The Atlantic sailfish comes under the remit of the Highly Migratory Species Division of the United States National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which manages Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) including tuna, shark, swordfish and billfish (3), and it is also included in the NMFS U.S. Fishery Management Plan for the Atlantic Billfishes. In 1998, the Atlantic sailfish was added to the NMFS list of overfished species (12). Commercial fishing vessels in the U.S. are prohibited from possessing Atlantic sailfish, and vessels that are used to fish recreationally are required to possess a HMS Angling permit from NMFS. Under this permit, recreational fishermen are not permitted to sell, barter, or trade Atlantic HMS, including the Atlantic sailfish, and most recreational fishing is done entirely by catch and release, with individuals released back into the ocean soon after being caught (3) (11).
Very little information is available regarding the population status of the Atlantic sailfish. Assessment of recent trends suggests that in the east, Atlantic sailfish populations have declined and currently show very few signs of recovery. In the west, the Atlantic sailfish has also declined, but populations appear to have remained relatively stable since the 1980s. Based on these observations, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have recommended that catch levels should be reduced in the eastern Atlantic, and should not exceed current levels in the west (11).