Bluefin tuna fishers in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast are facing new restrictions to protect the prized species from being overfished. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the rules Monday for commercial fishing vessels.

Taking effect in January, the rules forbid the use of miles-long fishing lines in areas of the gulf and off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., during certain sensitive periods for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Anglers may still catch the tuna using other types of gear.

Although bluefin are not considered an endangered species by federal scientists, their future is viewed with concern and they are the focus of international conservation efforts. The fish -- giants weighing hundreds of pounds and measuring as long as 6 feet -- sell for thousands of dollars, mostly to feed the worldwide market for sushi.

Tougher rules in United States waters come only days after an international body that regulates bluefin tuna harvests met in Italy and raised the quotas for fishers in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The move dismayed conservationists who are worried the move puts recovery efforts at risk.

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