Last Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Preliminary 2020 Commercial BFT Landings

As of January 28, 2020, preliminary commercial landings for the 2020 fishing year are as follows: the General category has landed 14.9 mt of the 49 mt January adjusted subquota; the longline category has landed 3.0 mt. Landing updates will be made as necessary.

Preliminary 2019 Commercial BFT Landings

As of January 22, 2020, preliminary commercial landings for the 2019 fishing year are as follows: The General category has landed 22.8 of the 28.9 December adjusted subquota; 178.8 mt of the 172.2 mt October adjusted subquota; 226.2 mt of the 207.3 mt September adjusted subquota, 277.5 mt of the 277.9 mt June-August adjusted subquota, and 108.9 mt of the 100 mt January-March adjusted subquota; the Harpoon category has landed 102.4 mt of the adjusted 91.0 mt quota, and the Longline category has landed 86.3 mt. Landing updates will be made as necessary.

Atlantic bluefin tuna: General category transfer for January 2020 subquota period; 1-fish limit

NMFS transfers 19.5 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna quota (BFT) from the 28.9-mt General category December 2020 subquota period to the January 2020 subquota period, resulting in a subquota of 49 mt for the January 2020 period and a subquota of 9.4 mt for the December 2020 period. Although it is called the “January” subquota, the regulations allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first, and it will remain closed until the General category fishery reopens on June 1, 2020. NMFS reminds General category participants that when the fishery reopens January 1, 2020, the daily retention limit will be one large medium or giant bluefin tuna (measuring 73” or greater) per vessel per day/trip. NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. In addition, General category and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessel owners are required to report their own catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing the HMS Permit Shop, using the HMS Catch Reporting app, or calling (888) 872-8862 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.). Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, including catches of the General category quota during the winter fishery, NMFS may determine that additional adjustments are necessary to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas, and to ensure available quota is not exceeded. For further information, please go to:

Swordfish Retention Limit Adjustment

The following swordfish retention limits for the General Commercial Swordfish permit are effective January 1 through June 30, 2020: Northwest Atlantic region – 6 swordfish/vessel/trip; Gulf of Mexico – 6 swordfish/vessel/trip; U.S. Caribbean – 6 swordfish/vessel/trip; Florida Swordfish Management Area – 0 swordfish/vessel/trip. For further information, click on this link or paste it in your browser: These retention limits apply to vessels issued a SWO General Commercial permit or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement (only when on a non for-hire trip). All swordfish sold under these permits and retention limits must be to a federally-permitted swordfish dealer.

2020 Recreational Atlantic Tunas Retention Limits

Effective January 1, 2020, the bluefin tuna (BFT) daily retention limit is the default limit of 1 school, large school, or small medium BFT (27 to <73"). This default limit applies to both HMS Angling category-permitted vessels and HMS Charter/Headboat category-permitted vessels, and is effective for all areas except the Gulf of Mexico. Angling and Charter/Headboat vessels may also land 1 BFT tuna measuring 73" or greater per vessel per year in all areas (North, South, and Gulf of Mexico). The recreational yellowfin tuna retention limit is 3/person/day or trip. The minimum size for yellowfin and bigeye tuna is 27" curved fork length. There are no recreational limits for bigeye, skipjack, or albacore tunas.

Other 2020 HMS Recreational Limits

The recreational daily swordfish retention limit is 1 fish/person, with maximums of 4 fish/private vessel, 6 for a charter vessel, and 15 for a headboat vessel. The minimum size for swordfish within the recreational fishery is 47" lower jaw-fork length. You may not keep longbill spearfish. There are no retention limits for Atlantic sailfish, blue marlin and white marlin, but NMFS encourages recreational anglers to release all billfish alive. The minimum sizes for billfish are as follows: blue marlin: 99" lower jaw fork length; white marlin and roundscale spearfish: 66" lower jaw fork length; sailfish: 63" lower jaw fork length; longbill spearfish: retention prohibited. Lower jaw fork length is a straight line measurement from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the caudal fin. There are a total of 21 prohibited shark species that vessel operators should be able to identify (see compliance guide for details). For recreationally-caught sharks, retention of ridgeback sharks other than tiger or smooth dogfish (and oceanic whitetip in certain circumstances) is prohibited. For shortfin mako, catch and release is encouraged, and the minimum size for landing is 83" straight-line fork length. In summary, the recreational shark limit is 1 shark/vessel/trip with a minimum size of 54" fork length (but 78" for hammerheads and 83" for shortfin mako) plus 1 Atlantic sharpnose shark/person/trip (no min. size); plus 1 bonnethead/person/trip (no min. size). There is no retention or size limit for smoothhound sharks (smooth dogfish, Florida smoothhound, and Gulf smoothhound).


This notice outlines the procedure for obtaining a 2020 Atlantic Tunas Permit, which allows you to commercially fish for and/or retain Atlantic bluefin, yellowfin, skipjack, albacore, and bigeye tunas; a Swordfish General Commercial Permit, which allows you to commercially fish for and/or retain Atlantic Swordfish; an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling Permit, which allows you to recreationally fish for and/or retain any regulated Atlantic HMS (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish, or billfish); or an HMS Charter/Headboat Permit, which is required by vessels taking fee paying passengers fishing for or retaining HMS. The permits issued for the 2020 season will be valid from the date of issuance through December 31, 2020. The permit fee will vary between $26.00 and $52.00 depending on the permit you apply for, and is payable by credit card (Visa, Master Card, Discover, or American Express) or check/money order. You will need your Atlantic tunas or your Atlantic HMS permit number to renew your permit for this up-coming season. If you do not have your permit number from last year available, you may look it up at using your last name, phone number, and zip code, or a Customer Service representative may assist at the number below. Please check your current permit information carefully prior to renewing your permit. Please Note: Changes to your permit category may be made under the following circumstances: a) When you renew the permit for the upcoming season; b) Within 45-calendar days from the permits’ date of issuance, to correct any errors in permit category provided the vessel has not landed bluefin. If you have questions regarding the permit process, our Customer Service representatives are available at (888) 872-8862, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

New Permit Endorsements for 2018

**New for 2018** Shark Endorsement – HMS Angling or Charter/Headboat permit holders that wish to recreationally fish for and/or retain sharks are required to add a Shark Endorsement to their permit. To obtain a shark endorsement, applicants must watch a short (3 minute) online educational video on shark identification and handling, and complete a quiz (7 questions). Charter/Headboat Commercial Endorsement – Charter/Headboat permit holders that wish to fish commercially for HMS must add the Charter/Headboat Commercial Endorsement to their permit. Adding the charter/headboat commercial endorsement will subject your vessel to US Coast Guard commercial fishing vessel safety requirements.

HMS Compliance Guides

Please see

REMINDER: Mandatory USCG Commercial Vessel Safety Exams

NOAA Fisheries is reminding commercial Highly Migratory Species (HMS) vessel permit holders that they are required to obtain a United States Coast Guard (USCG) Commercial Fishing Vessel Dockside Safety Examination. Effective October 15, 2015, the law requires completion of a mandatory dockside safety exam at least once every five years. See USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin, or MSIB, 12-15 for clarification about the five-year mandatory dockside safety exam. Commercial fishing means: a vessel that commercially engages in the catching, taking, or harvesting of fish which, either in whole or in part, is intended to enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade. So, whether your vessel is USCG documented or State registered, if you catch fish beyond 3 nautical miles with the intent to sell them, you are operating a commercial fishing vessel. The USCG categorizes vessels that hold one or more of the follow HMS permits as commercial fishing vessels subject to mandatory dockside safety exams: • Atlantic Tunas General Category • Atlantic Tunas Harpoon Category • HMS Charter/Headboat Category • General Commercial Swordfish • Atlantic Tunas Longline • Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine • Shark Directed Limited Access • Shark Incidental Limited Access • Atlantic Smoothhound • Swordfish Directed Limited Access • Swordfish Incidental Limited Access • Swordfish Harpoon Limited Access Commercial fishing vessels are required to comply with the commercial fishing vessel safety regulations found in 46 CFR Part 28. For more info about dockside safety exams and how to obtain a decal: USCG has a helpful tool to assist vessel owners/operators prepare their fishing vessel prior to examination. Commercial Fishing Vessel Checklist Generator: This notice is a courtesy to commercial HMS permit holders to help keep you informed about the fishery. For additional information, call (978) 281-9260, or go to Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.

Stay Safe and Keep Your Distance from Whales

NOAA Fisheries reminds all fishermen and boaters to keep a safe distance from whales. Whales can get hooked in tuna rigs or tangled in monofilament line. We recommend boaters keep a distance of at least 100 feet from all whales (and at least 500 yards from endangered North Atlantic right whales, as required by federal law). In recent years, we have received increasing numbers of reports of tuna fishermen trolling their gear too close to humpback whales. This can result in injuries to both the whales and the people. Humpbacks create bubble clouds to corral their prey, and then lunge through the center to swallow the small fish. Fishermen or boaters in these bubble patches run the risk of colliding with a massive 79,000-pound humpback whale as it rapidly approaches the surface. When a whale collides with a vessel, it can be gravely injured and die from its injuries. Collisions with whales have also thrown boaters from vessels, causing injuries and even death.

Instructions for reporting bluefin tuna

To access the instructions, please see the notice in the library (link at left of page).

Bluefin Catch Reporting Requirements

Atlantic Tunas General, Harpoon, and HMS Charter/Headboat categories, starting on January 1, 2015, are required to report the number and length of all bluefin tuna retained or discarded dead through the online catch reporting system of this website within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip. See the "Landings Reports" section on the home page for more information.

Rules Regarding Permit Category Changes

Vessel owners can modify the category of an Atlantic Tunas or HMS permit up to 45 days from date of issuance, provided the vessel has not landed bluefin tuna as verified via landings data. This is a change from the previous restriction of 10 calendar days.

ESA listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna not warranted

After an extensive scientific review, NOAA announced today that Atlantic bluefin tuna currently do not warrant species protection under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA has committed to revisit this decision by early 2013, when more information will be available about the effects of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, as well as a new stock assessment from the scientific arm of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the international body charged with the fish’s management and conservation. NOAA is formally designating both the western Atlantic and eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin tuna as "species of concern" under the Endangered Species Act. This places the species on a watchlist for concerns about its status and threats to the species.

Reminder for Charter/Headboat owners and operators

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) wants to remind fishermen there are several federal regulations regarding fishing for dolphin and wahoo in federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean (Maine through the east coast of Florida). Summary of requirements *Owners and operators of charter vessels, and headboats are required to have a federal vessel permit to fish for or possess dolphin and wahoo in the Atlantic Ocean. *The vessel operator must have an operator card on board the vessel along with one other form of personal identification that includes a picture (driver license, passport, etc.). *How to get a permit or operator card* If you are the owner of a vessel needing a vessel permit and operator card to fish for dolphin and wahoo, please contact the Permits Branch at the address listed below: NOAA Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, Permits Branch, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; Phone: 727-824-5326; FAX: 727-551-5747. For a copy of the offical notice, visit the library (at left of screen).


Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act governing the harvest of Highly Migratory Species (HMS), including tunas, sharks, swordfish, and billfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Under these regulations vessels are required to posses a permit to fish for HMS, regardless of fishing recreationally or commercially. These permits are legally issued to ONLY those vessels that have a valid registration, which can be verified with the U.S. Coast Guard or by the issuing State. No temporary registrations are allowed. It is unlawful for any person or vessel subject to these regulations to falsify information required on the application, and if discovered the responsible parties may be prosecuted.

Reporting Recreational Swordfish and Billfish Landings

Effective October 17th, 2007, a new internet based reporting system for recreational non-tournament landings of North Atlantic swordfish and billfish will be available. All recreational non-tournament swordfish and billfish landings, including those from Charter/Headboats, must be reported by the permitted owner of the vessel landing the fish, or their designee, within 24 hours of landing. A landed fish means a fish that is kept and has been brought to shore. Vessels landing swordfish or billfish in North Carolina and Maryland must report their landings through the state landing card programs. Vessels landing swordfish or billfish in all other states, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, must report their landings using the new internet reporting portal at or by calling the 1-800-894-5528 reporting line.

LPS BFT Length Validation Assessment Paper

The Large Pelagics Survey (LPIS) collects length data on recreationally landed Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT). The LPS Procedures Manual (prior to 2005) specified that interviewers should measure and record the straight fork length (SFL) of BFT, not the curved fork length (CFL) that is used to define size classes for management purposes. Recently, some members of the recreational and commercial fishing industry have questioned whether or not this procedure has been consistently followed in the field. Some individuals have reported seeing LPS interviewers measuring CFLs of landed BFT. Therefore, they have raised a concern that the interviewers may actually have been recording CFLs rather than SFLs. The CFL of a given fish is greater than its SFL by some small factor (typically between 1-5%). If such errors have occurred, then LPS estimates of landed weight of BFT by size category would most likely be positively biased since length data are converted to weights for landings estimates. This evaluation was conducted to: 1) determine the extent to which CFLs were mistakenly recorded, and the extent to which such errors may have biased the overall BFT landed weight estimate, and 2) investigate the effects that biased measurements could potentially have had on prior stock assessments.