NOAA Fisheries requires fishermen and dealers to obtain federal permits if they fish for, sell, purchase, or import Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS), which include tunas, billfish, swordfish, or sharks. Permits are also required to export bluefin tuna, swordfish, and frozen bigeye tuna.
For information on permits for other species, visit our regional Permits page.
There are two primary types of Atlantic HMS permits:
- Vessel permits
- Dealer permits
Additionally, Exempted Fishing Permits are available for activities that may occur outside the bounds of current regulations, such as scientific research.
Tournament operators are also required to register all tournaments conducted from a port in an Atlantic coastal state, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
All vessels that fish for or may incidentally take and retain Atlantic HMS must have a vessel permit. These permits are attached to the vessel, not the permit holder, and must be renewed annually.
Fishermen can purchase and renew the following open access recreational and commercial permits. Click on the links below for information on how to acquire these permits.
- Atlantic HMS Angling permit
- Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat permit
- Atlantic Tunas General category permit
- Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category permit
- Swordfish General Commercial permit
- Combination Swordfish/Tunas permit
- Smoothhound Shark permit
- Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit
The limited access permits listed below are only available for purchase if a current permit holder leaves the fishery. All of these except the Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine Category permit are issued by NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Regional Office.
- Swordfish Directed permit
- Swordfish Incidental permit
- Swordfish Handgear permit
- Shark Directed permit
- Shark Incidental permit
- Atlantic Tunas Longline category permit
- Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine category permit
Two permit endorsements are available for the Atlantic HMS Angling and Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat permits.
Vessel owners with an Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat permit must have a commercial sale endorsement to be able to sell Atlantic tunas and swordfish in certain situations.
A shark endorsement is also required for all vessel owners interested in fishing for sharks. Owners must watch this video and complete an accompanying quiz to obtain this endorsement. You will be prompted to do this within the permit application. The video is provided below for educational purposes only.
Anyone who receives or purchases tunas, sharks, or swordfish must have a dealer permit. Because the sale of Atlantic billfish is prohibited, there is no dealer permit for these species.
Anyone who imports any Atlantic HMS—or exports bluefin tuna, swordfish, or frozen bigeye tuna—must have an International Fisheries Trade Permit
Exempted Fishing Permits
NOAA Fisheries issues Atlantic HMS exempted fishing permits, display permits, letters of acknowledgement, and scientific research permits. These may be required in situations where necessary research activities would normally be prohibited by regulations. They may also be used to authorize the collection of tunas, swordfish, billfishes, and sharks for the purposes of data collection and public display.
Operators do not need a permit to host an HMS fishing tournament. However, all tournaments where fishermen catch or land an Atlantic HMS must be registered. Tournament operators must also notify NOAA Fisheries of the purpose, dates, and location of the tournament conducted from a port in an Atlantic coastal state, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, at least four weeks before the tournament start date.