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Golden Tilefish
(Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps)

Blueline and Golden Tilefish

Implementing regulations are found at 50 CFR part 648 subpart N

The blueline and golden tilefish fisheries in the Greater Atlantic Region are managed from Maine through Virginia and operate primarily in Southern New England and Mid-Atlantic waters. The majority of tilefish are caught with bottom longline gear with only a small amount of tilefish being caught incidentally in otter trawl gear. There is also a small recreational component to the golden tilefish fishery, and a larger recreational fishery for blueline tilefish.

The Tilefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) was initially developed for golden tilefish only by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council in 2001, and has operated under an individual fishing quota program since the implantation of Amendment 1 in 2009. In 2017, blueline tilefish was added to the region's Tilefish FMP through Amendment 6, due to increased activity in the Mid Atlantic. This species was previously only managed by the Southeast Region. At this time, neither stock is overfished or is experiencing overfishing.    


Click Below for Past Bulletins (Permit Holder Letters):

Tilefish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Cost Recovery Program

Annual Reports

Initial Tilefish IFQ Allocations

Current Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR)

What are other common names for blueline and golden tilefish?

Blueline Tilefish: Gray tilefish.

Golden Tilefish: Golden tilefish, tilefish, clown of the sea, golden bass, golden snapper, great northern tilefish, rainbow tilefish.

What time of year are these fish most commonly found? The fisheries occur year-round, and landings occur in all months.

What is the geographic extent of the fishery? 

Blueline Tilefish: Blueline tilefish can be found from Maine to Campeche, Mexico on the outer continental shelves, shelf breaks, and upper slopes.

Golden Tilefish: Golden tilefish are found along the outer continental shelf and slope from Nova Scotia, Canada to Suriname. The majority of the fishery is concentrated between Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, south to Cape May, New Jersey; more specifically between Hudson and Veatch Canyons.

At what depths are tilefish found? In southern New England/Mid-Atlantic region, golden tilefish generally occur at depths of 250 to 1200 ft, and blueline tilefish are typically found from 98 to 774 ft deep.

What other species caught when fishing for tilefish? The tilefish fisheries are very clean due to the gear used and typical location of directed trips. Because of the general nature of the fishery, and the fact that the overall landed and/or discarded pounds for directed trips are generally relatively very low, there are not many incidental species associated with the tilefish fisheries.

What gear types are authorized and what gears are primarily used?

For commercial fishing: longline, handline, rod and reel, and trawl are authorized; however the vast majority of both tilefish species are caught using bottom longline gear in the commercial fisheries.

For recreational fishing: rod and reel is the only authorized gear for golden tilefish. Blueline tilefish has no recreational gear restrictions, but rod and reel and spear are the most common gears used based on the authorized possession limits.

Who manages this fishery? Both blueline and golden tilefish are managed under a single Tilefish Management Plan by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, with the National Marine Fisheries Service serving as the implementing body for rules and regulations within the fishery.

How is the fishery managed? The golden tilefish fishery from Virginia through Maine has been managed under the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) since 2001. The commercial fishery has operated under an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program since 2009. The blueline tilefish fishery north of Virginia was added to the FMP in November 2017, and is managed with possession limits and a coast-wide quota system. The recreational fisheries for both species are managed with bag limits.

What is the fishing year for this fishery?

Blueline Tilefish: January 1 – December 31 

Golden Tilefish: November  1 – October 31

What are the different management areas for the tilefish fisheries? There are no specified management areas for either tilefish fishery. The NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Office manages blueline and golden tilefish in the Atlantic Ocean north of the VA/NC border. Tilefish south of the VA/NC border are managed separately under the Snapper Grouper Complex FMP by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. For information on the fishery south of Virginia, contact the NMFS Southeast Regional Office at (727) 824-5305.

1998 – NOAA Fisheries Service declares golden tilefish overfished 

2001 – Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council implements the Golden Tilefish Fishery Management Plan (FR Notice); includes system for dividing total allowable landings among three fishing categories and establishes limited entry for the commercial fishery

2001Framework Adjustment 1 (FR Notice) implemented to create quota set aside for the purpose of conducting research

2007Amendment 2 (FR Notice) implemented to standardize bycatch reporting methodology 

2009 – Amendment 1 (FR Notice) implements an IFQ program for the commercial fishery, establishes new reporting requirements, addresses recreational fishing issues, and establishes a ban on the use of bottom-tending mobile gear (including the otter trawls) within four deep-water canyons 

2011Amendment 3 (FR Notice), an omnibus amendment, specified mechanisms to set acceptable biological catch, annual catch limits, and accountability measures for numerous Mid-Atlantic fisheries.

2015 – Amendment 4 (FR Notice) implemented Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology

2017 Amendment 5 (FR Notice) implemented management measures to prevent the development of new, and the expansion of existing, commercial fisheries on certain forage species in the Mid-Atlantic

2017 Framework 3 (FR Notice) implemented a requirement for vessels that hold party/charter permits for Mid-Atlantic Council-managed species to submit vessel trip reports electronically (eVTRs) while on a trip carrying passengers for hire

2017 Amendment 6 (Blueline Tilefish Amendment) (FR Notice) added blueline tilefish (Caulolatilus microps) as a managed species in the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan; and changing the name of the plan to the Golden and Blueline Tilefish Fishery Management Plan

2018 Framework 2 (FR Notice) implemented several changes intended to improve and simplify the administration of the golden tilefish fishery. These changes include removing an outdated reporting requirement, proscribing allowed gear for the recreational fishery, modifying the commercial incidental possession limit, requiring commercial golden tilefish be landed with the head and fins attached, and revising how assumed discards are accounted for when setting harvest limits

2018 Framework 4 (FR Notice) an omnibus framework, modified the Mid-Atlantic Council's process for setting catch limits

What are the primary markets for the golden tilefish fishery? Human consumption; often used in sushi.   

What are the recent landings and value of the commercial fishery? In the Mid-Atlantic, golden tilefish landings and value are as follows:

Landings:  1.5 million lb (2017)

Ex-vessel landing value:  $4.5 million (2017)

Estimated average ex-vessel price per pound:  $3.33 (2017)

What are the top golden tilefish landing ports? During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Barnegat, NJ, was the principal golden tilefish port; more recently Pine Beach, NJ, and Montauk, NY, have accounted for most of the commercial landings.

**Note: Market data is not yet available for the Mid-Atlantic blueline tilefish fishery north of the VA/NC border.

Northeast Fisheries Science Center Stock Assessments - click here

Stock Golden Tilefish Blueline Tilefish**
Overfishing? No -
Overfishing Definition Overfishing occurs when F > FMSY; where FMSY = F25% -
Overfished? No -
Overfished Definition The stock is overfished when SSB < ½ SSB25% -
Rebuilding Program Progress As of the SAW 58 assessment in 2014, this stock is considered rebuilt -
FThreshold 0.37 -
Fishing Mortality Rate (F) 0.275 (2012) -
SSBThreshold 2,577 mt -
Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) 5,229 mt (2012) -

**The 2017 blueline tilefish stock assessment noted that despite recent regulatory changes, no indices were available for the area north of Cape Hatteras for blueline tilefish. The fishery was not established enough to provide sufficient data, and necessary survey data for the Mid-Atlantic was unavailable. Thus, there are no reference points for blueline tilefish in the Mid-Atlantic at this time, and the official overfished and overfishing status is unknown, though it is not expected to be overfished and there is no indication that overfishing is occuring.

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement: Amendment 1; 2009 (Volume 1, Volume 2

Most Recent Biological Opinion: Not Necessary

Most Recent Stock Assessment: SAW 58 (2014) for Golden Tilefish; and SEDAR 50 (2017) for Blueline Tilefish

Next Stock Assessment: Unknown / Not Scheduled

Quota Monitoring - click here

2019 Blueline Tilefish Specifications (January 1-December 31)

Overfishing Limit (OFL) Unknown
Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) 100,520 lb
Commercial Annual Catch Limit (ACL) 27,140 lb
Recreational ACL 73,380 lb
Commercial Annual Catch Target (ACT) 27,140 lb
Recreational ACT 73,380 lb
Commercial Total Allowable Landings (TAL) 26,869 lb
Recreational TAL 71,912 lb

2019 Golden Tilefish Specifications (November 1-October 31)

OFL 2.421 million lb
ABC 1.636 million lb
ACL 1.636 million lb
IFQ ACT 1.554 million lb
Incidental ACT 0.082 million lb
IFQ TAL 1.554 million lb
Incidental TAL 0.072 million lb

Research Set-Aside: Not applicable.

How often do the quotas change for this fishery? It can vary.  Measures may be in place for a single year or for a period of up to 3 years.

What if specifications are not in place at the start of the fishing year? The existing specifications roll over until replaced by new specifications. 

Are there in-season adjustments (changes mid-fishing year) in this fishery? Golden Tilefish: No, none (except through framework process).

Blueline Tilefish: Yes, if 70% of the annual blueline tilefish TAL is projected to be landed, the Regional Administrator may reduce the possession limit 300 lb of gutted blueline tilefish to prevent overfishing from occurring. Additionally, if 100% of the blueline tilefish commercial TAL will be fully harvested, then the commercial blueline tilefish fishery will be closed for the remainder of the fishing year.

Accountability Measures: 

Golden Tilefish: If the ACL is exceeded, the amount of the ACL overage that cannot be directly attributed to IFQ allocation holders having exceeded their IFQ allocation will be deducted from the ACL in the following fishing year. All overages directly attributable to IFQ allocation holders will be deducted from the appropriate IFQ allocation(s) in the following fishing year.

Blueline Tilefish: If the commercial ACL is exceeded, the amount of the ACL overage will be deducted from the commercial ACL in the following fishing year. In the event that the commercial ACL has been exceeded and the overage has not been accommodated through the landings-based AM, then the exact amount by which the commercial ACL was exceeded, in pounds, will be deducted, as soon as possible, from the applicable subsequent single fishing year commercial ACL.

If the recreational ACL is exceeded, then the exact amount, in pounds, by which the most recent year's recreational catch estimate exceeded the most recent year's recreational ACL will be deducted in the following fishing year, and changes to management measures would also be considered through the specifications process to avoid future overages.

2018 Quotas

Permit Categories

Permit Category Type Description Permits Issued in 2017 Number of Permits in Confirmation of Permit History2
Category 1 Commercial1 Open access permit for commercial harvest and sale of tilefish 1,804 Not applicable
Category 2 Recreational (Charter/Party) Open access permit that allows vessel operators to take passengers for hire to recreationally fish for tilefish 538 Not applicable

1 – Commercial permit holders in the golden tilefish fishery wishing to exceed the incidental possession limit must also hold an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Allocation Permit which is issued to an individual. For more information on possession limits of different permits, see the "Commercial>Limits / Sizes" tab on this page.

2 – 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: 12/14/2015 (blueline tilefish fishery only)

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 Greater Atlantic Region and fishing for or in possession of fish.

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

How to obtain a Federal fishing permit: Anyone with a valid vessel operator’s permit can obtain a Federal commercial tilefish permit by submitting a permit application and supporting documentation to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Permit Division. More information can be found on our permits page, here.

Recreational anglers will need to get a general recreational fishing license either through your state or through us to fish recreationally for marine species. More state information can be found here. General information on all recreational fishing in our region can be found here.

Other Administrative Information

IFQ Allocations (Golden Tilefish): Golden tilefish IFQ allocations are issued for the golden tilefish fishing year (November 1-October 31) and represent a percent of the annual total allowable landings after adjustments for incidental catch are deducted. IFQ allocations can also be reduced because of an overage in the previous year. Because of these factors, IFQ allocations can change on an annual basis. A vessel that was not initially issued an IFQ allocation, or does not currently own an allocation, can possess more than the incidental possession limit only by completing an allocation transfer with an IFQ allocation owner.

How to complete the interest declaration form: In order to obtain/maintain tilefish IFQ allocation, a person and/or entity must declare their interest in and acquire a Tilefish IFQ Allocation Permit. Tilefish interest declaration form can be found here. For more information, contact the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Permit Division, or visit this page.

How to complete an IFQ allocation transfer: IFQ allocations are fully transferable among persons or entities that are U.S. citizens or corporations eligible to own a U.S. Coast Guard documented vessel. An IFQ Allocation Transfer Form may be submitted any time after the tilefish IFQ allocations have been issued for a given fishing year. To be processed for the current fishing year, a transfer form must be received prior to September 1.

IFQ transfers may be temporary or permanent. A temporary IFQ transfer allows an IFQ allocation permit holder to lease out a temporary right to land a specified amount of tilefish to any other person or entity for the remainder of the fishing year. Temporary transfers may not be sub-leased.

A permanent IFQ transfer allows an IFQ allocation permit holder to permanently sell some or all of his/her tilefish IFQ allocation. Persons or entities receiving a permanent transfer of allocation in a given fishing year may not be able to fish all of that allocation if the prior owner had already landed tilefish under that year’s allocation. The new owner would receive the full IFQ allocation in the following fishing year. 

The form to complete an IFQ transfer can be found here.

No person or entity may own, or have an interest in, more that 49 percent of the total tilefish IFQ allocation. Temporary and permanent IFQ transfers are monitored by NMFS to ensure that this cap is not exceeded at any point during a fishing year.

Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements

Possession Limits:

Blueline tilefish: The commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish is 500 lb. Fish must have head and fins attached, but may be gutted.

Golden tilefish: The commercial/incidental trip limit (for vessels that possess a Commercial/Incidental Tilefish Permit without an IFQ Allocation Permit) is 500 lb or 50 percent, by weight, of all fish (including the golden tilefish) onboard the vessel, whichever is less. Fish must have head and fins attached, but may be gutted.
Any golden tilefish landed by a vessel fishing under an IFQ Allocation Permit on a given fishing trip count as landings under the IFQ Allocation Permit. Commercial vessels are prohibited from discarding golden tilefish, unless fishing under the incidental catch limit.

Fish size Limits: There are no fish size limits in the tilefish fisheries. 

Minimum fish size: None.

Maximum fish size: None.

Discarding: Discarding golden tilefish is prohibited when fishing under an IFQ allocation. 

Gear Requirements

Bottom-tending mobile gear (such as trawl gear) may not be used in specified gear-restricted areas. See the 'Commercial>Areas' tab for more information on these restricted gear areas.

There are no other gear requirements in the commercial tilefish fisheries.

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

There are no specific regulated areas for the tilefish fisheries within the Maine through Virginia management region. However, south of the VA/NC border, tilefish are managed separately by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. For information on the fishery south of Virginia, contact the NMFS Southeast Regional Office at (727) 824-5305.

There are also four canyons that have been designated "Tilefish Gear Restricted Areas." These areas are closed to vessels with bottom-tending mobile gear and are described in the tilefish regulations at 50 CFR 648.297. No vessel of the United States may fish with bottom-tending mobile gear (otter trawls, beam trawls, hydraulic dredges, non-hydraulic dredges, and seines) within the restricted areas described below; which include Lydonia, Norfolk, Oceanographer, and Veatch Canyons.

Tilefish Gear Restricted Areas

Tilefish Gear Restricted Area Locations

Lydonia Canyon Norfolk Canyon Oceanographer Canyon Veatch Canyon
N Lat. W Long. N Lat. W Long. N Lat. W Long. N Lat. W Long.
40°31'55.2" 67°43'1.2" 37°5'50" 74°45'34" 40°29'50" 68°10'30" 40°0'40" 69°37'8"
40°28'52" 67°38'43" 37°6'58" 74°40'48" 40°29'30" 68°8'34.8" 40°41'69" 69°35'25"
40°21'39.6" 67°37'4.8" 37°4'31" 74°37'46" 40°25'51.6" 68°6'36" 39°54'43" 69°33'54"
40°21'39.6" 67°37'4.8" 37°4'1" 74°33'50" 40°22'22.8" 68°6'50.4" 39°54'43" 69°40'52"
40°21'4" 67°43'1" 36°58'37" 74°36'58" 40°19'40.8" 68°4'48" - -
40°28'31" 67°43' 37°4'26" 74°41'2" 40°19'5" 68°2'19" - -
- - - - 40°16'41" 68°1'16" - -
- - - - 40°14'28" 68°11'28" - -

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements

The tilefish fisheries are not managed by a DAS system.  Please see the ‘Quota’ and ‘Limits/Sizes’ tabs on this webpage for more information on effort control in the tilefish fisheries.

Exempted Fisheries

What is an Exempted Fishery?

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.

Tilefish Fishery Exemptions

There are no exempted fisheries for the tilefish fisheries.

Protected Resource 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

Trawl Gear

Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles

Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements

Open Season:

Blueline Tilefish: May 1 through October 31

Golden Tilefish: Year round

Possession Limits:

Blueline Tilefish: The recreational possession limit of blueline is dependent upon the type of fishing vessel being used:

  • Private boat: 3 fish per person, per trip
  • USCG uninspected for-hire vessel (e.g., charter boats): 5 fish per person, per trip*
  • USCG inspected for-hire vessel (e.g., party boats): 7 fish per person, per trip*

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

Golden Tilefish: Eight fish per angler, per trip

Fish size Limits: There are no fish size limits in the tilefish fisheries. 

Minimum fish size:  None.

Maximum fish size:  None.

Gear Requirements

Golden Tilefish: Any vessel engaged in recreational fishing may not retain golden tilefish, unless exclusively using rod and reel fishing gear, with a maximum limit of five hooks per rod. Anglers may use either a manual or an electric reel.

Blueline Tilefish: There are no gear requirements in the blueline tilefish charter/party and recreational fisheries.

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

There are no area restrictions in the tilefish charter/party and recreational fisheries.    

DAS Requirements

The tilefish charter/party and recreational fisheries are not managed by a DAS system.  Please see the ‘Quotas’ and ‘Recreational>Limits / Sizes’ tabs for more information on effort control in the recreational tilefish fisheries. 

Exempted Fisheries

There are no exempted fisheries or areas for the charter/party and/or recreational component of the tilefish fisheries.

Protected Resource and Marine Mammal Regulations

Not Applicable.

Commercial Reporting

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements: There are no VMS requirements for these fisheries.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements: The tilefish fisheries do not have any IVR requirements.

Observer Requirements: The tilefish fisheries do 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.

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTRs): Tilefish IFQ Allocation Permit holders are required to submit catch reports through the IVR System as explained above in the IVR section.

In addition, VTRs must be maintained on board the vessel and submitted to NMFS for all commercial fishing trips, regardless of species retained.  Instructions for completing the VTR can be found here. VTRs must be received by NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month. For vessels that also hold a Northeast multispecies permit, VTRs must be submitted weekly by Tuesday of the week after the fishing trip ends.  Copies of VTRs must be retained on board the vessel for 1 year after the date of the last entry on the log and otherwise retained for 3 years after the date of the last entry on the log.

Charter/Party and Recreational Reporting

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements: There are no VMS requirements for the Charter/Party and recreational fishery. 

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements: There are no IVR requirement for the charter/party and recreational fishery.

Observer Requirements: The tilefish 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.

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTRs): VTRs must be maintained on board the vessel and submitted to NMFS for all fishing trips, for charter/party permit holders regardless of species retained. Instructions for completing the VTR can be found here.

Charter/Party vessel permit owners and operators with a Federal permit charter/party (for-hire) permit to fish for tilefish (and other Mid-Atlantic species) must submit the required Vessel Trip Report by electronic means through a software application approved by NMFS. These electronic log VTRs must be submitted within 48 hours after entering port at the conclusion of a trip. More information of the eVTR requirements and help with electronic reporting can be found here.

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