In the U.S., Atlantic bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin and albacore tuna are managed under the dual authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) and the Atlantic Tuna Conventions Act (ATCA), which authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to promulgate regulations to conserve and manage these fish stocks and comply with obligations as a contract party (signatory) to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) implements and enforces strict controls on U.S. participation, catch, and reporting for these fisheries in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and participates extensively in the international science and management process. Tunas are managed by the Highly Migratory Species Management Division of NOAA, headquartered in Silver Spring MD with a regional office in Gloucester MA. Further information can be found here.
In the U.S., there are 2 classes of vessels in the Atlantic tunas fishery: commercial and recreational. The commercial fleet is subdivided into industrial and small scale/artisanal vessels and further described, as follows:
Small Scale/Artisanal: General, Harpoon, Charter/Headboat and Handline vessels. These vessels are authorized to use handgear only, catching one fish at a time.
Industrial: Pelagic longline and Purse Seine. Longline and Purse Seine are industrial fishing systems capable of catching many fish at one time. Although there are a few permits still in existence, the U.S. Purse Seine bluefin tuna fishery is essentially dormant. Pelagic longline vessels target swordfish with bluefin, albacore, yellowfin and bigeye tuna caught as bycatch. There are approximately 80 vessels permitted to fish using longline in the U.S. In order to avoid the discarding of dead bluefin caught as bycatch in the longline fishery, these vessels are allowed to retain a limited number of bluefin. Longline vessels are allowed to retain an unlimited amount of bigeye, yellowfin and albacore tuna bycatch.
NOAA has its own scientific team for highly migratory fish species, the Sustainable Fisheries Division, located in NMFS’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. NOAA scientists regularly participate in stock assessments held by ICCAT for Atlantic bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore tuna. NOAA scientists also maintain a rigorous research program for these species. Further information can be found here.
Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel
NOAA Fisheries consults with a panel of advisors when it is drafting amendments to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Highly Migratory Species, also when addressing a host of issues that arise regularly in connection with the day-to-day management of the Atlantic bluefin, bigeye, albacore and yellowfin tuna fisheries. The Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel is comprised of recreational and commercial fishermen, academic scientists and environmentalists who are knowledgeable regarding HMS fisheries. HMS Advisory Panel participants are appointed for a term of two years and serve on a voluntary basis. This panel meets twice yearly. Further information can be found here.