Tournaments for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species
Fishing events that award points or prizes for the catch and release, and/or landing of sharks, tunas, billfish, or swordfish in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, or Caribbean Sea must be registered with NOAA Fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries neither operates nor sponsors any fishing tournaments for Highly Migratory Species, including sharks. Private/public tournament organizers are required to register events with NOAA Fisheries and are offered copies of compliance guides, which summarize the relevant regulations. All participants are expected to know and follow the rules of the tournament, as well as all relevant state and federal regulations. Vessel owners and operators who do not follow state and federal regulations may be subject to enforcement actions.
Tournament operators are required to register their tournaments with NOAA Fisheries at least four weeks prior to the start of the tournament. Operators must keep records of the number of participating vessels and their catch. All HMS tournament operators must send a catch report to NOAA Fisheries after the event.
Tournament Catch Reporting
Tournament operators are responsible for reporting all HMS catch (landed and released) within 7 days of the end of the tournament by reporting catch online.
Submit the completed form to:
75 Virginia Beach Drive
Miami, FL 33149
Federal Regulations for Tournaments
HMS tournaments are required to register and report to NOAA Fisheries, and to follow these regulations:
Vessels fishing in Atlantic HMS Tournaments must have one of the following HMS permits, available from the HMS Permits Shop.
Atlantic Tunas General (Commercial)*
Swordfish General (Commercial)*
*Anglers aboard these vessels must always follow the commercial restrictions (minimum size, bag limit, season, etc.) for the authorized species of the permit(s) held. Recreational fishing for other HMS is authorized only if fishing in a registered HMS tournament, and passengers must follow Angling permit restrictions (minimum sizes, bag limits, seasons, etc.) for those HMS during the event.
All Atlantic HMS recreational fishing regulations apply to Atlantic HMS tournament anglers. Permit requirements and restrictions, size limits, bag limits, gear restrictions, possession restrictions, and more are in the HMS Recreational Compliance Guide. All state regulations must be followed, including those that are more restrictive.
Any tournament that awards points or prizes for the catch & release or landing of HMS (sailfish, white marlin, blue marlin, longbill spearfish (landing prohibited), roundscale spearfish, swordfish, Atlantic tuna, and sharks) is an HMS tournament.
All HMS tournaments must report catch, including "catch & release" tournaments. See Tournament Catch Reporting above for instructions.
Anglers fishing with natural bait (or natural/artificial combination bait) must only use non-offset circle hooks in billfish tournaments. Anglers may only use J-hooks in billfish tournaments if they are fishing with artificial lures.
Bluefin Tuna Tournaments
Any bluefin tuna that is landed or released dead must be reported by the permit holder or designee through the HMS Permit Catch Reporting page or (888) 872-8862 within 24 hours of returning to the dock, regardless of the recreational trip being private, for-hire, or tournament.
NOAA Fisheries provides educational outreach materials to registered Atlantic HMS tournaments upon request. Outreach may be requested during registration or by contacting the HMS Management Division.
HMS Recreational Compliance Guide
This compliance guide is a plain-language summary of the recreational fishing regulations for sharks, tunas, billfish, and swordfish. Includes HMS permit requirements, minimum sizes, bag limits, seasons, and more.
Careful Catch and Release Brochure
The careful catch and release brochure provides tips on handling and releasing large saltwater pelagic fish in a way that minimizes injury and maximizes their chances of recovery.
North Atlantic Right Whale Recreational Boater Alert/Avoid
This brochure provides guidance on alerting to and avoiding right whales to prevent collisions.
Cast with Care
Laminated Cast with Care wallet cards and stickers contain tips to avoid harmful interactions between marine life and recreational fishing gear, as well as important phone numbers to report an injured or entangled dolphin, sea turtle, or sawfish.
Bluefin Tuna Tournaments
HMS Commercial Compliance Guide
This compliance guide is a plain-language summary of the commercial fishing regulations for sharks, tunas, billfish, and swordfish. Includes HMS permit requirements, minimum sizes, bag limits, seasons, and more.
Shark Identification Placard
This shark identification placard is intended for recreational fishing, is printed on waterproof paper, and includes diagrams for identification of sharks legal for retention.
Prohibited Shark Identification Placard
This prohibited shark identification placard is intended for recreational fishing, is printed on waterproof paper, and includes diagrams for identification of prohibited sharks.
Atlantic Recreational Shark Fishing: Handling and Release of Sharks
This video provides information on identifying prohibitive sharks and tips for safe handling and release. It also includes details on permitting and regulations for recreational shark fishing in the Atlantic. This include a new requirement under Amendment 11 that all recreational shark anglers fishing in federal waters use non-offset, corrosive (non-stainless) circle hooks, except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.
Swordfish and Billfish Identification Guide
This one-page swordfish and billfish identification guide shows the differences between swordfish, sailfish, blue marlin, longbill spearfish, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish. NOAA Fisheries encourages tournament operators and anglers to know the differences between white marlin and roundscale spearfish; two species that are very similar in appearance.
Atlantic Tunas Identification Guide
This one-page tunas identification guide shows the differences between albacore, blackfin tuna, Atlantic bonito, skipjack, little tunny, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, and bluefin tuna.