With the buzzing anxiety and excitement of the 2019 fall commercial tuna season opener right around the corner, anglers, harpooners, hand-liners and commercial fisherman alike are bracing themselves for anything the October 1 opener might entail.
On September 13, 2019, NOAA Fisheries transferred 60 metric tons to the General category Atlantic bluefin tuna September subquota period from the Reserve category, marking the close of the General category bluefin fishery as of 11:30pm that night.
But, on October 1, 2019 the General category bluefin tuna fishery will reopen with a new baseline quota of 72.2 mt for the October – November time period, with the default daily retention limit of one fish.
According to NOAA, this applies directly to commercial General category permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement. Atlantic tuna permits are issued in five commercial categories; General, Harpoon, Purse Seine, Longline and Trap whereas Atlantic HMs permits are issued in two categories; Recreational Angling and Charter/Headboat. Only one permit category may be assigned to a vessel.
Once an individual has applied and been granted their permit (which can be done by visiting www.hmspermits.noaa.gov or calling (888)-872-8862), regulations are applicable to Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) as well as bigeye tuna, albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna and skipjack tuna in all the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
While persons aboard a vessel with a HMS Charter/Headboat permit are fishing for or are in possession of Atlantic HMS, the vessel operator must have a valid Merchant Marine License or Uninspected Passenger Vessel License, issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
As stated by NOAA, all fishing for any species must cease and the vessel must immediately return to port to offload when a large, medium or giant BFT (>73”) daily retention limit is retained or possessed.
But with the opening of the season comes fresh concerns from those looking to get into the commercial tuna fishing industry, and even from those who are participating in the commercial fishery for the first time come October 1, especially about having the mandatory, regulated, Coast Guard approved gear on board.
It is unfortunately known that a hiccup in gear and a visit from the Coast Guard could end a commercial fisherman’s livelihood on any given day.
Below, you will find a list of gear that is absolutely mandatory upon sailing, including specifications based on boat size and distance from shore, as well as Hogy-recommended gear.
PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE (PFD)
A vessel less than 40-feet is required to have Type I*, Type II*, Type III*, Type V* commercial hybrid, immersion suit or exposure suit (also called survival suit).
A vessel 40-feet and over is required to have Type I*, Type V* commercial hybrid, immersion suit or exposure suit (also called survival suit).
- Must be of proper size for each person on board.
- Serviceable condition (no rot, broken straps or stitching, punctures, tears or serious deterioration)
- Readily accessible (stored so that it is easily accessible to each individual aboard)
- Must be marked with either the name of the vessel, the owner of the PFD or the person whom the PFD is assigned (printed in block letters with waterproof markings)
- PFD Lights: Equipped with approved PFD lights (CG Approval Number 161.012).
- Must be securely attached to the front shoulder of each PFD, so it will be above water when a person is wearing the PFD
- Light or power source must be marked with a date of expiration
*Type I (offshore life jacket) provides the most buoyancy. Effective for all waters, especially open, rough or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. Designed to turn most unconscious wearers face up in the water.
*Type II (near shore buoyant vest) intended for calm, inland waters or where there is a good chance of a quick rescue. Will turn some unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.
*Type III (flotation aid) is good for calm, inland waters or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. It is designed so wearers can turn themselves to a face-up position in the water. The wearer may have to tilt their head back to avoid turning face-down in the water.
*Type V (special use device) is intended for specific activities and may be carried instead of another PFD only if used according to the approval condition on the label. Varieties include deck suits, work bests, board sailing vests and Hybrid PFDs.
IMMERSION (EXPOSURE) SUIT
- Vessels operating beyond the boundary line (north of 32 degrees North or south of 32 degrees South) must be equipped with at least one CG Approved Immersion Suit for each person on board.
- Vessels operating beyond coastal waters (beyond three mile limit) when the waters are cold must be equipped with at least one CG Approved Immersion Suit for each person on board.
- Each suit must be of a suitable size, for each person on board, including children.
- Regarding accessibility and PFD lights, see above PFD section.
RING LIFE BUOYS
Vessel less than 16-feet: Not required
Vessel 16-feet or more, but less than 26-feet: 1 *Type IV PFD, either a buoyant cushion or a USCG approved ring buoy which must be equipped with a line at least 60-feet long.
Vessel 26-feet or more, but less than 65-feet: 1 approved ring buoy (approval number 160.050), orange in color, at least 24 inches in diameter and at least one ring buoy must be equipped with a line at least 60 feet long.
Vessel 65 feet or more: 3 approved ring buoys, orange in color, at least 24 inches in diameter and at least one ring buoy must be equipped with a line at least 90 feet long.
All buoys must be marked with the name of the vessel in block capital letters.
Commercial fishing vessels both documented and state-numbered are required to be equipped with survival craft when operating in designated waters. What you need depends on documentation, where you are operating, vessel size and number of persons on board.
- Beyond 50 miles of coastline – applies to all vessels – inflatable life raft with SOLAS A pack (CG approval number 160.151)
- Between 20-50 miles of coastline in cold waters – applies to all vessels – inflatable life raft with SOLAS B pack (CG approval number 160.151)
- Between 20-50 miles of coastline warm waters – applies to all vessels – inflatable life raft (CG approval number 160.151)
- Beyond boundary line, between 12-20 miles of coastline cold waters- applies to all vessels – inflatable life raft (CG approval number 160.151)
- Beyond boundary line, within 12 miles of coastline, cold waters – applies to vessels 35-feet or more in length – inflatable buoyant apparatus (CG approval number 160.010)
- Beyond boundary line, within 12 miles of coastline, cold waters – applies to vessels less than 36-feet in length – buoyant apparatus (CG approval number 160.010)
- Beyond boundary line, within 20 miles of coastline, warm waters – applies to all vessels – life float (CG approval number 160.027)
VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS (VDS)
OCEAN, more than 50 miles from the coastline:
- 3 SOLAS parachute flares (CG approval series 160.136)
- 6 SOLAS hand flares (CG approval series 160.121)
- 3 SOLAS smoke signals (CG approval series 160.122)
OCEAN, 3 miles to 50 miles from coastline:
- 3 parachute flares (CG approval series 160.136 or 160.036)
- 6 hand flares (CG approval series 160.121 or 160.021)
- 3 smoke signals (CG approval series 160.122, 160.022 or 160.037)
Night signals: 3 CG approved flares or one electric distress light (CG approval series 161.013)
Day signals: 3 CG approved flares or 3 CG approved smoke signals or one distress flag (CG approval series 161.072)
Commercial fishing industry vessels operating on high seas are required to carry a 406 MHz EPIRB as follows:
Vessels 36 feet or more in length with or without a galley (a space that provides for the preparation and extended storage of food) or berthing facilities (space that is intended to be used for sleeping) shall be equipped with a float-free, automatically activated Category 1, 406 MHZ EPIRB stowed in a manner so that it will float free if the vessel sinks.
Vessels 36 feet or more in length with sufficient inherently buoyant material to keep the flooded vessel afloat shall have installed a readily accessible location at or near the principal steering station either a manually activated Category 2, 406 MHZ EPIRB or a float-free automatically activated Category 1, 406 MHZ EPIRB.
Vessels less than 36 feet in length shall have installed in a readily accessible location at or near the principal steering state either a manually activated Category 2, 406 MHZ EPIRB or a float-free automatically activated Category 1, 406 MHZ EPIRB.
PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
Required equipment must be coast guard approved.
Vessel length: under 16-feet: 1 (B-I)
Vessel length: 16-feet to under 26-feet: 1 (B-I)
Vessel length: 26-feet to under 40-feet: 2 (B-I) OR 1 (B-I)
Vessel length: 40-feet to 65-feet 3 (B-I) OR 1 (B-I) and 1 (B-II)
Minimum number of B-II fire extinguishers required on fishing vessels 65-feet or more in length:
Gross tonnage over 0 but not over 50: 1
Gross tonnage over 50 but not over 100: 2
Gross tonnage over 100 but not over 500: 3
Gross tonnage over 500 but not over 1,000: 6
Gross tonnage over 1,000: 8
When thinking of tuna fishing, two major things come to mind; hooking the fish and landing the fish. Although there are no guaranteed step-by-step instructions to teach someone to hook a fish, we can point you in the right direction for gear that will ensure you land the fish properly.
As most know, harpoons are used as a tool to land large fish as an alternative to a straight or flying gaff because they allow for greater reach and accuracy, cause less damage to the fish and are overall more effective and safe in landing large tuna.
The one and only Hogy-approved harpoon series was designed by the late Kevin Glynn, founder and president of POON Harpoons. The POON is constructed of the highest grade materials available, with each component machined in Massachusetts to exacting standards and electroplated for corrosion resistance.
The multi piece design allows for compact stow stability for easy storage on any size boat. Being 10-feet in length when assembled, it is designed to be used as either a cockpit harpoon or a throwing harpoon in the pursuit of landing Tuna.
Almost every angler and captain on the Hogy team uses POON harpoons and can guarantee it’s durability, efficiency and stability while maintaining total confidence in its ability to stick and land giants (video below).
Good luck this season and stay safe!