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Billfish Conservation Act

The Billfish Conservation Act's definition of "billfish" exempts swordfish, but includes:

  • Black marlin
  • Blue marlin
  • Longbill spearfish
  • Mediterranean spearfish
  • Sailfish
  • Shortbill spearfish
  • Striped marlin
  • White marlin


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The Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 was signed into law on October 5, 2012. Section 4(a) prohibits any person from offering billfish or billfish products for sale, selling them, or having custody, control, or possession of them for purposes of offering them for sale. The law treats a violation of the Billfish Conservation Act as an act prohibited by Section 307 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Section 4(c) exempts billfish caught by U.S. fishing vessels and landed in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas from the general prohibitions on sale and custody with the intent to sell. It also exempts billfish landed by foreign vessels in the Pacific Insular Areas and exported to markets outside the U.S. or retained within Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Areas for local consumption. The sale of Atlantic billfish has been prohibited by regulation since 1988.

In passing the Billfish Conservation Act, Congress recognized the conservation challenges facing billfish populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Congress found that, despite careful management of domestic billfish fisheries, global billfish populations have declined significantly because of overfishing primarily through retention of bycatch by non-U.S. fishing fleets.

Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012

In April 2013, NOAA Fisheries announced that it was considering issuing regulations to implement the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012. NOAA Fisheries welcomed the public’s comments on potential issues and the scope of any future regulations. Comments were accepted until July 3, 2013. An additional comment period will follow publication of the proposed rule.

Billfish Conservation Act: Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Background