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Ocean City, Maryland has been proclaimed the "White Marlin Capital of the World". Situated relatively close to the Gulf Stream, the Maryland coast provides an excellent place to fish for white marlin and other large pelagic species that migrate north with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. However, in 2001, worldwide declines of this species prompted the Biodiversity Legal Foundation to petition the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list the white marlin as endangered or threatened throughout its range and to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Responding to these concerns over declining stocks of white marlin, NMFS initiated a comprehensive review of the status of the species. This involved conducting a number of public meetings to solicit information from the public as well as a thorough examination of the best available scientific and fisheries information by a Status Review Team. Based on this review, the Status Review Team found that “current measures by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) are not sufficient to prevent continued overfishing”. They agree that “stocks may continue to decline but not necessarily to high-risk levels”. NMFS will reevaluate the status of white marlin in 2007. Click here for details on this important item.
Created in 1969, ICCAT is an international, inter-governmental organization responsible for the conservation of about 30 species that includes tunas, billfish and swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. Currently, about 35 countries are members of ICCAT, including the United States.
Domestically, the Highly Migratory Species Division of NMFS, in cooperation with ICCAT, manages tunas, billfish, sharks and swordfish in U.S. waters from 3 to 200 miles offshore.
Mortality on white marlin stocks from U.S. commercial and recreational fishermen is quite low, accounting for only about 5% of the worldwide mortality. The majority of catch occurs as a bycatch in international longline fisheries. In the U.S., commercial fishermen are required to release all hooked marlin and most recreational anglers voluntarily do so although they are not required to.
Ongoing Marlin Management
NMFS continues to seek advice from the Billfish Advisory Panel and the ICCAT Advisory Committee members regarding billfish management (white and blue marlins, sailfish, and longbill spearfish). In response to ICCAT recommendations, NMFS has proposed to increase monitoring of recreational billfish landings and to gather data to ensure compliance with international management requirements. The method currently in place in several states requires successful anglers to report their daily catch to NMFS via a toll-free telephone number. However, non-compliance with this system resulted in inaccurate landing records. In an effort to improve the accuracy of information on the recreational landings of bluefin tuna, billfish and swordfish, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) volunteered to conduct a landing census in Ocean City, MD, similar to the one used by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, which consists primarily of a catch card and landing tag. As a result, anglers landing bluefin tuna, billfish or swordfish in Ocean City must check in their catch at one of several approved landing sites. They will receive and complete a catch card, which is exchanged for a landing tag to be placed on the fish before it leaves the boat. This was begun for bluefin tuna in 1999 and for billfish and swordfish in 2002.
Information on weekly landings of these species by recreational fishermen is available at the approved landing sites and at the MDNR Fisheries website.
For Your Information (these links will take you to the National Marine Fisheries Service website):
NMFS Billfish Tournament Regulations
NMFS Recreational Billfish Regulations
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