The American Bluefin Tuna Association represents the four major categories of fishermen who harvest Atlantic bluefin, bigeye, albacore and yellowfin tuna using conventional hook and line, harpoon, handline and greenstick gear. The common thread between all these groups is the desire to conserve the resource and preserve U.S. bluefin and tropical tunas fishing.
Approximately 5,000 vessels have applied for Charter/Headboat (CHB) permits each year in recent years. These vessels engage in charter fishing (fishing for hire) for School (27"- <47"Curved Fork Length), Large School (47"- < 59" CFL), Small Medium (59"- < 73" CFL), Large Medium (73"- < 81"CFL) and Giant (81"+ CFL) Atlantic bluefin tuna as well as for tropical tunas: yellowfin, albacore and bigeye tuna. Charter or Headboat vessels have the unique option of harvesting tuna either as a charter boat, with customers onboard, or as a commercial fishing vessel, without customers onboard, on any given trip. They must determine their intention prior to the commencement of any fishing trip, as different fishing regulations apply in each case. Rod and reel and greenstick modified for use with rod and reel (without bandit reel) are the only fishing gears approved for CHB vessels when fishing for hire, with customers. CHB vessels, when operating as a commercial vessel without customers are authorized to use rod and reel and/or greenstick (with bandit reel).
When fishing "for hire" for yellowfin, bigeye, albacore or school or small/medium bluefin tuna, the Charter/Headboat Category falls under Recreational Category regulations, daily retention limits and reporting requirements. When fishing commercially (without customers onboard) for bluefin, bigeye, albacore or yellowfin tuna, Charter/Headboat vessels must adhere to artisanal General Category size, retention and reporting requirements.
Vessels in the Charter/Headboat Category, when operating “for hire”, are not legally allowed to sell their catch and recreational catch reporting requirements apply. When vessels in this category do not have customers onboard and are operating as commercial fishing vessels, they are allowed to sell their catch and commercial catch reporting requirements apply. In this latter instance, catch must be sold only to federally-licensed fish dealers. Vessels in this category are typically 20-50 ft in length.