Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Permits

The Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division issues federal vessel permits for commercial and recreational fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

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.

Vessel Permits

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. 

Learn about  reporting requirements

Open Access

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. 

Limited Access

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

Additionally, there is an Incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit for fishermen with a squid moratorium permit issued by the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office.

Permit Endorsements

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. 

    Dealer Permits

    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

    Learn more about the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species International Trade Program

    Learn about dealer reporter requirements

    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.  

    Learn more about Atlantic HMS exempted fishing permits

    Tournament Registration

    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. 

    Learn more about how to register and about tournament reporting requirements

    Resources

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    Shark Identification Placard

    Shark Identification and Regulations Placard (PDF, 1 page)

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    Prohibited Shark Identification Placard

    Prohibited Shark Identification Placard (PDF, 1 page)

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    Careful Catch and Release Brochure

    Brochure (PDF, 2 pages)

    Publications