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The American Sportfishing Association applauds today's decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service not to list the white marlin as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Commerce Department agency found the status of white marlin stocks does not warrant such protection, and announced it will advance current conservation measures and continue to monitor marlin recovery.
"We all want to see the Atlantic white marlin continue to recover and thrive, but the Endangered Species Act simply wouldn't get us there," said American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman. "It could hinder the progress we're making through cooperative and voluntary efforts in our own waters, and cannot address the major causes of white marlin mortality."

The vast majority of white marlin mortality is caused by incidental catch by foreign commercial longline vessels geared for tuna and swordfish harvest. Over the last two decades, as billfish stocks began to show signs of decline, a number of conservation measures were adopted in the United States to prevent such mortality and help rebuild populations. These measures include release of all billfish by commercial vessels, prohibitions on their sale, and catch-and-release by anglers. Today, only about 5 percent of all white marlin mortality occurs in U.S. waters.

Former and current U.S. representatives to a prominent international fisheries management group overseeing billfish management, including Nussman, recently opposed Endangered Species Act protection for the white marlin in a formal letter to Commerce Secretary Donald Evans.

The recreational commissioners to the International Convention on the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas instead advocated stronger international cooperation and continued investments in domestic conservation programs. "Several targeted conservation measures have recently been adopted by ICCAT countries," Nussman said, "and these show the most promise for the kind of international, cooperative management we really need to recover white marlin
and other billfish."

Nussman was the recreational commissioner to ICCAT from 1994-2000. He joined Michael Montgomery, an attorney and ICCAT commissioner from 1986-1993, and Bob Hayes, also an attorney and ICCAT's current commissioner, in expressing concern about the potential listing to the Commerce Secretary.

"We're on a good track now, with a lot of partners focused on white marlin recovery," said Nussman. "This attention and collaboration is what we need most to keep making progress for white marlin and other billfish."

The American Sportfishing Association is the recreational fishing trade association, with 500 members representing the fishing and boating industry, state and federal natural resource agencies, angler advocacy groups, and outdoor journalists. The American Sportfishing Association initiates and supports efforts to advance healthy fisheries, fishing opportunities, and a profitable sportfishing industry.

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Janet Tennyson, Director of Communications
American Sportfishing Association
225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 420
Alexandria, VA 22314
ph: (703) 519-9691; fax: (703) 519-1872