PROTECTING FALSE ALBACORE
For years, rumors of large-scale fisheries developing on false albacore have abounded. While these fish don’t rank high as table fare, they still can be utilized in a reduction fishery, where they’re ground and boiled into fish meal, fish oil and other products. Some speculate that albies could be utilized on a large scale for cat food.
Given their schooling nature and their proclivity to show up at specific times and places, they’re susceptible to a large-scale purse-seine fishery. Responding to such conjecture, the federal Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council considered adding false albacore to its Unmanaged Forage Amendment, an action to protect critical forage species from targeted large-scale fisheries. In a nutshell, the action prevents such fisheries from developing until science shows the impact of that activity on the ecosystem.
Unfortunately, at a meeting in 2016 to finalize the amendment, the false albacore was removed from the forage-species list. While it was argued that the fish is indeed forage for gamesters such as billfish and bluefin and bigeye tuna, they weren’t forage for any council-managed species.
Instead, the council moved to consider a small-pelagics-fishery-management plan in the future, noting the importance of false albacore to the recreational fishing community. Such a fishery-management plan currently is not on the council’s 2017 priority list.