The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) is a migratory species found in temperate and tropical coastal oceans worldwide. In the United States, bluefish are found along the entire east coast from Maine through Florida. Bluefish are blue-green on the back and silvery on the sides and belly. They have a pointed snout and a prominent jaw, with sharp, compressed teeth. Bluefish live up to 12 years and may exceed lengths of 39" and weights of 31 pounds. Bluefish eat a wide variety of prey and are particularly known for a feeding behavior called the "bluefish blitz" where large schools of fish attack bait near the surface.
Bluefish support recreational and commercial fisheries along the entire Atlantic coast. The recreational sector is most popular, accounting for 70 percent of the total catch by weight in the past 20 years. Although bluefish are excellent fish to eat, they do not freeze or transport well because powerful digestive enzymes cause their meat to deteriorates rapidly if not immediately iced. Because of these factors, bluefish is marketed mostly fresh or smoked.
Recreational fishermen mainly use rod and reel gear to catch bluefish. In the commercial sector, gillnets are the principal gear used, accounting for approximately 40 percent of commercial landings. Commercial fishermen also use hook and line gear and trawls to harvest bluefish.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council developed the first fishery management plan for bluefish in 1990 after the fishery experienced a substantial increase in fishing effort. Current annual quota for recreational fisheries and commercial fisheries are 83% and 17%, respectively. Any unused recreational quota can be re-allocated to commercial fisheries. According to the latest assessment update (2013), bluefish is not considered overfished, and overfishing is not occurring.
Fishery Management Plan and Amendments
Actions Under Development
The Mid-Atlantic Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) are developing an amendment to review and possibly revise the allocation of Atlantic bluefish between the commercial and recreational fisheries and the commercial allocations to the states. As part of this amendment the Council and ASMFC will also be reviewing the goals and objectives of the bluefish FMP and the quota transfer processes. Other issues may also be considered.
Fishery Performance Reports and Information Documents
Fishery Performance Reports are developed every year by each fishery's advisory panel to provide the Council and SSC with a description of the factors that influenced fishing effort and catch within each of the Council’s fisheries. Fishery Information Documents are annual summaries of the most recent catch, landings, and effort data.
Public hearings will be held after the release of the next bluefish operational assessment in 2019.
The Mid-Atlantic Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have scheduled scoping hearings to gather public input on the range of issues and information to be considered in the Bluefish Allocation Amendment. Hearings will be held June 20 – July 16 in nine coastal states from Massachusetts to Florida. Written comments will be accepted until July 30, 2018.
Beginning Monday, March 12, 2018, all charter and party vessel operators holding a federal permit for species managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council will be required to electronically submit Vessel Trip Reports for all trips carrying passengers for hire.
The Mid-Atlantic Council and the ASMFC met jointly last week in New York, NY to establish specifications for the summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, and bluefish fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries has announced the following annual catch limits for the 2015 bluefish fishery:
- Commercial quota: 5.241 million lb.
- Recreational harvest limit: 12.951 million lb.
- Combined total allowable landings: 18.19 million lb.
The following summary highlights Council actions and issues considered at the Council's meeting on August 11-14, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
NOAA Fisheries has announced proposed specifications for the 2014 Atlantic bluefish fishery, including an annual catch limit, total allowable landings, a commercial quota and recreational harvest limit, and a recreational possession limit.
NOAA Fisheries has announced that all permitted vessels in the Northeast region are now authorized to participate in electronic trip reporting (eVTR).
NOAA has announced that it is proposing revisions to the accountability measures for the Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic bluefish, summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries. Public comments will be accepted on the proposed measures until October 18, 2013.
Find out what happened at the Council's most recent meeting in Eatontown, New Jersey.
The Council has released a draft of its 5-year strategic plan for public comment. Comments from the public will be accepted through July 19, 2013 and reviewed by the Council at its August 13-15 meeting in Wilmington, DE. Read more...
At last week's meeting the Council voted on final management measures to include in the Omnibus Recreational Accountability Measure Amendment and approved the amendment to be submitted for Secretarial review. Read more...
The Northeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service has published a draft Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 Consultation on the Continued Implementation of Management Measures for seven Northeast fisheries. Download complete PDF/print version.