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  1. Gary Tyler, Fisheries Biologist
  2. Salisbury
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Posted on June 6, 2014 | Permalink

ABT, Billfish and Shark Catch Card and Tagging Program

Type: Ocean
Region: Eastern
Location: Ocean City

In the late 1990's, NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) required all recreational anglers to report Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT; Thunnus thynnus) landings via a toll free phone number. In Maryland, that system was determined to be ineffective for accurately documenting recreational ABT landings. As a result, NMFS worked with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to implement an ABT Catch Card and Tagging Program as an alternative method in 1999. Billfishes were added to the list of species required to be reported through MDNR's Catch Card and Tagging Program in 2002 because of concerns for White Marlin. The Roundscale Spearfish was listed as a separate species in 2011. As of May 27, 2013 recreational anglers in Maryland were required to report 19 species of sharks using the catch card program because recreational landings data are highly imprecise and generally lacking. Additionally, the cards provide an opportunity to collect biological data that could be used in stock assessments including: lengths, weights, and the sex ratios of encountered shark populations.

Anglers are responsible for completing a catch card when they return to port for each ABT, billfish, or shark on board their vessel. A tag is awarded for each completed catch card and the angler is required to place this tag around the tail of the fish before removing it from the vessel, or before removing a shark from the point of landing if fishing from shore. Trailered boats can not be pulled from the water until the tag is in place. As coordinator of the ABT, Billfish and Shark Catch Card and Tagging Program, I must distribute catch cards and tags to the reporting stations and collect the completed cards. The information on the cards is then entered into a database.

During the Ocean City Shark Tournament, angler Sean Hogan claimed first place with a 314 pound Mako. In the Open Division, first place went to the Blake McGrath with his 13 foot, 346 pound Thresher seen in these two photos.

This year, HMS Angling-permitted vessels are allowed two ABT: One school and one large school/small medium. Charter/Headboats are allowed three ABT: two school and one large school/small medium.

From the beginning of May up through June 1, 42 ABT have been reported. The school class represents the majority group with 35 fish. Three fish were classified as large school and only one fish fell into the small medium category. There are three fish for which no CFL is known. During this same time period last year, five ABT and twenty-two sharks were reported to this office.

For 2014 so far:

No. Avg. Inches Range inches
School 35 36.8 28-46
Large School 3 52.7 48-58
Small Medium 1 68
Length not Available 3

Twenty-eight sharks have been reported.

No. Avg. inches Range inches
Blue 7 82.7 75-96
Mako 17 74.7 60-108
Thresher 4 83.3 73-90

Tags: Mako Shark, Thresher Shark, Ocean City Shark Tournament