Fishing directed to the east coast produces relatively small yields of school-age fish and medium-sized bluefin tuna, and recreational fishing makes up most of the catch. Currently, commercial fisheries can catch and sell three large bluefin tuna per trip, while recreational fishermen can keep one bluefin tuna per day. Bluefin tuna migrations bring spawn-age tuna of at least nine years old to the Gulf from January to June. Bluefin tuna from the western Atlantic is the target of tuna and swordfish fisheries along the east coast of the United States.
As a result, the breeding population of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic has declined by more than 82 percent. Tuna fishing is very restrictive in terms of the number and size of fish that they are allowed to catch and hold. The rules on fillets for tuna were also amended to allow species identification by law enforcement officers and biologists. The California recreational tuna regulations (Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), sections 27.65 and 28.38, were amended to comply with federal regulations that reduce catch, in accordance with international treaty agreements addressing overfishing in the North Pacific.
There is a subquota for Atlantic bluefin tuna over 73 inches long and this is called the “Trophy Category”. All Atlantic bluefin tuna caught in the recreational category over 73 inches long falls into a special “trophy” category when retained by recreational fishermen. The American Bluefin Tuna Association represents the four main categories of fishermen who catch bluefin, bigeye, albacore and yellowfin tuna from the Atlantic using conventional hook and line, harpoon, hand line and green stick gear. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds fishermen that the new recreational regulations for Pacific bluefin tuna and other tunas, adopted last year by the California Fish and Game Commission, are now in effect and are available for review in the current California ocean sport fishing regulation booklet.
Recreational fishermen report their catches of bigeye, yellowfin and Atlantic albacore tuna on a voluntary basis, but are subject to a mandatory reporting scheme for Atlantic bluefin tuna. In response to the recommendation of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) to reduce recreational and commercial landings of Pacific bluefin tuna, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) examined a set of reduction options for daily recreational baggage limits on the West Coast. Past bluefin tuna harvests around the world have demonstrated that this species is highly susceptible to population collapse caused by commercial crops, and some populations never recover to commercially viable levels. In recent years, approximately 20,000 recreational tuna fishing permits have been issued in the Atlantic every year.
The CIAT fisheries management recommendations contained in CIAT resolution C-14-06 call for reducing the commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna by 20 to 45 percent of the average catch from 2002 to 2004 across the Pacific for treaty member countries.