Fishing Regulations Summary
The rules and regulations pertaining to non-commercial fishing in the CNMI are summarized below for your convenience. Fishermen are responsible to know and understand the full and authoratative Non-Commercial Fish and Wildlife Regulations.
- Throw net or talaya
- Hand reel
- Rod and reel
- Spear fishing
- Gleaning (harvest by hand)
- Bottom fishing
- Cliff fishing
- Poisons (such as cyanide, bleach, Derris, and Saponin)
- Electric shocking devices
- SCUBA spear fishing
- Certain types of nets (see "Fishing Nets")
It is illegal to possess, sell or buy any fish, or other aquatic life taken by means prohibited in the CNMI.
What nets are allowed in the CNMI
- Throw or cast net (talaya)
- Scoop or landing net
What nets are NOT allowed in the CNMI
- Drag net/Beach seine (chenchulun and lagua)
- Trap net (chenchulun managam)
- Surround net (chenchulun umesugon)
- Gill net (tekkeng)
Requirements for using fishing nets
- License: You need a license to fish with a talaya. A fee must be paid for each net
- Registration tag: Once a net is licensed, it will be marked with a registration tag with the license number. The license holder must notify the Division immediately if the registration tag becomes detached from the net.
- Nets may not be abandoned in the water or (within 150 feet of the high water mark on any public beach)
- Anyone who abandons nets may be subject to penalties, including confiscation of abandoned nets, fines, and confiscation of net fishing permit(s).
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designated areas of the ocean or lagoon where the harvest of marine animals and plants is restricted. MPAs in the CNMI have a number of names, such as sanctuary, reserve, or conservation area. These areas can be designated for many reasons, but are usually intended to increase fish populations inside and outside the protected areas. In some of the marine protected areas, known as the "No-take" or "fully protected" MPAs, marine animals or plants may not be harvested at any time. In other MPAs, only certain species are protected, while other species may be harvested.
No-take MPAs (areas where no fishing or other extraction is allowed)
- Bird Island Sanctuary, Saipan
- Sasanhaya Bay Fish Reserve, Rota
- Mañagaha Marine Conservation Area, Saipan
- Forbidden Island Sanctuary, Saipan
- Tinian Marine Reserve, Tinian (except for seasonal cast netting)
Species-specific MPAs are areas where certain species are protected.
- Lighthouse Reef Trochus Sanctuary
- Lau Lau Bay Sea Cucumber Sanctuary
A fishing moratorium is a temporary suspension of fishing activities. There are currently moratoriums on Trochus (aliling tulompo) and Sea Cucumber (balati). Neither species can be harvested anywhere in the CNMI. After the moritoriums are lifted, these species will remain protected in their respective sanctuaries; the Lighthouse Reef Trochus Sanctuary and the Lau Lau Bay Sea Cucumber Sanctuary.
It is illegal to collect or remove all species of corals (hard reef-building corals, soft corals and stony hydrozoans) from the waters of the CNMI without a license. DFW may issue liceneses to collecting coral for scientific research, or to take dead coral for manufacturing calcium carbonate (afuk).
Lobster harvest is allowed under the following conditions that protect egg-carrying females and juvenile lobsters.
- Lobsters are caught by hand (no spears, traps, etc.)
- Lobsters are at least three inches (76.2 mm) in length measured in a straight line from the ridge between the two largest spines above the eyes to the rear edge of the carapace
- Lobsters are not carrying eggs
- Lobsters have not been stripped of eggs
- Marine aquarium fish may not be sold or exported
- Anyone who catches aquarium fish for personal use or enjoyment must hold a license
- Poisons may not be used to collect aquarium fish, unless for scientific research, in which case, a scientific research permit must be obtained
- The only legal methods of collecting aquarium fish are as follows:
- Certain hand nets
- Barbless hook and line
- Other collection methods may be allowed by special permit conditions
- A permit must be obtained from DFW before any animals can be imported into the CNMI
- No species of reptiles or amphibians may be imported into the CNMI, dead or alive. No species of harmful invertebrates may be imported into the CNMI.
- Any importation of animals must comply with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- It is against the law to release any fish or wildlife that is not native to the CNMI. The only exception to this is for species introduced by DFW for conservation programs.
- Anyone who illegally or accidentally introduces non-native species is legally accountable for the cost of eradication, including but not limited to, personnel salaries, transportation and equipment.
|Type of Permit||Fee Amount||Validity|
|Scientific research||$10.00||1 year|
|Import/Export||$10.00 per species||1 year|
|a. Resident||$10.00||1 year|
|b. Non-resident||$75.00||1 year|
|Dead coral for afuk, etc.||$15.00||1 year|
|a. Personal||$10.00||1 year|
|b. Commercial||$30.00||1 year|
|B. Displaying/Commercial||$30.00||1 year|
The CNMI DFW employs armed conservation officers on Saipan, Rota, and Tinian who are authorized by law to arrest and detain those who break fishing regulations or statutes. Routine patrols are carried out day and night, seven days a week.
Offenses Related to Moratorium and Prohibited Fishing Practices
|Offense||Maximum fines and penalties|
|SCUBA spear fishing (Rota)||Up to $500 and/or up to 3 months jail time|
|SCUBA spear fishing (Tinian, Aguiguan)||Up to $500 or up to 3 months jail time|
|SCUBA spear fishing (Saipan)||Up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months jail time, and gear confiscation; up to $1500 and/or up to 30 days|
|Cyanide fishing||Up to $10,000 and/or 3 years jail time|
|Other Prohibited fishing methods||Up to $1,500 and/or 30 days jail time|
|Illegal harvest against moratoria||$500 and up to 6 months jail time|
|Nets||Up to $5,000 + up to 3 months jail time|
Offenses Related to Sanctuaries/preserves
|Location of offense||Maximum fines and penalties|
|Sasanhaya Fish Reserve (Rota)||$100 - $2,500|
|Mañagaha Marine Conservation Area (Saipan)||Up to $10,000 per day|
|Bird Island Marine Sanctuary (Saipan)||$500 and/or up to 1 year jail time|
|Forbidden Island Marine Sanctuary (Saipan)||$500 and/or up to 1 year jail time|
|Lighthouse Reef Trochus Reserve||Up to $5,000|
|Lau Lau Bay Sea Cucumber reserve||Up to $5,000 and/or up to 6 months jail time|
Offenses Related to Endangered Species
|Offense||Maximum fines and penalties|
|Take, kill, harass, injure, or harm endangered species||$5,000 and 6 month jail time|
|Buying, selling, or bartering of endangered species||$5,000 and 6 month jail time|
Report violations to 670 888-5906, 670 898-2264 or 670 323-6004.
- Fishing Permit Application (Bring completed application to your island's Division of Fish and Wildlife office)