NOAA's national marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers are currently closed to the public, and in accordance with Executive Order 13991 - Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask Wearing, all individuals in NOAA-managed areas are required to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on mask-wearing and maintaining social distances. Sanctuary waters remain open for responsible use in accordance with CDC guidance, U.S. Coast Guard requirements, and local regulations. More information on the response from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries can be found on

Regulations & Guidelines

Be aware that fishing for striped bass and several species of sharks is illegal in federal waters. Click here for federal regulations.

Click here to access a short summary of the federal recreational fishing regulations for highly migratory species, which includes bluefin tuna and sharks. Sanctuary shark species that cannot be possessed or retained include basking shark, longfin mako, and white shark.

Within 24 hours of landing (killing and bringing to shore) any bluefin tuna caught in federal waters, recreational vessel owners must report the landing to NOAA Fisheries at 1-888-872-8862. Bag limits for bluefin tuna are variable throughout the season and depend on the size category. Refer to or call the previously referenced number for updated information. The minimum size is 27 inches (69 cm) curved fork length.

Federal regulations allow one shark per recreational vessel per trip, except for prohibited species (there is no retention permitted for these species). Minimum size is 54 inches (137 cm) fork length.

DMF Logo   For Massachusetts state regulations, click here.

Ethical Angling

NOAA's Fisheries Service (NMFS) has adopted a "Code of Angling Ethics" to implement the public education strategy required under the NMFS-specific Recreational Fishery Resources Conservation Plan. The code, developed in cooperation with a wide range of constituent groups was approved on February 11, 1999, and published in the Federal Register on February 18, 1999. .

Code of Angling Ethics

The Ethical Angler:

  • Promotes, through education and practice, ethical behavior in the use of aquatic resources.
    Values and respects the aquatic environment and all living things in it.
  • Avoids spilling, and never dumps, any pollutants, such as gasoline and oil, into the aquatic environment.
    Disposes of all trash, including worn-out lines, leaders, and hooks, in appropriate containers, and helps to keep fishing sites litter-free.
  • Takes all precautionary measures necessary to prevent the spread of exotic plants and animals, including live baitfish, into non-native habitats.
  • Learns and obeys angling and boating regulations, and treats other anglers, boaters, and property owners with courtesy and respect.
  • Respects property rights, and never trespasses on private lands or waters.
  • Keeps no more fish than needed for consumption, and neverwastefully discards fish that are retained.
  • Practices conservation by carefully handling and releasing alive all fish that are unwanted or prohibited by regulation, as well as other animals that may become hooked or entangled accidentally.
  • Uses tackle and techniques which minimize harm to fish when engaging in "catch and release" angling.

Circle Hooks Save Fish

As part of our role in the active management of marine fisheries resources, and the desire to reduce unnecessary waste of those resources, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is actively encouraging the use of circle hooks. We promote their use in fisheries that use baited hooks for the capture of striped bass, tunas, and other species where they can effectively reduce the mortality of released fish. This advice is based upon findings of research done by our own biologists and other researchers.

An example of a fishery where circle hooks can have a big impact is our local striped bass fishery. Massachusetts’ anglers annually catch and release millions of striped bass. An estimated 8% of those fish are lost to the population by mortality associated with that practice.

Two recent DMF research projects focused on the use of circle hooks when using bait for striped bass and tunas. In those experiments circle hooks showed a reduction in the rate of potential lethal wounding, and subsequent mortality. Estimates of lethal wounding were approximately 1.6 % for circle hooks and 27.5 % for j-hooks. Obviously, a considerable difference with circle hooks. Other researchers have had similar results.

Researchers have also estimated the effectiveness of circle hooks to hook fish that took natural baits. Results indicate that circle hooks catch slightly more fish than j- hooks. Even untended rods caught fish.

Because of the clear advantages of the use of circle hooks we strongly enourage their use by anglers. We also recommend that
anglers learn more about how these hooks can benefit all fisheries



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