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Mid-Atlantic Blueline Tilefish Fishery; Implementation of Amendment 6, Blueline Tilefish Management

Sustainable  Fisheries Division
(978) 281 –9315
November 14, 2017

Final Rule Effective Date: December 15, 2017

We are implementing regulations for Amendment 6 to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Tilefish Fishery Management Plan. This action sets commercial and recreational management measures for the blueline tilefish fishery in the Mid-Atlantic. Blueline tilefish (Caulolatilus microps) is also known as grey tilefish.

Affected Region:

These new regulations apply in federal waters north of the Virginia/North Carolina border (36.550278 N Latitude). The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council manages blueline tilefish south of this line under its Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan.

Commercial Measures:

Possession limit:  Commercial vessels may not possess or land more than 300 lb of blueline tilefish per trip. Tilefish must be landed with the head and fins naturally attached, but may be gutted.

Permitting and Reporting:  Commercial vessels must hold a commercial tilefish permit in order to retain blueline tilefish. Other standard requirements of Greater Atlantic commercial permits also apply, such as:  Have an operator permit; submit vessel trip reports (VTR); sell exclusively to federally permitted tilefish dealers; and carry an observer if requested.

Recreational Measures:

Season:  The recreational fishery is open from May 1 through October 31 of each year, and closed from November 1 through April 30. Therefore, when this rule becomes effective, the recreational fishery will close until May 1, 2018.

Possession limit:  Starting May 1, 2018, the bag limit for blueline tilefish depends on the type of fishing vessel.

Vessel Type

Possession Limit

Private boat

3 fish per person

USCG uninspected for-hire (e.g., charter boats)

5 fish per person*

USCG inspected for-hire (e.g., party boats)

7 fish per person*

*The captain and crew are not counted when checking the limit of pooled fish on a for-hire vessel.

Permitting and Reporting:  For-hire vessels must hold a tilefish charter/party vessel permit to fish for or retain blueline tilefish.

Amendment 6 includes new permitting and reporting requirements for private recreational vessels. These measures are not being implemented at this time. Because they require additional development and outreach, the private vessel permitting and reporting requirements will be implemented later through a separate rule, and will not be in effect for the 2018 fishing season.


This action sets catch limits for 2017 and 2018, including an overall acceptable biological catch (ABC), which is divided into annual catch limits (ACL) for the recreational fishery (73%) and the commercial fishery (27%). Total allowable landings (TAL), which are what the fishery can actually land, are set by deducting anticipated discards from the ACL. The catch limits for 2017 and 2018 are:





87,031 lb


63,533 lb

23,498 lb


62,262 lb

23,263 lb

Frequently Asked Questions

I already have a Tilefish Commercial, Charter/Party, or Dealer permit for golden tilefish. Do I need another permit?

No, you do not need a new permit. The existing tilefish permits (for Commercial vessels, Charter/Party vessels, or Dealers) will now cover both tilefish species (golden and blueline).

Can I land fish in the South Atlantic Area if I caught them in the Mid-Atlantic Area?

No. You cannot land blueline tilefish in the south Atlantic (e.g., in North Carolina) that were caught in the mid-Atlantic (e.g., off Virginia) Each region has its own permitting and reporting requirements with catch limits that are monitored and enforced separately.

Will tilefish charter/party vessels need to submit VTRs electronically?

Yes, the recent rule to require all Mid-Atlantic Council for-hire permit holders to submit VTRs electronically also applies to the tilefish charter/party permit (82 FR 42610; September 11, 2017). That rule becomes effective in March 2018, so it will apply when the blueline tilefish recreational season opens on May 1, 2018.

If a charter boat is U.S. Coast Guard inspected, which possession limit applies?

The 7-fish per person limit. Smaller for-hire boats, like 6-pack charters, are not typically required to undergo this safety inspection. However, if a vessel owner chooses to be inspected, the boat would qualify for the higher limit.

Why are the captain and crew not included when calculating the recreational possession limit?

This is to be consistent with the recreational possession limit regulations set by the Mid-Atlantic Council for summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, and bluefish.

Who can I speak with if I have questions?

For questions about this final rule, please contact our Sustainable Fisheries Division at 978-281-9315.

For small entity compliance guides, this bulletin complies with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996.  This notice is authorized by the Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Region.