Tuna Fishing Laws

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Some species of tuna can grow to 1,000 pounds or more. Anglers share stories about broken rods, being thrown into the ocean during a tuna run, and landing some the biggest fish of their lives. While tuna fishing can come with a wealth of memories and success, there are several rules anglers must obey when hunting the fish. Most wildlife officials and law enforcement agencies take tuna fishing laws seriously and rarely do violators receive leniency after breaking them.

Overfishing and Endangerment

    Yellowfin, albacore and bluefin tuna are highly fished. Bluefin, the most popular, has been threatened by overfishing, prompting several national governments to curb the number of tuna taken. In 2009, it was estimated that if stricter laws regarding bluefin fishing were not implemented, the species could be wiped out by 2012. In response, some countries, such as France, have even banned international trade on the species, and an increasing number of restaurants and markets have boycotted commercial sales of bluefin tuna.

Tuna Fishing Licensing

    In the United States, tuna fishing is only permitted from a boat. There are three tuna licenses available. Charter boat licenses allow anglers to pay a boat captain to fish for the day. Commercial tuna licenses apply to professional anglers who sell the fish on the open market. Recreational tuna licenses allow anglers to fish from personal crafts. Shore fishing for tuna is not permitted. All tuna caught from the shore must be released.

Registering Tuna Boats

    Each tuna fishing licensee must register his boat with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Anglers must provide the agency with a valid boat registration and information pertaining to the craft. Each boat owner must indicate boat length, size, propulsion information, year built and the name of its principal port. All this information must be verifiable through the United States Coast Guard.

Tuna Size and Creel Limits

    The size of a tuna is determined by measuring the body from the tip of the lower jaw to the end of the tail fork. As of 2010, recreational anglers are allowed two bluefin tuna per day. One fish may fall into the 27-to 43-inch range, while the second may span 47 to 73 inches. Three yellowin tuna are allowed per angler each day. Each fish must be at least 27 inches in length. The are no limits on albacore tuna.

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