NOAA 99-R161
Contact: Gordon Helm


Based on feedback from Atlantic tunas permit holders, the National Marine Fisheries Service has significantly improved the Atlantic tunas permitting and recreational bluefin tuna landings reporting system, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

NOAA Fisheries has contracted with AppNet, Inc. to issue Atlantic tunas permits for the 2000 fishing season. These permits, available beginning Dec. 1, 1999, allow vessels to fish for Atlantic bluefin, yellowfin, skipjack, albacore, and bigeye tunas. All current permits issued for this year expire on Dec. 31, 1999. Current permit holders are being mailed a reminder notice with renewal instructions.

"We have responded to fishermen's complaints about the permitting process, and have worked hard to improve our service," said Penny Dalton, NOAA Fisheries director. "Better utilizing the Internet and other technical improvements will speed up the permit process for the thousands of fishermen who want the opportunity to catch these highly-prized species."

Vessel owners may renew or obtain an initial (new) permit by using the Internet at: or by phoning toll-free (888) 872-8862, using the automated system or speaking to a Customer Service agent. The fee for new permits and renewals is $25.00, payable by credit card or money order.

"The increased capabilities offered through the Internet and fax back channels of the new permit system will offer fishermen almost instant access to a permit," said project manager Michael Fraser. "Under the new system, if you are eligible and can pay by credit card, you can either print your permit immediately or have it faxed to you."

Vessel owners can choose to receive their Atlantic tunas permit a number of ways; by printing it off the Internet following approval of their application, or by fax, Priority mail, or First Class mail.

Recreational tuna permit holders also are required to report their recreational landings of bluefin tuna using the website or phone system beginning Jan. 1, 2000.

The fishing year for Atlantic tunas also has changed, and the new permits will reflect that change. Atlantic tuna permits issued in 2000 will be valid from the date of issuance through May 31, 2001. The Atlantic tunas permit will then be renewable on an annual, fishing year basis. NOAA Fisheries changed the fishing year for Atlantic tunas to June through May of the following year to speed the implementation of international fishery management recommendations. The fishing year changes were part of regulations that implemented the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks that went into effect earlier this year.

Another new regulation in the Highly Migratory Species FMP requires owners of charter boats or headboats that fish for Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish, or billfish to obtain a Highly Migratory Species Charter/Headboat permit which covers all species under the FMP. This new permit will replace the current Atlantic tunas Charter/Headboat permit. This requirement will be effective once the Office of Management and Budget approves the new class of permit. An Atlantic tunas Charter/Headboat permit will be valid for use as an HMS Charter/Headboat permit until its expiration date of May 31, 2001.

For questions regarding the Atlantic tunas permit process, call AppNet Customer Service at (888) 872-8862, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time. You may also listen to or view updates to the regulations via the toll-free automated telephone system or the website. For further questions regarding Atlantic tunas or HMS Charter/Headboat regulations, call the Gloucester, Mass. Office of NOAA's Highly Migratory Species Management Division at (978) 281-9260.