Effective as of 11:30 p.m. (EST), April 10, 2016 the Angling category for large medium and giant “trophy” bluefin tuna (73” or greater) in the southern area (see image below) has been closed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for the remainder of 2016. The southern area is the area south of 39°18’N (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ), not including the Gulf of Mexico. Any bluefin tuna caught by recreational anglers in the southern area must be released. This applies to all HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels in the southern area.
As of 2015, the annual Trophy Angling Category quota of 4.5 mt is divided equally among the north, south and Gulf of Mexico regions for HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels. Based on reported landings from the NMFS Automated Catch Reporting System and the North Carolina Tagging Program approximately 1.6 mt of trophy sized bluefin have been landed by Angling category southern area trophy bluefin, exceeding the 1.5 mt subquota and therefore warranting the closure of the southern area for trophy bluefin. The possession or landing of any large medium or giant bluefin tuna in the southern area by HMS Angling or HMS Charter/Headboat vessels is now prohibited and any bluefin caught recreationally must be released. NMFS encourages all anglers to practice safe handling procedures. See the HMS Recreational Fishing Compliance Guide and the Careful Catch & Release brochure for more information. REMINDER: Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 635.21(a)(1): Atlantic highly migratory species… that is not retained must be released in a manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival, but without removing the fish from the water.
Northern and Gulf of Mexico areas remain open until the Trophy Angling Category for the respective region is filled and notice is made by NMFS. Only trophy sized bluefin may be landed by anglers in the Gulf of Mexico region. The Angling category for large and medium bluefin (greater than 27” and less than 73”) in the northern area remains open until further notice. The annual Angling category trophy limit of one trophy bluefin per vessel remains in effect for the north and Gulf of Mexico area until reached. Bluefin of all size classes landed by HMS Angling or HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels must be reported to NMFS within 24 hours by calling or via the Automated Catch Reporting System or calling 1-888-872-8862. For complete details on HMS recreational fishing regulations see NMFS Permit Shop website and keep updated on any further Angling category closures.