On September 10, 2020, NOAA Fisheries announced that the 250-marlin landings limit had been met and exceeded for 2020. Since then, continued Quality Assurance/Quality Control review conducted by NMFS has resulted in revised landings totals that show the 250-marlin landings
limit was not exceeded as previously determined. NOAA Fisheries is now estimating that 233 Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish combined have been landed as of September 30, 2020, although numbers will not be finalized until the end-of-year accounting is completed in February 2021. The previous, higher estimate of landings resulted when released
fish reported through a new external data source were mistakenly counted as landed fish within
the HMS database. The source of the error has been identified and corrected. Despite this
revision, this total is the closest the United States has come to reaching the 250-marlin landings
Effective October 1, 2020, NOAA Fisheries has required catch-and-release fishing only for
Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish in all areas of the Atlantic Ocean,
and will continue to do so through December 31, 2020. The switch to catch-and-release fishing
was based on the best available information possessed by NMFS in September. Given the low
margin between the latest landings estimate and the 250-marlin landings limit (currently 17 fish),
NOAA Fisheries is maintaining the catch-and-release fishery for the remainder of 2020 to avoid
exceeding the landings limit.
HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category permit holders and persons aboard vessels
permitted in the Atlantic tunas General Category or Swordfish General Commercial that fish in
registered Atlantic HMS Tournaments may continue to catch-and-release (or tag and release)
Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish of all sizes. Atlantic sailfish may
continue to be landed (retained) consistent with applicable regulations.
Anglers are reminded that Atlantic billfish that are released must be handled in a manner that
will maximize survival, and without removing the fish from the water. For additional
information on safe handling, see the “Careful Catch-and-Release” brochure.