his lifelong extensive volunteer work to advance responsible fishing practices, youth fishing opportunities, fishing trips  for recuperating military patients and his dedication to researching and capturing fishing history for anglers worldwide.  He is a long-time member of the oldest fishing club still in existence, the Tuna Club of Avalon and serves on the board of directors of the International Game Fish Association.

THE JOHN RYBOVICH LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD will be presented to Captain Peter B. Wright from Stuart, FL for his lifelong commitment to responsible fishing practices, his world renowned achievements as a sportfishing captain and his demand for credible science based management and conservation. Peter introduced TBF to the conservation benefits of using non-offset circle hooks and helped secure the means for TBF to distribute thousands of the hooks to anglers and captains.  Peter is a long-time member of TBF, who supports the organization in numerous ways.

Photo courtesy of IGFA

THE PAXSON H. OFFIELD LIFETIME SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT WARD will be presented to Dr. Eric Prince from Niceville, FL for his 30 plus year career as a billfish scientist, who provided the science voice that convinced Rockefeller of the need for TBF.  Prince spearheaded the first international Atlantic billfish research program, gave impetus to TBF expanding traditional tagging and later satellite tagging, and he was one of two scientists who launched the first archival tagging program for Atlantic bluefin tuna and for years often provided the only science voice for billfish.


TBF is honoring the 83 year old West Palm Beach Fishing Club and its members, who have advanced projects and practices that benefitted fish conservation and science for many species, including billfish.  In the 1950s and 1960s, the Club worked with Dr. Frank Mather at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to help establish and maintain its Cooperative Gamefish Tagging Program. The Club’s Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation provides scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in marine biology at Palm Beach Atlantic University and Florida Atlantic University. The Club also supports environmental and marine science-oriented students at three area high schools and is a partner with a three-day hands-on educational fishing event for youth, who otherwise would not have the opportunity.

TBF is honoring the 58 year old Hatteras Marlin Club, known for its annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament, which began in 1960 with a focus on inter-club friendly competition with competitors representing Club Nautico de San Juan, Miami Rod & Reel Club, the Annapolis Yacht Club, Atlantic Anglers and the Atlantic City Tuna Club, and others. In addition to being recognized for furthering fishing club camaraderie, the Club is being honored for its commitment to advancing billfish and other fish conservation, responsible fishing ethics and the introduction of today’s youth to those values and practices.  The Club members’ continuous support of TBF has allowed for the continuation of billfish research and advocacy for responsible policy to continue.

Award presentations will be made during TBF’s annual gala on Friday, November 3, 2017 at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort on Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Florida.

TBF is a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization created in 1986 by anglers to insure the advancement of billfish research needed to support healthy stocks of fish so great sportfishing opportunities would remain available worldwide.


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What Is the Port State Measures Agreement and Why Does It Matter?

Seafood is big business. Not only is it an industry that exchanges billions of dollars in trade globally, but the sector also trades an abundance of resources that contribute to food security and livelihoods across the world. When there’s money to be made, though, naturally there will be some bad players. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a shadowy component of global fisheries with its roots in lack of enforcement. It can take the form of fishing in a protected zone, taking more than is allowed, taking protected species, or fishing by one nation in another’s exclusive waters. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that IUU fishing is responsible for catching up to 26 million tons of fish each year, or a cost of $10-$23 billion.

IUU fishing thrives due to the vastness of the seas and the limited enforcement capabilities of nations. Flag States, the nation to which a vessel is registered, are supposed to be accountable for the responsible fishing of their vessels. However, when a flag State fails to ensure its vessels are being held to international standards or lacks the willingness or funds for supervision, IUU fishing may occur. Illegal catch of some species, such as the Patagonian toothfish (also known as the Chilean Seabass), has reached massive proportions. IUU fishing undermines conservation efforts by every level of fisheries management – from the local fishing community trying to sustain their livelihoods to the international bodies working to put a cap on exploitation.

To combat the opportunities for IUU fishing to take place, the FAO introduced the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), which was adopted in 2009. Port State refers to the nation to which a port belongs (e.g. the USA for Port of Miami), and the PSMA aims to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing by implementing robust measures in port States, where vessels bring their catch to sell it. The goal is for nations to adopt tight legislation that makes no room for IUU fishing.

Under the PSMA, vessels not flying the flag of the port State who seek to come to port or are already in that nation’s port are subject to providing catch documentation to prove they were not engaged in IUU fishing. Specifically, a port State may deny access to ports, conduct port inspections, prohibit the landing and shipment of the catch, and ultimately lead to detention and sanction against a vessel involved in IUU fishing. The flag State is also given more responsibility of their own vessels, since the PSMA requires the flag State to take actions, at the request of the port State, when vessels flying their flag have been found to engage in IUU fishing.

It is clear why global acceptance is needed to make this agreement successful: if one State denies a suspected IUU vessel access to its port but a nearby State is willing to accept the IUU catch, perhaps for a fee, illegal fishing will continue. However, if there is a concerted effort to deny IUU vessels access to ports and therefore the seafood market, the crime will be squeezed out.

This is an explicit goal of the PSMA: to create a global, coordinated effort against IUU fishing. The agreement encourages information sharing and has developed a record of IUU vessels. Cooperation will be achieved particularly through regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), who can assist port States and other member States in harmonizing efforts and implementing their own requirements.

In the Pacific Ocean, where pelagic species such as tuna and billfish abound, the United States Coast Guard works with Australia and New Zealand to conduct inspections of vessels. Such enforcement is enabled through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), an RFMO that has adopted stringent IUU regulations and given member States the authority to inspect the documentation of registered vessels.

Some countries have adopted even stricter language than the PSMA calls for, prohibiting trade with any country that does not have port state measures in place. The European Union has refused imports from Chile by citing the PSMA, and IUU fishing of Patagonian toothfish has been significantly reduced with the adoption of PSMA measures in South American countries.

Although IUU fishing is an issue of global scale, shrinking the efforts to focus on ports—where every vessel must eventually take their catch to bring it to market—makes the challenge feel surmountable. Many have high hopes for the PSMA to effectively eradicate IUU fishing, but it will certainly require a coordinated effort worldwide.

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Bluefin Tuna Harvest Quota Closes For the Year In Gulf of Mexico

The National Marine Fisheries serviced announced that the recreational bluefin tuna harvest in the Gulf of Mexico has reached its quota and will close June 7, 2017 until the end of the year (December 31, 2017).

This sub-quota for the region is a recent development that TBF helped push for — prior to a division of the southern bluefin quota, the full allocation was landed before ever reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Ellen Peel, Director of The Billfish Foundation, said the excitement of several teams who brought in a trophy-sized bluefin this year in Alabama was unmistakable. Many praised NMFS and TBF for securing the distinct allocation.

Based on reported landings, NMFS determined that the angling category of bluefin tuna subquota has been reached for the year. In a newsletter they state, “Retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT in the Gulf of Mexico by persons aboard vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category (when fishing recreationally) must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on June 7, 2017.”

Only catch and release fishing for bluefin tuna is permissible in the Gulf of Mexico effective tomorrow. NMFS regulations require that all bluefin tuna should be handled in a manner that maximizes their survival, and without being taken out of the water.

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Gulf of Mexico Quota Adjusted After Bluefin Tuna Landing 

The quota for bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico has been updated after a large individual was landed in a fishing tournament last week.

Katie Gonsoulin pulled in a 502.4-pound bluefin tuna while fishing on Done Deal at the Orange Beach Billfish Classic in Alabama. The remaining trophy fish quota for Gulf anglers is now approximately one metric ton, or about 1,150 pounds (whole weight). This subquota is part of the larger quota granted to the United States by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), a regional fisheries management body that conducts stock assessments and sets limits on catch of tuna and tuna-like species, including marlin and sailfish.

Gonsoulin’s fish won the tuna division, also earning her the Top Lady Angler award, and Done Deal became the first boat to ever weigh a bluefin tuna at the wharf in Orange Beach.

The Orange Beach Billfish Classic raises the most money in support of The Billfish Foundation’s mission for conservation than any other tournament.

More results from the 2017 OBBC tournament can be seen here.

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Advancement of Billfish Conservation Act – A Partial Step Forward


On May 18, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation advanced Section 396, an amendment to the 2012 Billfish Conservation Act. The bill, initially introduced in February by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), was passed favorably without amendment during an executive session.

Section 396 adds that billfish caught in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are not to be sold or transported to the U.S. mainland.

The Billfish Foundation applauds continuing efforts made by the Senate to eliminate the sale of Pacific billfish to the continental United States.  However, concerns still exist whether fish caught in Hawaii can continue be sold to other nations, as this would significantly diminish the bill’s impact on billfish conservation.

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Japan Signs Port State Measures Agreement In Fight Against IUU Fishing

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced Monday that Japan has joined 57 other States in signing on to the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).

Entered into force in June of last year, the Agreement is an international effort aimed at eliminating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is responsible for billions in lost revenue each year. The oceans are vast and difficult to police, and the profit for seafood products can be significant, contributing to the appeal of IUU fishing. This often negates the effects of sustainable management and pilfers the opportunity for local communities to benefit from their resources.

The PSMA aims to shut down such activity by preventing those engaged in IUU fishing from bringing their catch to market. Through the Agreement, documentation is required to confirm the species and legality of the catch that a vessel has onboard and brings to port. If the documents do not add up, the State to which the port belongs (USA for Port of Miami) may refuse the catch. Of course, this is only effective if all nations sign on, or a vessel may simply relocate to another, less stringent, port.

Japan is an important State in the global seafood industry, as seafood is culturally important to the Japanese and contributes to a large portion of their diet. The nation produces on average 4.1 million tons of wild-caught seafood each year, but due to the high rates of consumption, they must also import. Japan is the world’s third largest importer of fish and fishery products, after the European Union and the United States. By being a part of the PSMA, Japan is agreeing to deny IUU fishing, as it pertains to its own vessels as well as imports from other nations.

In regards to billfish, these species are often caught as bycatch in commercial fishing operations – those fish that are not targeted but get caught anyways, often thrown back to the sea dead. This is where unreported fishing can be a problem: billfish are not accounted for in the final reported catch but the populations are indeed being affected. Similarly, unregulated fishing can create a situation of limitless bycatch, putting those non-target species in danger. Illegal fishing can take several forms, including a vessel operating in a closed area, again threatening the species intended to be protected, such as billfish and the corresponding closures in the Gulf of Mexico.

As more nations sign on to the PSMA, it will be harder for IUU fishing to find access to the market, thereby making it unprofitable to engage in. The Billfish Foundation applauds Japan for acceding the PSMA and recognizes the importance for all nations to support an end to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The United States ratified the Agreement in February 2016. Other recent additions include Albania, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritania, Montenegro, and Senegal, all of whom acceded the PSMA this year.

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Closure Attempts in Prime Panamanian Sportfishing Areas

The Fishery Commission in Panama is striving to close waters around Montuosa Island and the Hannibal Bank to recreational fishing even though those areas include some of the most productive sportfishing in Panama. Local sources informed TBF staff that the movement appears to be targeting the actions of the former President, who supported recreational fishing, especially the sportfishing eco-tourism trade. Both local members of the recreational fishing community and captains from other nations living and charter fishing in Panama are working to persuade the Commission to modify its plans.

TBF’s socio-economic study in Panama documented that in 2011 (most recent data) that 86,250 visitors fished in Panama, who with the rest of their traveling companions spent $97 million on charter boats, fuel, food lodging and related expenses. The study also noted that the number of anglers visiting the nation had doubled since 2001 and so long as fishing remains great and anglers are informed the number should continue to increase.  The study also recorded that $170.4 million in total retail and business-to-business sales, 9,503 Panamanian jobs and increases in Gross Domestic Product of US $48.4 million were all related to sportfishing.

To learn more look at the links below or here.


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TBF Adding Two New Lifetime Achievement Awards

Two new lifetime achievement awards have been added to TBF’s annual recognition of excellence in advancing billfish conservation. The first new award is the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Individual Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of the late Winthrop Rockefeller, the founder of TBF. This award will recognize individuals, who have made a positive impact on the knowledge and character of sportfishing, boating, educational opportunities and youth fishing.


The second new award is the Paxson H. Offield Lifetime Billfish Science Award in honor of the late Paxson Offield, who was an exemplary supporter of billfish research. The award will recognize outstanding scientists, who have advanced billfish and other highly migratory fish science. TBF’s existing Rybovich Lifetime Service Award honors those who have worked diligently in support of billfish conservation and responsible fishing while serving as a member of organizations, or from platforms (fishing, advisory, media) or businesses in the sportfishing and boating world.

All of these awards will be presented to individuals during our annual fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale during the Fort Lauderdale Boat show in November.

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Call to Action on Forage Fish!

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has begun a Scoping Process to consider allowing giant trawlers to increase their excessive landings of forage species off the Mid-Atlantic region, specifically chub (Tinker) mackerel.   Knowing how important that species and the other forage fish are to support the recreational billfish and tuna fisheries NOW is the time to email your comments to the Council to Chris Moore.

For your convenience, we have created a draft letter for your reference to write your own letter or to email here. Attached is our official comments as well for your review.

If you can, please attend and voice your concerns at one of the scoping meetings:

  1. Monday, May 15, 2017, 6:00-7:30 pm.Virginia Marine Resources Commission 4th Floor Meeting Room. 2600 Washington Avenue, Newport News, VA, 23607. Telephone: 757-247-2200.
  2. Tuesday May 16, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm.Princess Royale Oceanfront Resort & Conference Center. 9100 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, MD, 21842. Telephone: 410-524-7777.
  3. Tuesday May 23, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pmCongress Hall Hotel. 200 Congress Place, Cape May, NJ, 08204. Telephone: 888-944-1816.
  4. Wednesday May 24, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm.University of Rhode Island Bay Campus, Corless Auditorium. 215 South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI, 02882. Telephone: 401-874-6222.
  5. Wednesday May 25, 2017, 6:00-7:30 pmWebinar. Audio and visual access available at The webinar can also be accessed via phone by calling 1-800-832-0736, room #5068871.


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Bluefin Tuna Angling Category Adjustment

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has adjusted the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) daily retention limits that apply to vessels permitted in the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category (when fishing recreationally for BFT) effective April 30, 2017, through December 31, 2017, as follows:

In deciding these retention limits, NMFS considered the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, which include available quota, fishery performance in recent years, availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, and the effects of the adjustment on the stock and on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and amendments. These limits should provide opportunities to harvest the available U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it; prevent overharvest of the 2017 quotas; and collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes.

Who is affected?

These daily retention limits apply to vessels permitted in the recreational HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category while fishing recreationally. The daily retention limits are effective for all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, which is designated as BFT spawning grounds and where NMFS does not allow targeted fishing for BFT. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip (e.g., whether a vessel takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day), no more than a single day’s retention limit may be possessed, retained, or landed.

NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries closely. HMS Charter/ Headboat and Angling category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing or by using the Android or iPhone app.  Depending on fishing effort and catch rates, additional retention limit adjustments or fishery closures may be necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas.

 NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 635.21(a)(1) require that all BFT that are released be handled in a manner that will maximize survivability, and without removing the fish from the water. For additional information on safe handling, see the “Careful Catch and Release” brochure available at

This notice is a courtesy to BFT fishery permit holders to help keep you informed about the fishery.  For more information on BFT fishing regulations, including recreational size and retention limits, please go to or call (978) 281-9260.  Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will close the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) Angling category fishery for large medium and giant “trophy” BFT (measuring 73” or greater) in the southern area effective 11:30 p.m. local time, Monday, March 20, 2017, through December 31, 2017.  The southern area is the area south of 39°18’N (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ), outside the Gulf of Mexico.

Bluefin Tuna angling regions. South area (closed as of 3/20/17 to 12/31/17) highlighted in green.

Based on reported landings from the NMFS Automated Catch Reporting System and the North Carolina Tagging Program, NMFS projects that the codified Angling category southern area trophy BFT subquota will be reached by March 20, 2017, and have determined that the trophy fishery should be closed in that area.  Retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT south of 39°18’ N. lat. and outside the Gulf of Mexico by persons aboard vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category (when fishing recreationally) must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on March 20, 2017.  The intent of this closure is to prevent overharvest of the Angling category southern area trophy BFT subquota.  The annual Angling category trophy limit of one large medium or giant BFT per vessel remains in effect for vessels fishing in the northern area and in the Gulf of Mexico area.  The Angling category fishery for BFT measuring 27 to less than 73” is open except in the Gulf of Mexico.  Catch-and-release fishing is permissible as described below.

REMINDER: Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 635.21(a)(1): Atlantic highly migratory species… that is not retained must be released in a manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival, but without removing the fi­sh from the water.

Who is affected?

This closure applies to vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat category fishing in the southern area (defined in bold above).  Fishermen may catch and release or tag and release BFT of all sizes, subject to the requirements of HMS catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs.  NMFS regulations require that all BFT that are released be handled in a manner that will maximize their survival, and without removing the fish from the water.

For additional information on safe handling, see the “Careful Catch and Release” brochure available at Charter/Headboat and Angling category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing or by using the Android or iPhone app.

This notice is a courtesy to BFT fishery permit holders to help keep you informed about the fishery. For more information on BFT fishing regulations, including recreational size and retention limits, please go to or call (978) 281-9260.  Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.

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TBF’s 2017 Artist of the Year – Dennis Friel

TBF proudly announces the selection of South Florida native Dennis Friel as its 2017 Artist of the Year.

“Combustion” by Dennis Friel

Dennis fondly recalls “as a kid growing up in South Florida fishing, surfing
and diving the waters from Palm Beach to the Keys, I always drew fish and the sea. To build those childhood experiences into a career has made me feel very fortunate.” As an avid tournament angler, Dennis’ ability to visually portray the saltwater lifestyle is unique. He also draws from his south Florida roots to discover new points of inspiration. Fusing both traditional and non-traditional methods into his paintings, illustrations and designs gives him the flexibility to render his concepts in a variety of mediums and methods. All of this comes together in his stunning painting “Combustion”
featured on this issue’s cover.

Dennis honed his craft by combining over 20 years of experience as both a Creative Director and a professional artist, which allowed him to complete work for some of the world’s leading sportfishing boats and marine businesses. He runs a fine art, illustration and design studio developed to create impactful imagery for the marine industry. Specializing in painting marine life and creating fine art prints and apparel, his goal is to keep pushing to set new standards in this field. Dennis’ growing reputation has led to his selection as the official artist for major fishing tournaments, including Jimmy Johnson’s 2013 National Billfish Tournament, the 2015 Custom Shootout and 2015 Ladies Annual Fish Off. His work also appears in industry publications, Florida Sport Fishing, Marlin World and Professional Yacht Broker.

Dennis with Coach Jimmy Johnson

A loving husband and father of two children, Dennis believes in conserving resources for future generations and holds close to his heart his commitment to support and conserve natural resources and fisheries.

TBF members who join or renew at $250 or more will receive a signed and numbered print of Friel’s “Combustion.”

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AMENDMENT 5b – Dusky Shark Protections – UPDATE

NMFS released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan in mid- February, 2017.  A new Preferred Alternative (A6d) “requires the use of non-stainless steel circle hooks by all HMS permit holders with a shark endorsement when fishing for sharks recreationally south of 41 degrees 43’ latitude, except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.”

In other words, if fishing for sharks with flies or artificial lures, circle hooks are not required.  But if you are fishing for sharks you must obtain a Shark Endorsement.

If you do not want to use circle hooks all the time and you are NOT targeting sharks, DO NOT check the Shark Endorsement box when renewing your annual HMS Angling Vessel Permit or HMS Charter/Headboat Permit.  If you land sharks, you are assumed to be targeting sharks and need the Shark Endorsement and are required to use circle hooks unless fishing with flies or artificial lures.

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The 2012 Billfish Conservation Act (BCA) has yet to be implemented and again is under Congressional review to attempt to resolve debated language so no Pacific billfish can be imported into the continental U.S.  The BCA  language in question follows.

Sec. 2 – Findings

Congress finds the following:

Subsection (3) – “Ending the importation of foreign-caught billfish for sale in the United States  aligns with U.S. management measures of billfish and protects significant economic benefits to the U.S. economy of recreational fishing and marine commerce and the traditional cultural fisheries.”

Was the legislative intent in (3) to stop importation and sale of only foreign-caught billfish?

If prohibiting the sale of foreign-caught billfish aligns with protecting significant economic benefits to the traditional cultural fisheries, does that imply the US fishing vessels (non-foreign) are the traditional cultural fisheries in Hawaii and in the Pacific Insular Areas (PIA) that the Act was to protect, along with the other 2 U.S. interests listed?


Sec. 4. Prohibition on sale of billfish

(a) Prohibitions

“No person shall offer for sale, sell, or have custody, control, or possession of for purposes of offering for sale or selling billfish or products containing billfish.”

(c) Exemptions for traditional fisheries and markets

“The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to billfish caught by U.S. fishing vessels and landed in the State of Hawaii or PIA.”

Does exempting billfish caught by U.S. fishing vessels and landed in Hawaii or PIA establish them as the referred to “traditional fisheries and markets”?

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The NMFS has extended the deadline to March 29, 2017 for accepting public comments on the application for an Exempted Fishing Permit.  If approved, six pelagic longline vessels will fish for three years in Florida’s East Coast Closed Zone. Email your comments to [email protected].  

A webinar on the subject is scheduled for March 27, 2017 between 1 – 4 pm (EST) to facilitate public comments from across the U.S. commercial Atlantic Pelagic Longline fishery.  Join the webinar here.

TBF’s submitted comments are posted here with a draft letter you may draw from to write your comments.  Help TBF fight this direct threat by submitting your letter and joining TBF.

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The Caribbean Billfish Project – good fisheries management?

 Sportfishing Might Be Charged to Help Alleviate Poverty in the Caribbean… should that fall within reasonable fisheries management?

The Caribbean Billfish Project,  a $1.95 million exercise supported by the UN and the World Bank, and executed by the Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission (WECAFC) in Barbados, proposes a ” rights-based” billfish management strategy for commercial, recreational and coastal fishers.

“Rights-based” strategies limit fishing access and allocations through a variety of tools, including licenses, marine reserves, fishery-wide quotas based on catches not landings, stakeholder group administration, cooperatives and payment of fees (rents), etc. One published paper from the Project  provides “enough value exists in the recreational fisheries sector to compensate losses in the commercial fisheries sector.” This transfer of financial resources would require recreational fishing boats to pay “rents” to compensate commercial fishers for loss of billfish caught by anglers, not just for landed fish.

Greater benefits could flow to local fishers and billfish if Caribbean nations stopped authorizing foreign fleets to fish in their waters and stopped re-flagging other fleets, as fees are collected in both situations.  If recreational fishing vessels pay “rents” and foreign commercial fleets pay fees, some nations would collect twice.  Distant water fleets threaten Caribbean food security and its sportfishing eco-tourism trade by overfishing billfish and other species.  Locals cannot compete.

A second Project study  “….recognizes that it is a challenge to apply “rights-based” approaches in the developing world……the answer is to secure rights to the fishery to end the race to fish and to put proper incentives in place to increase wealth and sustainability.” A goal consistent with FAO’s goals to (1) eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; (2) eliminate poverty and advance social and economic progress, and (3) manage and use natural resources sustainably.  All honorable goals, but they should remain beyond the scope of fishery management. If environmental organizations prevail, “rights-based” management will become mainstream.

“Rights-based” billfish strategies raise questions and uncertainties for Caribbean marinas/resorts, charter operations and tournaments. How could businesses factor in a fee for each billfish caught, not landed?  If a fishery-wide quota were met before a scheduled tournament or booked charters, how could businesses meet obligations?  If the U.S. embraced the “right-based” strategy for waters around Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, would Atlantic billfish management begin to unravel?

Highly migratory marlin cannot be managed as “straddling stocks,” as described in the Caribbean Project.   Atlantic billfish fall within the jurisdiction of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, a well-established international organization with billfish history for improving management and science, well beyond the Caribbean.

A priority should be to avoid another layer of international billfish management by not placing any responsibility with FAO’s WECAFC in the Caribbean.   The $1.9 million would have likely been more beneficial had it been directed toward specific problems faced by local fishers.

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No Longlines in Closed Zone…destroying a conservation success makes no sense.

Recently, the NMFS received an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) application from Dr. David Kerstetter, Nova Southeastern University, to authorize a research project using 6 longline boats within Florida’s East Coast Longline Closed Zone. The project proposes to evaluate the effectiveness of the 16 year closure by comparing fishing results in the closed waters to results in open waters. Fish caught during the research period would be sold to offset expenses.

The zone was closed in 2001 to protect juvenile swordfish primarily and other species taken as bycatch in longline gear, including billfish, sea turtles and overfished shark species.  Buoy gear, which takes no bycatch, replaced longlines in the then newly closed waters and proved to be compatible with recreational fishing and sustaining marine resources. The gear fishes sustainably, contrary to longline gear, as stated clearly in a CNN story featuring Dr. Kerstetter and the owner of the longline boats listed in the research proposal. (See a video here.)  A curious reversal it seems by Dr. Kerstetter and the longline vessel owner. Since the zone was closed, swordfish recovered and catches of sailfish, yellowfin tuna, marlin and other species increased, generating stronger economic returns to Florida’s east coast businesses and healthier marine resources. The closed zone is a conservation success, so why risk destroying it by allowing longline gear to return?

The U.S. commercial longline swordfish fishery continues to fail in landing their quota, which might be part of the motivation to return to the zone, hoping from its waters, the quota, could be filled. Many speculate the opposite; pointing out larger longline vessels are needed to increase landings by fishing in distant waters. In 2016, with all US gear types fishing for swordfish combined, only 36.7% of the quota was landed, but that landed by buoy gear provided a fresher product.

Gambling away the conservation and economic successes generated within the closed zone makes no sense. This EFP should not be approved.

The NMFS accepts public comments on whether to grant the permit through February 16, 2017 at [email protected].  See our statement in the gallery below and download a template with draft comments by clicking on the links listed.


EFP_Angler Letter

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