Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Need questions answered on rules and regulations?
  2. How do I print my permit?
  3. What if my address has changed?
  4. Can I change my permit category?
  5. Do I need a recreational permit to fish for or land tunas, sharks, swordfish, and/or bilfish?
  6. I currently posses a valid Atlantic tunas General category permit. Am I allowed to fish in recreationally tournaments for HMS with this permit?
  7. Is there a description of a General category permit ?
  8. Is there a description of an HMS Angling category permit?
  9. Is there a description of an HMS Charter/Headboat category permit?
  10. If I want to fish for Atlantic tunas, do I need a permit? Which species and what areas are covered?
  11. Does my permit need to be on board when I am fishing?
  12. If a relative or friend is on my vessel and he/she has a permit, do I need a permit in this situation?
  13. May I fish for Atlantic tunas without a vessel (e.g., from an oil rig or from shore)?
  14. What do I get when I pay for my permit?
  15. If I witness a violation of NMFS regulations, how do I report it?
  16. May I sell my tunas if I have an HMS Angling category permit?
  17. Do I need any other permits in addition to a tuna permit?

Q:Need questions answered on rules and regulations?

A:Visit the link and check out the most recent "Compliance Guide" for all your needs.

Q:How do I print my permit?

A:You can find instructions for printing your permit on the Permit Printing Page.

Q:What if my address has changed?

A:It is important that you keep your permit information current. You may change your address through "Permit status tracking" or "Status, etc.". After that you can download a new permit through "Permit status tracking" or "Status, etc.". You may also speak to a Customer Service representative at (888) 872-8862 and provide your new address. You will have a permit with your updated address.

Q:Can I change my permit category?

A:Changes in the permit category must be made when you renew the permit for the upcoming season. However, permit applicants are allowed to make a permit category changes within 45-calendar days of the date of issuance of the permit to correct any potential errors. If you find an error within 45-calendar days of the date of issuance please contact Customer Service at (888) 872-8862.

Q:Do I need a recreational permit to fish for or land tunas, sharks, swordfish, and/or bilfish?

A:Yes, vessel owners/operators who recreationally fish for or retain regulated Atlantic tunas (bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye, albacore, and skipjack), sharks, swordfish, and billfish in Atlantic Federal waters, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, must obtain an HMS Angling category permit or a HMS Charter/Headboat permit. However, General category vessels may fish recreationally for HMS so long as they are participating in a registered recreational HMS tournament and fishing under tournament rules. Vessels fishing exclusively in state waters are required to obtain the HMS Angling permit if they wish to keep their regulated tunas (bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye, skipjack, and albacore). Vessel owners/operators should check their state regulations regarding the retention of sharks, swordfish, and/or billfish in state waters.

Q: I currently posses a valid Atlantic tunas General category permit. Am I allowed to fish in recreationally tournaments for HMS with this permit?

A:General category vessels are allowed to participate in registered recreational HMS tournaments when fishing under tournament rules. When fishing for, retaining, possessing, or landing Atlantic tunas while participating in a tournament, General category vessels must comply with the Atlantic tunas General category regulations. When fishing for, retaining, or possessing sharks, swordfish, and/or billfish, General category vessels must comply with recreational regulations. It is incumbent upon the General category vessel owner/operator to verify that a tournament is registered with NOAA Fisheries.

Q:Is there a description of a General category permit ?

A:Yes, owners/operators of vessels fishing commercially for Atlantic bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, albacore, or skipjack tunas using a combination of rod and reel, harpoon, and/or handlines must obtain a General category permit. This permit is required in the Atlantic, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. This permit is required if fishing in Federal or State waters and because it is a commercial permit the U.S. Coast Guard Safety Gear Regulations will apply. Sale of tuna catch is permitted with this permit. Finally, if fishing is taking place in a registered recreational HMS fishing tournament only, this permit will also allow a vessel to recreationally fish for sharks, swordfish, and/or billfish.

Q:Is there a description of an HMS Angling category permit?

A:Yes, owners/operators of vessels fishing recreationally, even catch and release, for Atlantic HMS (sharks, swordfish, billfish, and tunas) in the Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, must obtain an HMS Angling category permit. This permit is for recreational fishing only, no sale of catch is permitted. This permit allows a vessel to participate in registered recreational HMS fishing

Q:Is there a description of an HMS Charter/Headboat category permit?

A:Yes, owners/operators of charter/headboat vessels fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish and billfish) in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, must obtain an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) permit. To be eligible for this permit category there MUST be a licensed Coast Guard Captain onboard the vessel during ALL HMS Fishing activities regardless if they are commercial, recreational, or fee based in nature. This permit allows a vessel to fish both commercially for tunas and recreationally for HMS, although not on the same day. Only the sale of tuna catch is permitted with this permit. This permit is required if fishing in Federal or State waters and because it is a commercial permit the U.S. Coast Guard Safety Gear Regulations may apply. This permit will also allow a vessel to fish in registered recreational HMS fishing tournaments.

Q:If I want to fish for Atlantic tunas, do I need a permit? Which species and what areas are covered?

A:Yes, owner/operators of state registered and Coast Guard Documented vessels fishing for Atlantic bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, albacore, or skipjack tuna in the Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, must obtain a permit. Only one category may be assigned to a vessel per year. The permit categories are as follows: General category (commercial tuna); Charter/Headboat (commercial tuna and recreational HMS); Angling category (recreational HMS); Harpoon category (commercial tuna); Trap category (commercial tuna); Purse Seine category (limited access); Longline (limited access).

Q:Does my permit need to be on board when I am fishing?

A:Yes, the owner or operator of a vessel of the United States must have the appropriate valid permit on board the vessel to fish for, take, retain, or possess Atlantic tunas, when engaged in commercial or recreational fishing. The vessel operator must make the permit available for inspection upon request by NMFS or a person authorized by NMFS.

Q:If a relative or friend is on my vessel and he/she has a permit, do I need a permit in this situation?

A:Yes, the Atlantic tunas permit is a vessel permit rather than an individual or "angler" permit. A permit is not transferable or assignable to another vessel or owner; it is valid only for the vessel to which it has been assigned.

Q:May I fish for Atlantic tunas without a vessel (e.g., from an oil rig or from shore)?

A:No, only permitted vessels may fish for Atlantic bluefin, bigeye, albacore, yellowfin, and skipjack tunas in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. If one of these species is caught incidentally during fishing activities from shore or from an oil rig, it must be released immediately.

Q:What do I get when I pay for my permit?

A:Unlike many state permit programs, the permit fees go directly to the General Treasury and not to the managing agency (NMFS). The fee is set, in accordance with the procedures of the NOAA Finance Handbook, to recover the cost of administering the permit program, including maintenance of the public website and the toll-free phone system.

Q:If I witness a violation of NMFS regulations, how do I report it?

A:Please call the 24-hour NMFS Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. You may also call the U.S. Coast Guard Hotline at (800) SAVE-FISH. You do not need to give your name when you call.

Q:May I sell my tunas if I have an HMS Angling category permit?

A:No, if you have an HMS Angling category permit, you may not sell your catch. You must have a commercial fishing permit if you wish to sell your landings.

Q:Do I need any other permits in addition to a tuna permit?

A:If you use longline gear to fish for tunas, you must also have swordfish and shark limited access permits. If you are applying for a commercial permit, note that your state may require a permit for sale of fish. Contact your state fisheries agency for further information.