News

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2018

Preliminary 2018 Commercial BFT Landings

General category will be closed at 11:30 p.m. September 23 through midnight September 30, 2018. As of September 21, 2018, preliminary commercial landings for the 2018 fishing year are as follows: The General category has landed 187.2 mt of the 183.7 mt September adjusted subquota (base subquota would be increased to 147.3 mt in the proposed quota rule + 60 mt adjustment would equal 207.3) and 574.7 mt since January 1. The Harpoon category has landed 26.1 mt. The Longline category has landed 82.3 mt. Landing updates will be made as necessary.

General category September 2018 bluefin tuna fishery: transfer and closure (September 23)

NMFS transfers 60 mt of the 78.5-mt Reserve category quota to the General category quota for the September 2018 fishery, resulting in an adjusted subquota of 183.7 mt for the September 2018 fishery (207.3 mt if the ICCAT quota rule is finalized as proposed) and 18.5 mt in the Reserve category. Based on the best available BFT General category landings information (i.e., 145.6 mt landed as of September 17, 2018) as well as average catch rates and anticipated fishing conditions, NMFS projects that the General category September subquota of 183.7 mt, as adjusted in this action, will be reached by September 23, 2018, and that the fishery should be closed to avoid exceedance of the adjusted quota. The General category BFT fishery will close effective 11:30 p.m., September 23, 2018, until it reopens on October 1, 2018, with a baseline quota of 60.7 mt (72.2 mt under the ICCAT quota rule, if finalized as proposed) available for the October through November time period and a 1-fish (default) limit. Retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT by persons aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas General and HMS Charter/Headboat categories must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on September 23, 2018, through September 30, 2018. This action applies to General category (commercial) permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing commercially for BFT. The intent of this closure is to prevent overharvest of the available General category September BFT subquota. For further information, please go to: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-hms.

30-mt BFT Transfer to Harpoon category

NMFS transfers 30 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the Reserve category to the Harpoon category. With this transfer, the adjusted Harpoon category quota is 68.6 mt for the 2018 fishing season (i.e., through November 15, 2018, or until the Harpoon category quota is reached, whichever comes first).

2018 Recreational Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Retention Limits

Effective April 26 through December 31, 2018, the BFT daily retention limits are the following. For HMS Angling-permitted vessels: 2 school BFT (27 to <47") + 1 large school/small medium BFT (47 to <73"); for HMS Charter/Headboat-permitted vessels: 3 school BFT + 1 large school/small medium BFT. These limits (which are per vessel per day/trip) are effective for all areas except the Gulf of Mexico. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip (e.g., whether a vessel takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day), no more than a single day’s retention limit may be possessed, retained, or landed. The trophy bluefin fishery is closed for 2018 in all areas. 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.

BFT Recreational Trophy Fishery CLOSED July 26, 2018

NMFS is closing the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) Angling category fishery for large medium and giant "trophy" BFT (measuring 73" or greater) in the northern area (north of Great Egg Inlet, NJ) effective 11:30 p.m. local time, July 26, 2018, through December 31, 2018. The intent of this closure is to prevent further overharvest of the Angling category northern area trophy BFT subquota. NMFS closed the 2018 Angling category trophy fishery for the southern area and Gulf of Mexico effective March 17 and May 13, respectively. Therefore, as of July 26, 2018, the Angling category trophy BFT fishery is closed in all areas for 2018. Fishermen may catch and release or tag and release BFT of all sizes, subject to the requirements of HMS catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs. NMFS regulations require that all BFT that are released be handled in a manner that will maximize their survival, and without removing the fish from the water. For additional information on safe handling, see the “Careful Catch and Release” brochure available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. HMS Charter/Headboat 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, using the HMS Catch Reporting App, or calling (888) 872-8862 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.).

Swordfish Retention Limit Adjustment

The following swordfish retention limits for the General Commercial Swordfish permit are effective July 1- December 31, 2018: 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: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/bulletin/swordfish-general-commercial-permit-retention-limit-adjustment. 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.

Bluefin Tuna Angling Category Gulf of Mexico Trophy Fishery CLOSED May 13, 2018

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) Angling category fishery for large medium and giant "trophy" BFT (measuring 73" or greater) in the Gulf of Mexico effective 11:30 p.m. local time, May 13, 2018, through December 31, 2018. The intent of this closure is to prevent further overharvest of the Angling category Gulf of Mexico trophy BFT subquota. Fishermen may catch and release or tag and release BFT of all sizes, subject to the requirements of HMS catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs.

Bluefin Tuna Angling Category Southern Trophy Fishery CLOSED March 17, 2018

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) Angling category fishery for large medium and giant "trophy" BFT (measuring 73" or greater) in the southern area effective 11:30 p.m. local time, March 17, 2018, and the fishery will remain closed through December 31, 2018. The southern area is the area south of 39°18'N (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ), outside the Gulf of Mexico. The intent of this closure is to prevent further overharvest of the Angling category southern area trophy BFT subquota. Fishermen may catch and release or tag and release BFT of all sizes, subject to the requirements of HMS catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs. For further information, please go to: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-hms.

General category January 2018 bluefin tuna fishery: transfer and closure (March 2, 2018)

NMFS transfers 10 mt of the 24.8-mt Reserve category quota to the General category quota for the January 2018 fishery, resulting in an adjusted subquota of 49 mt for the January fishery and 14.8 mt in the Reserve category. Based on the best available BFT General category landings information (i.e., 31.3 mt landed as of February 26, 2018) as well as average catch rates and anticipated fishing conditions, NMFS projects that the General category January subquota of 49 mt, as adjusted in this action, will be reached by March 2, 2018, and that the fishery should be closed to avoid exceedance of the enhanced quota. The General category BFT fishery will close effective 11:30 p.m., March 2, 2018, until it reopens on June 1, 2018, with a quota of 233.3 mt available for the June through August time period. Retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT by persons aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas General and HMS Charter/Headboat categories must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on March 2, 2018, through May 31, 2018. This action applies to General category (commercial) permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing commercially for BFT. The intent of this closure is to prevent overharvest of the available General category January BFT subquota. For further information, please go to: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-hms.

Other 2018 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 Round scale 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" 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).

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.

PERMITS FOR 2018 ARE NOW AVAILABLE

This notice outlines the procedure for obtaining a 2018 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 2018 season will be valid from the date of issuance through December 31, 2018. 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.

HMS Compliance Guides

Please see https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/atlantic-hms-fishery-compliance-guides

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: https://www.uscg.mil/msib/docs/012_15_10-20-2015.pdf USCG has a helpful tool to assist vessel owners/operators prepare their fishing vessel prior to examination. Commercial Fishing Vessel Checklist Generator: https://www.uscg.mil/d13/cfvs/test/1ChecklistCover.html 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 hmspermits.noaa.gov. 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.

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.