NOAA 95-R154

Contact: Gordon Helm                         FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
        (301) 713-2370                       11/9/95


A new permit to catch any species of Atlantic tuna is required for commercial vessels, charter boats, headboats and dealers by Nov. 15, 1995, and private angling vessels by Jan. 1, 1996, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service announced.

The new permit was established to improve the fisheries service's recreational surveys and reporting of tuna landings by commercial vessels, as well as extend the information needed to better manage all tuna species.

This is the first season in which every tuna fishing vessel and dealer is required to hold the Atlantic Tunas Permit (ATP). Although the final rule was published in July, fisheries service officials fear that many tuna fishermen haven't yet received word that the federal permit is required.

For commercial fishing vessels and dealers, an ATP is required in order to fish for, sell, or purchase bluefin, yellowfin, albacore, bigeye, or skipjack tuna and Atlantic bonito throughout the management area. This area includes the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Recreational angling vessels must obtain a permit, except if they fish only for bonito and no other tunas. Permits are issued to vessels and are not required for shore-based anglers taking any of the Atlantic tunas. Tunas caught by recreational anglers may not be sold.

Some vessels or dealers do not need this permit because they hold other permits issued by the fisheries service. Vessels or dealers with a valid Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Permit do not need the ATP. Upon expiration, bluefin tuna permits will be renewed as the new ATP. Vessels or dealers with a valid permit for Atlantic sharks or swordfish also do not need to possess the ATP in order to fish for, sell or purchase yellowfin, albacore, bigeye, or skipjack tuna, or Atlantic bonito, but will need the ATP to land, sell, or retain incidentally caught bluefin tuna.

Individuals caught fishing without the permit are subject to fines of up to $100,000 and may face forfeiture of their catch, gear, or vessel - or all three.

Application forms are available from the National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Regional Office, Permit Office, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-3799, or call (508) 281-9370.