ABTA UPDATE: We are now more than three months into the 2018 fishing season, with approximately three and a half left to go.  Here are the remaining General Category subquota periods/amounts – September: 147.3 mt, Oct-Nov: 72.2 mt and Dec: 28.9 mt.  These are all base quota amounts based upon the quota increase obtained at ICCAT last November.  They do not include any transfers from the Reserve. 

Thus far, this season has been a vast improvement over last year.  Part of the reason for this improvement has to do with the fact that the Agency’s daily landings data is far more accurate than it was last year and this is a direct result of the improvement in daily dealer reporting.  Knowing how many fish are landed on each and every day is essential to the careful management of the General Category bluefin fishery.  

So far this season, we have a relatively high abundance of bluefin in the U.S. Northeast and the fishing effort is high as well – and with this much fishing effort on the water, there is always the potential for landings to become a “runaway train” without active management.  Active management doesn’t guarantee total control over landings because there are only a limited number of tools available with which to manage the fishery (bag limits, closures, etc.) - what it means, first and foremost, is constantly keeping track of daily landings.  We saw what a “runaway train” looked like last season: we had 4 closures (including December) and two changes to the bag limit, prices in general were very low and the fish dealers were challenged to sell all the fish being landed, given exceedingly high daily landings. By this time last year, we had already experienced two closures.

Market conditions will change as we move further into fall.  Generally, the domestic market for fresh bluefin becomes smaller after Labor Day.  Therefore, the Japanese market generally becomes more important in fall.  Bluefin fisheries in other countries, mostly farmed bluefin, will be regularly arriving in Japan. Although we generally receive a premium for our wild bluefin over prices for farmed bluefin, we are competing with farmed fish.  Right now, Mexican and Japanese farmed bluefin are regularly available.  As for wild bluefin, Norway is presently shipping seined bluefin to Japan and New Zealand and Australian longlined bluefin are still showing up in Tokyo in large numbers.  

Canada only harvests wild bluefin.  Some Canadian bluefin has been landed in the last 3 weeks or so and we expect that Canadian landings will increase as we move into Fall.  Canada has a small domestic market for fresh bluefin so most of their fish either goes to Tokyo or is sold here in the U.S.  And the Mexicans are offering farmed Pacific bluefin to U.S. customers at attractive prices.

So, our dealers have their work cut out for them.  The message we are getting from the dealers:  Take the time to swim the fish (with a one fish bag limit there’s no rush to get the fish into the boat), carefully bleed the fish and keep the fish chilled.  Water temps are still quite warm.  These steps will improve the price you get and will help to avoid “burning” the fish.

— American Bluefin Tuna Association