Catch Card and Tagging Program

Recreational Catch Card and Tagging Program for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT), Billfishes, and Coastal Sharks


Globally, tunas, billfishes (White Marlin (Kajikia albida), Blue Marlin (Makaira nigricans), Roundscale Spearfish (Tetrapturus georgii), Swordfish (Xiphias gladius), and Sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus)), and some sharks are governed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). It is the mission of ICCAT to ensure "the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas (ICCAT, 2013)." To manage these species, ICCAT assigns catch quotas to each member country. In the United States (US), tuna and billfish recommendations from ICCAT are implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) division of Highly Migratory Species (HMS) under the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and Magnuson Stevens Act. The Fishery Conservation Amendments of 1990 classified tunas and billfishes to be Highly Migratory Species (HMS). In 1996, the Sustainable Fisheries Act modified the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act to form advisory panels that aid in creating fishery management plans to manage billfishes and Highly Migratory Species (HMS). Responsibilities of the panels include lowering bycatch and mortality related to bycatch, and stopping overfishing (NMFS, 2013).

The 2011 National Marine Recreational Fishery Expenditures Survey estimates that marine anglers spent $19 billion dollars on equipment and durable goods such as boats and tackle. In addition to this, $4.4 billion is thought to have been spent on commodities associated with trips like bait and fuel. An estimate places the number of jobs supported by these expenditures at 364,000, with the total impacts on the U.S. economy believed to be $56 million (Lovell et al., 2013). Accurately monitoring the recreational harvest of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT; Thunnus thynnus), billfishes, and sharks along the Atlantic coast is vitally important to the cultural, social, and economic impacts that recreational fishing has on Ocean City, MD.

In 2013, anglers in search of Highly Migratory Species (HMS) off Maryland and Delaware took an estimated 7,174 trips (Personal communication from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics Division January 29, 2014). For all species in 2013, out-of-state anglers accounted for 38% of saltwater fishing (Personal communication from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics Division January 15, 2014). One study credited the 2009 White Marlin Open with pumping $16 million dollars into the regional economy and the creation of 130 jobs. An estimated 5,000 people came from other states during the tournament week (Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Division of Marketing and Communications-Office of Research, 2010). Monitoring of this important fishery is a priority for Maryland and is a useful tool for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) management.

In the late 1990's, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) required all recreational anglers to report Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT; Thunnus thynnus) landings via a toll free phone number. In Maryland, that system was determined to be ineffective for accurately documenting recreational Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT; Thunnus thynnus) landings. As a result, NMFS worked with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to implement an Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT; Thunnus thynnus) Catch Card and Tagging Program as an alternative method in 1999.

Billfishes were added to the list of species required to be reported through the department's Catch Card and Tagging Program in 2002 because of concerns for White Marlin. The Roundscale Spearfish was listed as a separate species in 2011. As of May 27, 2013 recreational anglers in Maryland were required to report 19 species of sharks using the Catch Card and Tagging Program because recreational landings data are highly imprecise and generally lacking. Additionally, the cards provide an opportunity to collect biological data that could be used in stock assessments including: lengths, weights, and the sex ratios of encountered shark populations.


  • Continue a long-term monitoring study of all recreationally landed Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT; Thunnus thynnus), billfishes (White Marlin, Blue Marlin, Swordfish, Roundscale Spearfish and Sailfish) and sharks in Maryland and supply those data to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for use in assessment and management of Highly Migratory Species (HMS).
  • Continue development of program awareness among recreational anglers in order to increase compliance rates.

How it Works

Anglers are responsible for completing a catch card when they return to port for each Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT; Thunnus thynnus), billfish, or shark on board their vessel. A tag is provided for each completed catch card and the angler is required to place this tag around the tail of the fish before removing it from the vessel. Trailered boats cannot be pulled from the water until the tag is in place.

Where to get the Catch Cards and Tags

There are nine marinas that qualify as Bluefin Tuna, Billfish, and Shark Reporting Stations and two additional tackle shops specifically for sharks. These reporting stations will distribute and collect catch cards, issue tags, and return leftover supplies to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at the conclusion of the fishing season. In addition to the marinas and tackle shops, a Bluefin Tuna, Billfish, and Shark After Hours Kiosk is available at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) field office. Anglers that use the kiosk are expected to complete the catch card and the attached receipt, which replaces the tag. The catch card is to be deposited into the locked box at the kiosk.

Prior to an offshore trip, anglers can download and print PDF's of the bluefin tuna, billfish and shark catch cards. After a successful trip, complete the applicable card and take it to a participating area marina during their normal business hours so it can be exchanged for the corresponding tag. When those marinas are closed, these completed cards can go to the Bluefin Tuna, Billfish, and Shark After Hours Kiosk located at the local Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office (12917 Harbor Road in West Ocean City). At the edges of all catch cards is a receipt. Fill out the receipt with the information asked for, tear it off along the perforated line and deposit the rest of the filled-out card into the kiosk's locked box. The receipt goes with the angler.

As of October 17, 2007, anglers who recreationally landed swordfish and billfish outside of tournaments could report their catches to the the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) using the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Non-tournament Reporting website. The fish has to be reported within one day of being landed. However, if these fish are landed in either Maryland or North Carolina, it must still be reported using a catch card.

Billfish Catch Card Shark Catch Card Tuna Catch Card

Maryland Approved BFT/Swordfish/Billfish/Shark Reporting Stations

Reporting Station Physical Address City Phone Number
Atlantic Tackle 12930 Sunset Ave. West Ocean City (410) 213-0421
Bahia Marina 2197 Herring Way Ocean City (410) 289-7438
Fisherman's Marina 12806 Sunset Ave. Ocean City (410) 213-2478
Ocean City Fishing Center 12940 Inlet Isle Lane West Ocean City (410) 213-1121
Ocean Pines Marina 1 Mumfords Landing Rd. Ocean Pines (410) 641-7447
Pines Point Marina 869 Yacht Club Drive Ocean Pines (410) 208-3625
Sunset Marina 12911 Sunset Ave. West Ocean City (410) 213-9600
Talbot Street Pier & Marina 311 Talbot St. Ocean City (410) 289-9125
White Marlin Marina 205 Somerset St. Ocean City (410) 289-6470
MDNR/NRP Boat House Kiosk
(Available 24 hours a day)
Colonel Jack Taylor Boathouse
12917 Harbor Road
West Ocean City (410) 213-1531

Maryland Approved Shark-Only Reporting Stations

Reporting Station Physical Address City Phone Number
Buck's Place 11848 Assateague Rd. Berlin, MD (443) 513-4661
Alltackle 12826 B Ocean Gateway Ocean City (410) 213-2840


ICCAT. "International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas." 19 Nov. 2013.

Lovell, Sabrina, Scott Steinback, and James Hilger. The Economic Contribution of Marine Angler Expenditures in the United States, 2011. U.S. Dep. Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/SPO-134, 188 p. 2013.

NMFS. "Introduction to the Highly Migratory Species Management Division." 19 Nov. 2013. NMFS Statistics Division. Personal Communication. 29 Jan. 2014.

State of Maryland. Department of Business and Economic Development. Division of Marketing and Communications-Office of Research. The Economic Impact of the White Marlin Open. 2010.

Photo showing the 3 kinds of tags - bluefin tuna, shark and billfish. 

After Hours Reporting Station 

Catch Card and Tagging Program after-hours kiosk located at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) field office in West Ocean City.