Harvests of dolphin fish could change under proposals going to federal and state fishery managers in the coming weeks.

The federal South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the lead agency on dolphin harvests from Maine to the Florida Keys, is considering changing the way dolphin are allocated between the commercial and recreational sectors.

Currently, recreational anglers are allowed to take a maximum of about 14 million pounds of dolphin annually, or more than 92 percent of the overall harvest. Recreational fishers have never come close to reaching the sector’s quota.

Commercial fishers are allocated about 7.5 percent of the dolphin harvest, which in June 2015 triggered a halt to commercial fishing when the sector’s quota of 1.15 million was reached.

The commercial quota number was revised upward to 1.5 million pounds earlier this year.

South Atlantic Council members, meeting Dec. 5 to 9 in Atlantic Beach, N.C., will consider various plans that could allow commercial fishers to tap into the “unused” dolphin in the recreational sector. In 2015, there were about 6.8 million pounds available under the recreational quota at year’s end.

“Commercial harvesters support consideration of all of these options,” state fishery staff will report to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at its Nov. 17 meeting in St. Petersburg. “Recreational anglers and charter captains have expressed concern about all of the strategies.”

The FWC board previously has endorsed allowing more commercial fishing for dolphin fish it appears the overall annual catch limits will not be reached. There also is consideration of separating the commercial long-line dolphin fishery from the commercial hook-and-line sector.

For information, see the South Atlantic Council website www.safmc.net.

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