Introduction to Artisanal Fisheries

General Category (Artisanal)

Harpoon Category (Artisanal)


Recreational Category

Charter/Headboat Category


Fishing Regulations





































All of ABTA’s fisheries are healthy and sustainably fished.


The property of being environmentally sustainable; the degree to which a process or enterprise is able
to be maintained or continued while avoiding the
long-term depletion of natural resources.
- Oxford English Dictionary


Today, there is great confusion regarding the actual meaning of “sustainability” or “sustainable fisheries”.  Numerous environmental groups, independent certification societies, organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the media and even some marine scientists liberally use these terms, often applying inappropriate or incorrect criteria and frequently using out-of-date, fishery-specific information.  ABTA defines and uses the terms, “sustainability” and “sustainable fisheries” strictly in accordance with the standards and criteria of the regulatory entities that are responsible for the management of our species.

ABTA’s artisanal Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery addresses the issue of sustainability in the following ways:

  • Minimum fish size requirement encourages fish stock growth :  No bluefin tuna can be retained for commercial purposes that is smaller than 73” in length.  This requirement is more than twice the minimum size allowed in any other bluefin tuna fishery in the world, with the exception of the Canadian Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery.  This provision allows bluefin to reach spawning age before they can be harvested.  No other bluefin fisheries worldwide can make this claim.
  •  Daily or trip retention limits accurately control harvesting throughout the season :  A maximum of 5 bluefin can be retained by a vessel per day or per trip. This severely restricts harvesting capacity, leaving a lot more fish in the water.  With the exception of the Canadian Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, all other bluefin fisheries worldwide do not have a daily or trip limitation on the number of bluefin that can be harvested.
  • Strict adherance to fishing quota :  ABTA’s Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery is managed by annual fishing quota controls and quota levels are never exceeded.  If our Atlantic bluefin fishery were to fully utilize its quota before the fishing season has ended, the fishery would be shut down for the remainder of the season or, alternatively, if the U.S. were to accidentally exceed its quota, the amount of any overage would be deducted from the following year's U.S. quota allocation.
  • Protecting bluefin while they are spawning :  Directed commercial fishing by U.S. fishermen for Atlantic bluefin tuna is not allowed in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, a major spawning grounds for this species.  Unfortunately, this is not true of other bluefin fisheries elsewhere in the world.

All of ABTA’s artisanal tuna fisheries address the issue of sustainability in the following WAYS:

  • Organically controlling harvesting capacity :  Only handgear (rod and reel, harpoon and greenstick) are authorized fishing methods in ABTA’s artisanal fisheries.  This severely limits harvesting capacity, as each fish must be caught individually.  By comparison, the industrial fishing methods, chiefly purse seine and longline, are the standard for nearly all other tuna fisheries worldwide.  These are fleets of very large vessels with large fish storage and freezing capacity and these vessels are capable of catching hundreds or even thousands of fish at one time, depending upon the size of the tuna species targeted.  Therefore, fishing overcapacity is a problem endemic to nearly all tuna fisheries worldwide, with the exception of that of the U.S. and Canada's artisanal fleets.
  • Controlling bycatch :  Due to the highly selective nature of the fishing methods used in ABTA’s fisheries, bycatch, the inadvertent catch of unwanted species of fish, is nearly unknown in ABTA’s artisanal fisheries.  When bycatch does occur, usually shark, it is released by the fisherman and, unlike that of industrial fishing systems, post-release mortality of bycatch is negligible.  No other commercial tuna fisheries can make this claim.
    • Accurate catch reporting and compliance: Catch reporting requirements in ABTA’s artisanal fisheries are the most rigorous in the world, thereby enabling U.S. fishery management to maintain a very high level of control over harvesting levels in real-time during the fishing season.  All of ABTA's artisanal fisheries are required to report landings of tunas within 24 hours after returning to port.  This is virtually unknown in other tuna fisheries worldwide.
      • No damage to the marine ecosystem: ABTA’s artisanal fisheries utilize fishing gear that                                                    never comes into contact with the ocean floor and therefore does not negatively                                                                impact the marine environment.
                                                      Photo courtesy: