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Angling group asking boaters to help

With an Aug. 31 deadline for the voicing of comments on reducing the bycatches of billfish and bluefin tuna by commercial longliners, The Billfish Foundation is asking for the help of the recreational fishing communities, especially on the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts.

"The highest level of marlin bycatch in the U.S. is caught by U.S. pelagic longline vessels in the Gulf," said Ellen Peel, president of The Billfish Foundation. "We're asking for the U.S. government to close off commercial longlining from March to September, during the period of the highest incidence of bycatch of marlin and spawning bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. Atlantic marlin are seriously overfished, but spawning bluefin tuna are worse off.

"We have more background on the situation on the TBF Web site," she said. "We're simply asking anglers to take just 10 to 15 minutes to read it and then to copy the attached letters, modify them as they see fit and e-mail it by Aug. 31 to the NMFS, USFWS and also to their U.S. Congressmen and Senators," said Peel. "It's time they realize that the recreational billfishing community, which also fishes for tunas in the Gulf and Atlantic, is one that needs to be counted and its economic impact and voluntary conservation ethic appreciated."