Help Page: About Permits


Who Needs NMFS permits?

NMFS requires fishermen and/or dealers to obtain NMFS permits if they fish for, sell, purchase, or import sell certain species.

Types of Permits

There are three types of permits. The type of permit you need depends upon your particular type of activity. In some cases NMFS regulation might require you to obtain more than one permit. You can purchase all three types of permits at this website. The three types of permits are:
  • Dealer Permits
  • Tournament Permits
  • Vessel Permits
Dealer Permits are required by anyone who receives or purchases (from vessels), or imports many of the fish managed by NMFS, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS), i.e., Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish, or billfish. The sale of Atlantic billfish is prohibited, thus there is no dealer permit for these species. Currently, dealer permits are available directly from NMFS' Regional Offices. For Atlantic shark and swordfish dealer permits, contact NMFS' Southeast Regional Office at (727) 824-5326. For Atlantic tunas dealer permits, contact NMFS' Northeast Regional Office at (978) 281-9370. In addition to obtaining a dealer permit, dealers are responsible for submitting reports to NMFS on the regulated species they receive, purchase, and/or import. Information on dealer reporting requirements is mailed out along with the dealer permits.

For instructions on purchasing or renewing a Dealer Permit, click on Buying A New Permit or Renewing An Old Permit. For instructions on how to report your landings, click on Reporting Landings.

Tournament Registration is required for any fishing tournament involving the catch and/or landing of Atlantic HMS. NMFS collects information on such fishing tournaments for use in estimating tournament fishing efforts and landings of HMS for stock assessments and national statistical reports. The HMS regulations require that a tournament operator must notify NMFS of the purpose, dates, and location of the tournament conducted from a port in an Atlantic coastal state, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, at least 4 weeks prior to commencement of the tournament. NMFS will notify a tournament operator in writing, when his or her tournament has been selected for reporting. The tournament operator that is selected must maintain and submit to NMFS a record of catch and effort on forms available from NMFS. Tournament operators must submit completed forms to NMFS, at an address designated by NMFS, postmarked no later than the 7th day after the conclusion of the tournament and must attach a copy of the tournament rules.

To register a tournament, click the bulleted item "register now!" under Tournaments which you will find on the left-hand side of most screens.

Vessel Permits are required of all vessels that fish for or may incidentally take and retain some species regulated by NMFS. For example, permits are currently required for vessels that fish for Atlantic tunas (both recreational and commercial), sharks (commercial only), and swordfish (commercial only). It is important to understand that vessel permits are attached primarily to the vessel, not to the permit holder. Vessel permits for these species must be renewed annually. Currently, vessel permits for Atlantic tunas can be purchased and renewed through this on-line NMFS Permit Shop. There is a fee to cover the administrative costs incurred to manage the permitting system. For information on vessel permits for other species, contact NMFS' Southeast Regional Office at (727) 824-5326 or NMFS' Northeast Regional Office at (978) 281-9370.

To purchase or renew a Vessel Permit, click the bulleted item "buy/renew now!" under Permits which you will find on the left-hand side of most screens. For instructions on purchasing or renewing Vessel Permits, click on Buying A New Permit or Renewing An Old Permit.

Applying For Permits:

There are three ways to apply for a permit:
  • On-Line
  • Request/Download a Permit Application
  • Calling Customer Service

On-line: The easiest is to apply on-line from this site. In fact, you can apply for a permit (or renew one), have it approved and print the permit out on your printer in a matter of minutes! For instructions on purchasing and/or renewing permits click on Buying A New Permit or Renewing An Old Permit.

Request Or Download A Permit Applications: NMFS gives you the option to renew/apply for permits through traditional paper applications. You can either download an application off of the NMFS site, print it, fill it out, and mail it to NMFS or you can call the interactive voice response system (IVR)and request that a permit application be mailed to you. If you go through the IVR system, you will receive your permit application within a few days and will need to complete it and mail it back to the NMFS office. In both cases, once NMFS receives your application, it will process your permit and mail it to you. Both mail processes (IVR OR Downloading/sending the application) take approximately a week to several weeks, depending on the current work load.

Calling Customer Service NMFS also gives you the option of purchasing and/or renewing a permit via telephone. NMFS Customer Service representatives are available during the week from 8am to 5pm Eastern time. To purchase and/or renew a permit through NMFS Customer Service, call toll-free 888-872-8862. NMFS Customer Service Representatives are also available to answer any questions that you might have.

Paying For Permits

If you applied for your permit via the on-line application, you may use any of the following credit cards: American Express, Discover, Master Charge or Visa. If you applied for your permit via mail you may pay by money order in addition to the above mentioned credit cards.