News

Last Updated: Feb 4, 2016

Preliminary 2016 Commercial BFT Landings

As of February 4, 2016, preliminary commercial landings for the 2016 fishing year are as follows: the General category has landed 0.5 mt and the Longline category has landed 7.3 mt. Landings updates will be made as necessary.

Preliminary 2015 Commercial BFT Landings

As of January 13, 2016, preliminary commercial landings for the 2015 fishing year are as follows: The General category has landed 614.5 mt out of an adjusted quota of 646.7 mt, the Harpoon category is closed and landed 43.8 mt/43.6 mt, the Longline category has landed 71.3/207.3 mt -includes NED-; and the Purse Seine category has landed 33.9 mt / 82.9 mt. Landing updates will be made as necessary.

NMFS Adjusts 2016 Purse Seine and Reserve Quotas; Transfers 34 mt to Longline category

NMFS has adjusted the Atlantic bluefin tuna Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas for 2016, based on regulations implemented in the final rule for Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (Amendment 7). NMFS has determined the 2016 Purse Seine category quota available to Purse Seine fishery participants is 82.9 mt. The amount of Purse Seine category quota reallocated to the Reserve category is 101.4 mt. NMFS also has transferred inseason 34 mt of bluefin tuna quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category. As a result of this quota transfer, 0.25 mt (551 lb) of Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) will be distributed to each of the 136 Longline category permit holders who received IBQ shares under Amendment 7. IBQ allocation will be distributed by January 15, 2016, via the electronic IBQ system to the vessel accounts with eligible permits associated with a vessel. For more information, including a table summarizing the available Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas and subquotas for 2016 as of this action, please see the notice in the library (link at left of page) or at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/breaking_news.html.

Atlantic bluefin tuna: General Category Limit & Transfer for January 2016

NMFS transfers 24.3 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the General category (commercial handgear) December 2016 subquota period to the January 2016 subquota period (from January 1 through March 31, 2016, or until the available subquota for this period is reached, whichever comes first). NMFS also adjusts the General category BFT daily retention limit from the default of one to three large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73” or greater) per vessel per day/trip for the January 2016 subquota period. The General category daily retention limit applies to vessels permitted in the commercial Atlantic tunas General category and the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category while fishing commercially. The daily retention limit is effective for all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, which is designated as BFT spawning grounds and where NMFS does not allow targeted fishing for BFT. NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. General category, HMS Charter/Headboat, Harpoon, and Angling category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov. Depending on fishing effort and catch rates, additional retention limit adjustments or fishery closures may be necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. For further information, please see the notice in the library (link at left of page) or at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/breaking_news.html.

2016 Recreational Atlantic Tunas Retention Limits

Effective January 1, 2016, 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. The recreational BFT trophy fishery (73"+) is open in all areas with a limit of 1 BFT measuring 73" or greater/vessel/year. 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 2016 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: 66" lower jaw fork length; Sailfish: 63" lower jaw fork length; 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. Recreational shark limit: 1 shark/vessel/trip with a minimum size of 54" fork length (78" for hammerheads); plus 1 Atlantic sharpnose shark/person/trip (no min. size); plus 1 bonnethead/person/trip (no min. size). As of March 15, 2016, an Angling or CHB permit will be required to retain smoothhound sharks (smooth dogfish, Florida smoothhound, and Gulf smoothhound); there is no retention or size limit for smoothhound sharks.

Permits for 2016 Now Available

This notice outlines the procedure for obtaining a 2016 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 2016 season will be valid from the date of issuance through December 31, 2016. The permit fees will vary between $20.00 and $40.00 depending on the permits 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 https://hmspermits.noaa.gov 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.

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).

NEW 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.

Amendment 7 Final Rule

NMFS announces the final rule to implement Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. This action is necessary to meet domestic management objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act as well as the objectives of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and obligations pursuant to binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. NMFS takes these actions to reduce and account for bluefin dead discards in all categories; optimize fishing opportunities in all categories within the U.S. quota; enhance reporting and monitoring; and adjust other management measures as necessary. Most of the management measures in the final rule will take effect Jan. 1, 2015, while some measures will take effect on either June 1, 2015, or Jan. 1, 2016. For more information, see the notice in the library (at left of page) or at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/documents/fmp/am7/index.html.

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).

PERMIT APPLICANTS MUST HAVE VESSEL'S OFFICAL REGISTRATION

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 http://www.hmspermits.gov 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.