Frequently Asked Questions


View our questions and answers below, or use our Contact Us form to ask us any questions.

If you have received your permit via email, please use your browser’s print function to print your permit.

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 (866) 292-4204 and provide your new address. You will have a permit with your updated address.

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 (866) 292-4204.

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. Permit holders who recreationally fish for or retain sharks must also obtain a Shark Endorsement on their HMS permit.

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.

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.

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.

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 swordfish with a Commercial Sale Endorsement, and recreationally for HMS, although not on the same day. Only the sale of tuna and swordfish catch is permitted with this permit. This permit is required if fishing in Federal or State waters, and because it is a commercial permit when combined with a Commercial Sale Endorsement, 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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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