Big game fishing in the northern Gulf of Mexico during 1996-2000
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Big game fishing in the northern Gulf of Mexico during 1996-2000

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    "The US Fish and Wildlife Service first identified billfishes (blue marlin, Makaira nigricans ; white marlin, Tetrapturus albidus; sailfish, Istiophorous platypterus ; swordfish, Xiphias gladius ; and longbill spearfish, Tetrapturus pfluegeri ) as an abundant species grouping in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in the mid-1950s. Within the next decade, recreational big game fishing in the GOM became increasingly popular and sportfishing clubs dedicated exclusively to billfishing began to be established along the entire US Gulf coast. At first, scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) informally monitored this new fishery through the cooperation of the clubs 1. However, as organized fishing activity for billfish throughout the US GOM continued to increase, the necessity for a program for monitoring fishing success and average weights of billfish became apparent. As a result, in 1971, the NMFS Recreational Billfish Survey (RBS) was formed and, in 1972, was expanded to include the western North Atlantic and US territories in the Caribbean Sea. Today, the RBS collects data from billfish tournaments that take place in the Bahamas as well. Billfish catches in the US were unregulated until 1988, when declining biomass projections prompted the NMFS. To prohibit the retention of Atlantic marlins and sailfish by commercial fishing vessels in US waters. Recreational landings were allowed to continue, but minimum size restrictions for blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish were implemented and remain to the present. As a result, the RBS has become an increasingly important source of data for developing abundance indices and, with catch reports from approximately 180 billfish tournaments a year, the RBS is the primary source of US recreational billfish catch and effort statistics used for stock assessments. This paper reports on data collected by the RBS for the GOM portion of the Atlantic billfish tournament fishery from 1996 through 2000. Weight, catch and effort data for each of the five years are presented both by area and by species"--Introduction.
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