Highly Migratory Species reporting is a requirement

Amy Dukes inspects a blue marlin that was caught during the 2013 Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament. File/Paul Zoeller/postandcourier.com

If offshore anglers were students and S.C. Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Amy Dukes was the teacher, there would be a few fishermen in South Carolina who would be receiving detentions this season for not doing their homework.

The issue centers on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Highly Migratory Species permit and reporting process. Detailed information on the HMS permits can be found at hmspermits.noaa.gov.

There have been instances where fishermen have failed to secure the $25 permit, which is required of fishermen targeting swordfish, billfish and tunas. And there have been instances where fishermen have failed to report landings of blue marlin to the National Marine Fisheries Service within the 24-hour requirement.

“It’s how we as fisheries managers manage these fisheries effectively,” Dukes said. “We do depend on our recreational fishermen, our charter boats, our head boats, to report these fish. It’s the only way we can obtain the data in order to regulate and manage them.”

Dukes said there are quotas in place for these species, and in the case of swordfish the quota is international. If the U.S. is unable to prove it is utilizing its quota, other nations can buy out the U.S. quota.

She said there is a good quota reporting system from the commercial perspective, but the recreational data is self-reported.

“We are trying to do some outreach and education,” Dukes said. “What has happened this year is we have had several blue marlin landed (brought back to the docks). In almost every instance, the fish was tail-wrapped and the anglers believed the fish was dead so they brought her back. They were all of legal size (federal minimum size is 99 inches from lower jaw to the fork of the tail). Several of the fish that were landed were not reported. Our outreach effort is to make sure our data is accurate.”

Dukes said tickets can be written by SCDNR law enforcement officers or National Marine Fisheries Service officers for failure to comply with the regulations.

But issuing tickets isn’t the primary objective; it’s making sure these species are managed effectively.