Unsupported Browser Detected

Internet Explorer lacks support for the features of this website. For the best experience, please use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, or Edge.

Regulations to Authorize Deep-set Buoy Gear under the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS FMP)


Proposed Rule & Amendment 6 to Plan
Fishing Type
Affected Species
Action Status
Final Rule
Effective June 7, 2023
Point of Contact
Amber Rhodes, NMFS, (202) 936- 6162, Amber.Rhodes@noaa.gov, or Karter Harmon, NMFS, (317) 517-7783, Karter.Harmon@noaa.gov


NOAA Fisheries has published final regulations (88 FR 29545, May 8, 2023) to implement an amendment to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS) that authorizes deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) as an additional gear type for catching swordfish and other HMS in federal waters off of California and Oregon. The amendment was previously made available for public review and comment (88 FR 1171, January 9, 2023). NOAA Fisheries published proposed regulations to implement the amendment (88 FR 7661, February 6, 2023) and solicited public comments, which were considered in developing the final rule.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended that NOAA Fisheries authorize DSBG as an additional commercial gear type to improve the economic viability of the West Coast-based swordfish fishery while minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable. Currently, drift gillnet is the primary authorized gear type for targeting swordfish off the West Coast. Small amounts of swordfish are also landed using harpoon and hook-and-line gear. The majority of domestic swordfish landings to the West Coast come from the Hawaii-based longline fishery, which operates outside of federal waters off the West Coast. DSBG has been explored as an alternative way of fishing for swordfish in waters off the U.S. West Coast since 2011 through a series of research trials and exempted fishing permits (EFPs) issued on a case-by-case basis. The gear type catches fish in deep water using a long vertical line attached to surface buoys. Fishing in deep water helps reduce interactions between the gear and non-target species.

The regulations establish a limited entry regime for “phased-in” permitting of DSBG fishing within Federal waters of the Southern California Bight (SCB), and an open access regime in Federal waters outside of the SCB and south of the Oregon-Washington maritime border. The Council first recommended authorizing DSBG in September of 2019. Then, in March of 2021, the Council revised the tiered criteria by which applicants could qualify for limited entry permits. NOAA Fisheries has worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop procedures to qualify applicants according to the tiered criteria. The regulations also specify restrictions on the configuration and operation of the gear, monitoring requirements, and procedures for obtaining permits. In December of 2022, the Council deemed the regulations consistent with their 2021 recommendation.

NOAA Fisheries published a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) in March of 2023 (88 FR 13443, March 3, 2023). The FEIS responds to issues raised in public comments and incorporates this feedback, as well as information from Endangered Species Act consultations with NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region Protected Resources Division, into an updated document. The analysis in the Final EIS, overall, suggests that DSBG authorization is likely to have minor impacts on species in the action area, though rare interactions with marine mammals and sea turtles may occur.

Now that the final rule is effective, interested stakeholders can request a DSBG endorsement on their federal HMS permit to fish in Federal waters south of the Oregon-Washington border and outside of the SCB. The HMS permit and DSBG endorsement allow participation in the open access portion of the fishery. To fish DSBG in Federal waters within the SCB, a limited entry permit is also required. Those who did not qualify during the initial limited entry application period may apply to be considered for an LE permit on a first-come, first-served basis beginning in 2025. The application period for first-come, first-served permits will be announced at a future date.


Application Period for Limited Entry Deep-set Buoy Gear Permits CLOSES at midnight on August 7, 2023

Reminder of deadline to apply for a limited entry deep-set buoy gear permit under tiers 1-8
July 31, 2023 -

Applications for Deep-set Buoy Gear Permits are Now Available

Information on applying for the new Limited Entry Deep-Set Buoy Gear permit and the DSBG gear endorsements for highly migratory species permits
June 06, 2023 -

Proposed Regulations to Implement Proposed Amendment 6 to the Fishery Management Plan for West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fisheries to Authorize Deep-set Buoy Gear

NOAA Fisheries is requesting public comment on proposed regulations to implement deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) as an additional gear type for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS).
February 06, 2023 -

NOAA Fisheries announces availability of a Proposed Fishery Management Plan Amendment and Rule to authorize Deep-Set Buoy Gear, and seeks public comment

Public comments invited on proposed amendment to authorize deep-set buoy gear for catching swordfish in federal waters off of California and Oregon
January 09, 2023 -

Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on 03/14/2024

Fishing Gear