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Atlantic Bluefish (Pomotomus saltatrix)

Atlantic Bluefish

Implementing regulations are found at 50 CFR part 648 subpart J

The Atlantic bluefish fishery in the U.S. operates from Maine to Florida.  Bluefish are highly migratory along the U.S. Atlantic coast and seasonally move.  The bluefish fishery uses predominantly gillnets, but other gear also includes hook and line, pound nets, seines, and trawls.  The recreational fishery accounts for the majority of the bluefish total catch each year.  The market for bluefish is for human consumption and is primarily sold fresh or smoked. 

 


Click Below for Past Bulletins (Permit Holder Letters):

What are other common names for bluefish fishery?  Snapper, baby blues, choppers, elfs, tailors

What time of year are Atlantic bluefish most commonly found?  There is seasonality to both the commercial and recreational fisheries due to the migratory nature of the species.  In general, fishing effort follows the north-south seasonal migratory pattern.  Fishing is concentrated in the south Atlantic in January and February, moves north to the mid-Atlantic in the early spring, to New England for the summer and fall, back to the mid-Atlantic in late fall, and in the south Atlantic for the winter.  The majority of recreational activity in 2010 occurred from May to October, with peak activity in September and October.

What is the geographical extent of Atlantic bluefish?  Bluefish are a schooling species found from Maine to Florida.  During winter, large bluefish tend to remain in the mid-Atlantic Bight moving south to North Carolina by March.  Small fish move farther south in winter with some fish wintering off Florida.  As water temperatures increase, spring migration north begins.  Seven statistical areas (636, 612, 613, 635, 539, and 538) comprised at least 5% of the total commercial bluefish catch in 2009, collectively accounting for 70.7% of the commercial bluefish catch and 58.3% of the commercial trips that caught bluefish.  Note that the vessel log database used to characterize commercial harvest does not extend outside the NE region.  In 2010, approximately 76% of the commercial harvest came from New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

At what depths are Atlantic bluefish found?  Juveniles and adults are found primarily in waters less than 20 m deep.

Are other species caught when fishing for bluefish?  The fisher often harvests mixed species including bonito, Atlantic croaker, weakfish, spiny dogfish, and others.

What gear types are authorized and what gears are primarily used?  Authorized gears for the commercial fishery include:  longline, handline, bandit gear, rod and reel, purse seine, seine pot, trap, trawl, gillnet, and dredge.   Authorized gears for the recreational fishery include:  rod and reel, handline, trap, pot, and spear.  The principle gears in the recreational fishery are rod and reel and handline.  The commercial fishery is primarily prosecuted with gillnets, otter trawls, and handlines.  In 2009, gillnets accounted for 94.3% of the directed catch, trawl gear for 2.4%, and hook gear for 3.12%.  Approximately 0.18% of all otter trawl trips in 2009 were directed bluefish trips.  A small localized beach seine fishery operates along the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

How is the fishery managed?  Bluefish is managed using a bag limit for the recreational fishery and an annual quota allocated to the states for the commercial fishery.

Who manages this fishery?  Bluefish is jointly managed in state and Federal waters by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries in conjunction with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

What is the fishing year for this fishery?  January 1 – December 31

What are the different management areas for the bluefish fishery?   Florida to Maine

Late 1970s – Potential markets for bluefish in Africa and South America stimulate tuna purse seiners to consider harvesting bluefish; this interest prompts concerned recreational anglers to petition Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to develop a management plan for bluefish 

1980s – Bluefish is one of top three recreational species along the Atlantic coast; from 1979 to 1987, more bluefish (by weight) were landed by anglers coastwide than any other fish 

1984 – Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council completes Bluefish Fishery Management Plan, in cooperation with NOAA Fisheries, the New England and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission; Secretary of Commerce rejects plan but concern for the resource remains 

1989-1990 – Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission complete current Bluefish Fishery Management Plan; Council adopts plan in 1989, NOAA Fisheries adopts plan in 1990; management measures include a permit to catch and sell bluefish and limits on the amount of bluefish an angler or vessel can possess; allocates no more than 20% of total catch to commercial fishery 

2000 – Managers implement Amendment 1 (Volume 1, Volume 2, Federal Register (FR) Notice) to the management plan which included a 9-year rebuilding plan, requiring the bluefish stock to be rebuilt by Dec 31, 2009; also reduced the commercial share to 17% of the total catch 

2001 – Framework 1 (FR Notice) created a quota set-aside for the purpose of conducting scientific research

2007Amendment 2 (FR Notice) standardized bycatch reporting methodology

2009 – Atlantic bluefish declared rebuilt

2011Amendment 3 (FR Notice) established annual catch limits and accountability measures

2014 – Amendment 4 (FR Notice) changed recreational accountability measures

What are the primary markets for the bluefish fishery?  Human consumption

What are the recent landings and value of the commercial fishery?

Landings:  5.018 million lb (2012)

Ex-vessel landing value:  $3.248 million (2012)

Estimated average ex-vessel price per pound:  $0.65 (2012)

What are the top bluefish landing ports?  Wanchese, NC, and Barnegat Light/Long Beach, NJ

Northeast Fisheries Science Center Bluefish Information – click here

StockAtlantic Bluefish
Overfishing?No
Overfishing DefinitionOverfishing occurs when F > FMSY
Overfished?No
Overfished DefinitionThe stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY
Rebuilding Program ProgressYes, bluefish stock declared rebuilt in 2009
F/FMSY0.19
Fishing Mortality Rate0.114 (2011)
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy324.192 million lb
Biomass292.972 (2011)

 

Other Stock Status Information:  Not Applicable

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement:  Amendment 1; 2000 (Volume 1, Volume 2)

Most Recent Biological Opinion:  2013   

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2012

Next Stock Assessment:  Not yet scheduled

Quota Monitoring – click here

2014 Annual Bluefish Specifications (January 1-December 31)

Stock Atlantic Bluefish
Overfishing Limit (OFL) 38.624 million lb
Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) 24.432 million lb
Annual Catch Limit (ACL) 24.432 million lb
Annual Catch Target (ACT) 24.432 million lb
Total Allowable Landings (TAL) 21.081 million lb

 

Commercial Total Allowable Landings (TAL) (17%):  4.153 million lb (before transfer)

Recreational TAL (83%):  16.927 million lb (before transfer)

Research Set-Aside (up to 3%):  99,000 lb

Final Commercial Quota:  7.458 million lb

2014 Bluefish State-by-State Allocations

State Percent Share Commercial Quota (lb)
Maine 0.67 49,861
New Hampshire 0.41 30,916
Massachusetts 6.72 500,970
Rhode Island 6.81 507,786
Connecticut 1.27 94,448
New York 10.38 774,579
New Jersey 14.82 1,105,075
Delaware 1.88 140,087
Maryland 3.00 223,891
Virginia 11.88 886,040
North Carolina 32.06 2,391,274
South Carolina 0.04 2,625
Georgia 0.01 709
Florida 10.06 750,309
Total 100.01 7,458,570

 

Recreational Harvest Limit (RHL):  13.523 million lb

How often do the quotas change for this fishery?  Every year

What if specifications are not in place at the start of fishing year?  The fishery functions without a quota until the final specifications of the current year are finalized.

Are there inseason adjustments (changes mid-fishing year) in this fishery?  Yes, if a state commercial bluefish quota is fully harvested, then that state’s bluefish fishery will be closed.  Additionally, states can transfer commercial quota among states to avoid exceeding state quotas or to address other contingencies in the fishery.

Accountability Measures:

Commercial – Any overages of the commercial quota in any state will be deducted from that state’s annual quota for the following year, irrespective of whether the fishery-level ACL is exceeded.  If a state has increased or reduced quota through the transfer process, then any overage will be measured against that state’s final adjusted quota.

Recreational – When ACL is exceeded and no sector-to-sector transfer of allowable landings has occurred – If the fishery-level ACL is exceeded, the total catch exceeds the ABC, or the total catch exceeds the OFL, and landings from the recreational fishery are determined to be the sole cause of the overage, and no transfer between the commercial and recreational sector was made for the fishing year, then a system of accountability measures will be used that are based on a combination of how high the overage is and what condition the stock is in.  In other words, the status of the stock determines what type of management response would be implemented, including adjustment of management measures, scaled payback of overage, or pound-for-pound overage payback.  These adjustments will be made in the following fishing year, or as soon as possible, as a single year adjustment.

When ACL is exceeded and a sector-to-sector transfer of allowable landings has occurred – If the fishery-level ACL is exceeded and landings from the recreational fishery and/or the commercial fishery are determined to have caused the overage, and a transfer between the commercial and recreational sector has occurred for the fishing year, then the amount transferred between the recreational and commercial sectors may be reduced by the ACL overage amount (pound-for-pound repayment) in a subsequent, single fishing year if the Bluefish Monitoring Committee determines that the ACL overage was the result of too liberal a landings transfer between the two sectors.  If the Bluefish Monitoring Committee determines that the ACL overage was not the result of the landings transfer, the recreational system of accountability measures, described above, will be implemented.

Other:  The Fishery Management Plan specifies that, if 17% of the ACT is less than 10.5 million lb, and the recreational fishery is not projected to land its harvest limit for the upcoming year, the commercial fishery may be allocated up to 10.5 million lb as its quota, provided that the combination of the projected recreational landings and the commercial quota does not exceed the ACT.  The RHL would then be adjusted downward so that the ACT would be unchanged.

Click Below for Past Quota Information:

2013

Permit Categories

Permit CategoryTypeDescriptionNumber of Issued Permits (2013)Number of Permits in Confirmation of Permit History*
Category 1CommercialVessel that fishes for, catches, possesses, transports, lands, sells, or trades bluefish2,693Not Applicable
Category 2RecreationalVessel that carries passengers for hire855Not Applicable

*A Confirmation of Permit History allows a vessel owner to retain permit eligibility in the event the vessel has been destroyed or sold but the owner retains the permit eligibility.  The permit in Confirmation of Permit History may then be placed on a vessel at a later date.

Control Date:  May 29, 1997

Other Permit Information:  Not Applicable

Commercial Operator Permit:  Operator cards are required for any operator of a charter/party boat or a commercial vessel (including carrier and processor vessels) issued a vessel permit from the Northeast Region and fishing for or in possession of fish.

Commercial Dealer/Processor Permit:  Bluefish may be sold only to persons possessing a valid Federal bluefish dealer permit. 

How to Obtain a Federal Fishing Permit:  Anyone with a valid vessel operator’s permit can obtain a Federal bluefish permit by submitting a permit application and supporting documentation to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Permit Division.  More information can be found here.

Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements

There is no possession limit for the commercial fishery (check state regulations).

Maine

New Hampshire

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

Connecticut

New York

New Jersey

Delaware

Maryland

Virginia

North Carolina

South Carolina

Georgia

Florida

Fish Size Limits:  

None (check state regulations)

Minimum Fish Size:  None

Maximum Fish Size:  None

Gear Requirements

Not Applicable

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

Not Applicable

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements

The bluefish fishery is not managed by a DAS system.  Please see the ‘Quota’ and ‘Limits/Sizes’ section of this webpage for more information on effort control in the bluefish fishery. 

Exempted Fisheries

Exempted fisheries allow fishing vessels to fish for specific species without being subject to certain Northeast multispecies regulations, including days-at-sea, provided the bycatch of regulated species is minimal. To be approved and implemented, exemption programs must have demonstrated that incidental catch of NE multispecies is less than 5 percent of the total catch, by weight, and that the exemption will not jeopardize fishing mortality objectives.

How to Request Fishery Exemptions

An exempted fishery may be added, deleted, or modified pursuant to the procedure described below:

  1. Applicants must submit a written request to the Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298. The request should describe the area in which the fishery would operate, the period in which it would operate, the gear it would use, the approximate number of vessels likely to participate, and the species it would target, retain, and land.
  2. Those proposing that a fishery should be exempt should describe the fishery and present all information possible that helps determine that the fishery meets the bycatch standard. The Regional Administrator will investigate NMFS data sources, but proposals for exemptions should be complete and clear to facilitate the process. State agencies and universities, for example, may have additional data available and applicants may contact them for assistance.
  3. When a request for an exempted fishery is submitted, the request and any accompanying data are reviewed by the Regional Administrator to determine whether such a fishery would meet the exemption qualifying criteria.  The Regional Administrator will also consult with the New England Fishery Management Council on any exemptions requested. This process may take several months to complete.

There are no exempted fisheries for the bluefish fishery.

Protected Resources and Marine Mammal Regulations

It is illegal to harvest or possess protected species unless otherwise specified under the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act or Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Please see links below for more information or contact NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Protected Resources Division at (978) 281-9328.

Protected Fish Species

Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles

Gillnets

Marine Mammals 

Sea Turtles  

Trawl

Marine Mammals 

Sea Turtles

Trap/Pot

Marine Mammals 

Sea Turtles

Weir/Seine

Marine Mammals 

Sea Turtles

Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements

The possession limit for the recreational fishery is 15 fish per person (also check state regulations).

Maine

New Hampshire

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

Connecticut

New York

New Jersey

Delaware

Maryland

Virginia

North Carolina

South Carolina

Georgia

Florida

Fish Size Limits:  None (check state regulations)

Minimum Fish Size:  None

Maximum Fish Size:  None

Gear Requirements

Not Applicable

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

Not Applicable

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements

The bluefish fishery is not managed by a DAS system.  Please see the ‘Quota’ and ‘Limits/Sizes’ section of this webpage for more information on effort control in the bluefish fishery. 

Exempted Fisheries

Not Applicable

Protected Resource and Marine Mammal Regulations

Not Applicable

Commercial Reporting

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR):  VTRs must be submitted with record of all fishing activity for each month.  The reports must be submitted to NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month.  Reports can also be submitted electronically here.  If no fishing activity took place during a fishing month, then a VTR must be submitted stating that no fishing trips were taken.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements:  The bluefish fishery does not have any IVR requirements.  However, if you are participating in a research program such as research set-aside (RSA) or fishing with an exempted fishing permit (EFP), there are IVR requirements.  Please refer to your RSA or EFP paperwork for instructions on using IVR.

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements:  The bluefish fishery does not have any VMS requirements.

Observer Requirements:  The bluefish fishery does not have any specific observer requirements, however all federally permitted vessels are obligated to carry an observer if randomly selected by the National Observer Program.

Charter/Party and Recreational Reporting

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR):  VTRs must be submitted with record of all fishing activity for each month.  The reports must be submitted to NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month.  Reports can also be submitted electronically here.  If no fishing activity took place during a fishing month, then a VTR must be submitted stating that no fishing trips were taken.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements:  The bluefish fishery does not have any IVR requirements.  However, if you are participating in a research program such as research set-aside (RSA) or fishing with an exempted fishing permit (EFP), there are IVR requirements.  Please refer to your RSA or EFP paperwork for instructions on using IVR.

Reporting is not required for the recreational fishery, but the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is a system of voluntary coordinated data collection programs designed to estimate recreational catch and effort.