Perhaps the most misunderstood fish in the sea, false albacore, or albies, are highly sought after and respected fish in some regions and a bycatch of concern in others. In total, however, recreational anglers took about half a million guided trips in 2021, according to one of NOAA Fisheries’ primary data sources. Despite this demonstrated recreational fishery and existing commercial fisheries, we know very little about albacore from scientific and management perspectives. Partly as a result, there is no federal, regional, or state fisheries management for albies. In other words, there is no formal regulation of this species, no commercial or recreational restrictions – not yet.
The American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA), a group that prides itself on relying on science to live up to its tagline, “better business through conservation,” hopes to change both of these realities.
Many of the ASGA members are in the “totally addicted” category of albie anglers, as I’m sure some of you are. Their membership consists of fly fishing and fly fishing guides, fishing related businesses and conservation minded anglers. Up in New England and even down through North Carolina, albies are a staple species that offer anglers and businesses tremendous opportunities.
For good reason, too. They swim inshore and are known for their fierce fighting and screaming nature. Trust me, there aren’t many fish out there as exciting, chaotic and frustrating as albies. They are flat out a blast to catch with flying gear.
ASGA clearly understood this interest, love for the species and the opportunities it offers – especially as other key inshore species (striped bass and bluefish) have faltered. So the group launched an acoustic tagging project earlier this summer with key brands including Costa Sunglasses, New England Aquarium, Orsted (an offshore wind developer) and many others. Because of how barren the scientific basis for albites is, any data ASGA gets from the study will be helpful. For example, tagging studies can help scientifically understand nearshore migrations and movements, catch and release mortality estimates, and whether the same fish caught in New England can make it as far as Florida.
This is the type of data needed, or at least preferred, to effectively manage marine fisheries. Thus, ASGA launched a new campaign to officially manage this species under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (federal fisheries law) and to develop precautionary measures to protect this species in the long term. It’s pretty crazy when you think that in this day and age, with all our technology, we’re not managing a species like the false albacore that offers so many opportunities to recreational anglers, as well as the fact that commercial anglers target them. However, there is nothing on the books that would prevent a multi-million pound commercial fishery from emerging if the market price improved or if albies were targeted for other commercial uses such as fishing reduction.
So while there is no albite crisis today that ASGA and others are aware of, there is ample reason to be proactive and preventative so we don’t end up in a worse albite situation the future. To that end, check out ASGA’s Albie campaign page and consider signing their letter – the deadline is Thursday, September 9. Brands such as Costa, Simms, TFO Rods, Cheeky and others are getting involved to encourage proactive albie management. Consider joining the campaign today!
Photos by @Captedzyakfishing and @CaptMikeHolliday.
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