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 20,000 recreational Atlantic tunas fishing permits have been issued each year in recent years. Recreational vessels are authorized to target Atlantic bluefin, bigeye, albacore and yellowfin tuna. Recreational fishermen report their catch of Atlantic bigeye, yellowfin and albacore tunas on a voluntary basis but fall under a mandatory reporting schema for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Catch retention and size limits are set annually by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Recreational fisheries are, as with all other U.S. tunas fisheries, highly restrictive with regard to the number and size of fish they are allowed to catch and retain. Daily retention limits are determined annually and are sometimes changed within a season (see Fishing Regulations). Fish can be caught by rod and reel or by a modified form of greenstick that utilizes rod and reel.
Any Atlantic bluefin tuna caught by the Recreational Category above 73 inches in length falls into a special “Trophy” category when being retained by recreational fishermen. There is a sub-quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna above 73 inches in length and this is referred to as the “Trophy Category”. The Atlantic bluefin tuna Trophy Category annual fishing quota is extremely limited and recreational vessels are only allowed to retain one fish in this category per year until the Trophy Category annual fishing quota is fully utilized.
Vessels in the Recreational Category are typically 22-60 ft. in length. Catch in the Recreational Category cannot be sold.