Arguably the most misunderstood fish in the sea, false albacore, or albies, are highly sought after and respected fish in some regions and a nuisance catch in other regions. Yet, in total, recreational anglers took some half a million directed trips in 2021, according to one of NOAA Fisheries’ main data sources. Despite this demonstrated recreational fishery and existing commercial fisheries, we know very little about albies from scientific and management perspectives. Partly as a result, there is no federal, regional, or state fishery management for albies. Put another way, there is no formal regulation for this species, no commercial or recreational limits–not yet that is.
The American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA), a group that prides itself on relying on science to accomplish its tagline, “better business through conservation,” hopes to change both of those realities.
Many of ASGA’s members are in the “completely addicted” category of albie fishermen, as I’m sure some of you are as well. Their membership consists of light-tackle and fly fishing guides, fishing-related businesses, and conservation-minded anglers. Up in New England and even down through North Carolina, albies are a key species that afford anglers and businesses tremendous opportunities.
For good reason, too. They swim inshore and are known for their hard fighting and drag screaming nature. Trust me, there are not many fish out there as exhilarating, chaotic, and frustrating as albies. They are flat-out a blast to catch with fly gear.
ASGA clearly understood this interest, love for the species, and the opportunities it provides–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 patterns including Costa Sunglasses, the New England Aquarium, Orsted (an offshore wind developer), and many others. Because of just how barren the scientific base is for albies, any data ASGA receives from the study will be beneficial. For example, the tagging study can assist the scientific understanding of migrations and nearshore movements, catch and release mortality estimates, and whether the same fish that are caught in New England make it down to Florida.
This is the type of data needed, or at least preferred, to effectively manage marine fisheries. So, ASGA launched a new campaign to formally manage this species under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (federal fisheries law) and develop precautionary measures to protect this species into the long-term. It’s pretty crazy when you think that in this day and age, with all of our technology, we aren’t managing a species like false albacore that provide so many opportunities to recreational anglers, as well as the fact that commercial fishermen do target them. Yet, there is nothing on the books that would prevent a multi-million pound commercial fishery from emerging, if the market price improved or albies became the target of other commercial uses, such as the reduction fishery.
So, while there is no crisis today with albies, that ASGA and others know about, there is ample rationale to be proactive and precautionary so we don’t end up in a worse situation with albies in the future. To that end, check out ASGA’s Albie Campaign page and consider signing onto their letter–deadline is Thursday, September 9th. Brands like Costa, Simms, TFO Rods, Cheeky, and others are getting involved to encourage precautionary management of albies. Consider joining the campaign today!
Photos by @Captedzyakfishing and @CaptMikeHolliday.