THE 2001 PETITION: A WAKE UP CALL
In 2001, a Petition was presented by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to place the white marlin on the ESA endangered species list. The Petition documented that decades of commercial over-fishing had reduced the white marlin stocks to near-unsustainable levels. The Petition was specific in its conclusion that ICCAT sanctioned commercial longliners were the cause of over 90% of the annual white marlin mortalities and publicly exposed ICCAT's indifference and mismanagement of Atlantic billfish as the biggest obstacle to reversing declining stocks. In essence, the attempt by James R. Chambers and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation wasn't to sell the obvious problem, but to highlight its cause and to warn that if left to ICCAT's management, extinction would follow.
Although the Petition was rejected as "Not warranted at this time," (pg 34), it started a series of actions by the US Congress, NOAA, conservation groups, marine scientists and recreational anglers to address the issues. We hope to accurately catalog the successes and failures of these efforts and use what we've learned to best protect the future of Atlantic billfish, its multi-billion dollar economy and preserve the opportunity to pass on the unique thrill of billfishing to future generations.
AFTER 15 YEARS, WHAT'S THE PROGRESS?
Are the Atlantic white and blue marlin still at risk of being overfished to extinction by commercial fishing fleets?
A 2007 NOAA white marlin assessment listed the population range as between 100,000 and 2,000,000 mature fish. Have we improved our assessment accuracy since then?
ICCAT admits "significant uncertainties" with each new marlin assessment. How do these uncertainties factor into settling quotas?
Some research concludes that billfish bycatch mortality is greatly under-reported, i.e., IUU vessels. How accurate are ICCAT's bycatch reports that never seem to exceed their set quotas?
Research on Circle Hooks used by longliners show very encouraging results in post-release billfish survival rates. How likely is ICCAT to mandate their use for pelagic longliners?
Aside from commercial fleets and IUU vessels, are there other fishing pressures on Atlantic billfish stock sustainability?
INFORMATION OVERLOAD SCREENS CLEAR ANSWERS
Our focus is on Atlantic billfish. The goal of this website is to find answers to the most basic question: what is the net effect of the 15-year-dance between ICCAT and NOAA on the health of Atlantic billfish stocks? ICCAT, SCRS and NOAA are very transparent and most records, data, documents, etc. are accessible online, but the sheer volume presents an information overload.
We have quick-links to pertinent ICCAT and NOAA publications on Atlantic billfish and to searchable databases offering impressive amounts of information. In addition we link to independent science and marine biology research on Atlantic billfish.
In the coming weeks we'll feature Q & A interviews with individuals from various fields including Dr. John Graves of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Dr Graves' pioneering research on Atlantic billfish and his role as Chair of the US delegation to ICCAT makes him, arguably, the most knowledgeable voice on these issues.
The White Marlin Open has been at the forefront of billfish conservation for 42 years and is proud to host an event formatted for anglers to win millions of dollars while keeping very high release rates. Last summer's event paid almost $4,000,000 yet 687 of the 695 billfish caught (99.8%) were released.