Longline Pot Gear for the Gulf of Alaska IFQ Sablefish Fishery: Frequently Asked Questions
Summary of regulations governing the use of longline pot gear in the sablefish individual fishing quota (IFQ) fishery in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This Small Entity Compliance Guide satisfies the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 that requires a plain language guide to assist small entities.
If you are required to comply with the regulations described in this document, you should consult and rely on the actual regulatory text in the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations are available online at the electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) web site. See 50 CFR Part 679 for regulations governing the IFQ sablefish fisheries. The regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations take precedence if a discrepancy occurs between them and the information in this guide.
1. Why did NOAA Fisheries authorize longline pot gear for the GOA IFQ Sablefish Fishery?
Beginning in 2009, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and NOAA Fisheries received reports from fishermen that there had been an increase in whales eating fish off hook-and-line gear (known as depredation interactions) in the IFQ sablefish fishery in the GOA. Sperm whale depredation on hook-and-line fishing gear is most common in the Central GOA, West Yakutat District, and Southeast Outside District sablefish areas. Killer whale depredation is most common in the Western GOA and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. While sperm whale depredation events are difficult to quantify on a per-vessel basis, fishery participants indicated that depredation continues to be a major cost to the IFQ sablefish fishery through reduced catch per unit effort and increased operating costs.
The Council and NOAA Fisheries determined that authorizing longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery could reduce the adverse impacts of depredation for those vessel operators who choose to switch from hook-and-line gear. The Council recommended and NOAA Fisheries implemented regulations to authorize, but not require, the use of longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery beginning with the 2017 fishing season.
2. Who can use longline pot gear?
Any vessel operator who desires to fish for IFQ sablefish with longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ regulatory areas may use longline pot gear if the vessel operator complies with all requirements specified in NOAA Fisheries regulations, as summarized in this document. (See Q5 for a description of the GOA IFQ regulatory areas for sablefish.)
3. What management measures must a vessel satisfy to use longline pot gear?
The final rule authorizing longline pot gear implemented a number of management measures that were intended to minimize the impacts of vessels using longline pot gear on vessels that continue to use hook-and-line gear. The Council recommended and NOAA Fisheries implemented revisions to specific management measures in 2023 (88 FR 12259, February 27, 2023).These management measures specify that all vessels using longline pot gear must comply with:
- area-specific pot limits;
- area-specific pot gear retrieval and tending requirements;
- pot gear marking requirements;
- logbook reporting requirements;
- Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) requirements;
- additional Prior Notice of Landing (PNOL) information submission requirements;
- sablefish retention requirements; and
- halibut retention requirement if anyone on board holds sufficient halibut IFQ.
These requirements are described in detail in the regulations at 50 CFR Part 679 and are summarized in this guide.
4. What vessel length categories can use longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ Sablefish Fishery?
A vessel of any length class can use longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery. The Council and NOAA Fisheries determined that vessel owners were in the best position to decide if their vessel is capable of using longline pot gear. However, all IFQ sablefish are still subject to the vessel length category requirements on the IFQ permit as set forth in 50 CFR § 679.40(a)(5)(ii).
5. Where can I fish for IFQ sablefish with longline pot gear?
Vessel operators in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands sablefish regulatory areas have been able to use pot gear to fish for sablefish during the entire fishing season since 2008 (see this final rule published on May 19, 2008 at 73 FR 28733). Beginning with the 2017 fishing season, longline pot gear is also an allowable gear type in the GOA – that is, the Southeast Outside District, West Yakutat, Central GOA, and Western GOA IFQ sablefish regulatory areas defined in Figure 14 to Part 679 (81 FR 95435, December 28, 2016).
6. What types of pot gear can I use in the IFQ sablefish fishery?
The only type of pot gear that NOAA Fisheries authorizes in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery is longline pot gear. Longline pot gear means a stationary, buoyed, and anchored line with two or more pots attached. Vessel operators in the Southeast Outside District, West Yakutat District, Central Gulf, and Western Gulf IFQ sablefish regulatory areas are prohibited from using pot-and-line gear (i.e., single pot gear) to harvest IFQ sablefish.
7. May I use round (tunnel shaped) collapsible pots in the IFQ sablefish fishery?
Yes, tunnel shaped pots, also known as “slinky pots” may be used as long as the pot is equipped with an 18 inch biodegradable panel. (See Q8 for a description of the biodegradable panel requirement.)
8. How do I comply with the biodegradable panel requirement if I’m using round (tunnel shaped) collapsible pots that do not have a distinguishable top or bottom?
Each pot used to harvest federally managed groundfish must be equipped with a biodegradable panel at least 18 inches (45.72 cm) in length and that is sewn up with untreated cotton thread of no larger size than No. 30. 50 CFR § 679.2 (authorized fishing gear, paragraph 15(i)).
A biodegradable panel may be placed anywhere on the mesh of a collapsible slinky pot; alternatively, the door of the collapsible slinky pot may be wrapped with biodegradable twine.
Compliant biodegradable panel in round (tunnel-shaped) pots:
Compliant biodegradable panel in a conventional square pot:
9. Can escape rings be added to longline pots?
Yes. Federal regulations do not prohibit the use of escape rings in pot gear. However, the addition of an escape ring is not a substitute for a biodegradable panel as required in regulation. (See Q8 for a description of the biodegradable panel requirement.)
10. Can I use pot gear and hook-and-line (longline) gear on the same IFQ sablefish fishing trip?
Yes, a vessel operator may deploy pot gear and longline gear for IFQ sablefish during the same fishing trip. The vessel operator must comply with regulations at 50 CFR Part 679 applicable to all gear types deployed from the vessel.
11. Can I add pots to my longline gear with hooks attached?
No. The definition of authorized fishing gear at 50 CFR 679.2 defines longline pot gear separately from longline gear using hooks.
Requirements for Using Longline Pot Gear in the GOA IFQ Sablefish Fishery
12. Am I required to register my vessel and request pot gear tags to harvest sablefish IFQ in the GOA with longline pot gear?
No. The requirements to use pot gear tags and annually register a vessel to harvest sablefish IFQ with longline pot gear in the GOA, which were included in the final rule implementing Amendment 101 (81 FR 95435, December 28, 2016), were removed in a final rule published December 13, 2021 (86 FR 70751). NOAA Fisheries no longer issues pot gear tags to vessel owners. As a result, vessel owners no longer need to apply to NOAA Fisheries for the purpose of assigning pot gear tags to the gear used by that vessel, and vessel operators are no longer required to track individual pot gear tags marked with a unique identifier that are assigned to their vessel.
13. What are the requirements for marking longline pot gear?
Each end of a set of longline pot gear must have a hard buoy attached that is marked with the capital letters “LP” and the Federal Fisheries Permit number of the vessel deploying the gear or the Alaska Department of Fish & Game vessel registration number. The markings must be at least 4 inches (10.16 cm) in height and 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) in width in a contrasting color visible above the water line and must be clearly visible.
14. Do vessels using longline pot gear have to use seabird avoidance gear, such as buoy bags and streamer lines?
No, vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery are not required to comply with seabird avoidance measures set forth in 50 CFR § 679.24(e), such as using buoy bags and streamer lines. Vessel operators using hook-and-line gear to harvest IFQ sablefish, IFQ halibut, or Community Development Quota (CDQ) halibut must comply with seabird avoidance measures set forth in 50 CFR § 679.24(e).
15. Are there any changes to observer coverage requirements for vessels using longline pot gear?
No, observer coverage requirements did not change for vessels using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery. (See the North Pacific Observer Program Frequently Asked Questions for more information on the observer coverage requirements for your vessel.)
16. How many pots can I use?
A vessel operator is limited to deploying a specific number of pots in each area in which he or she will be fishing IFQ sablefish as set forth in 50 CFR § 679.42(l)(5)(ii):
Southeast Outside District – 120 pots
West Yakutat – 200 pots
Central GOA – 300 pots
Western GOA - 300 pots
17. Is the pot limit per vessel or per IFQ permit holder?
The pot limit is per vessel as set forth in 50 CFR § 679.42(l)(5)(ii).
18. Can multiple vessels use the same pots?
Yes. In order for vessels to share pots in the GOA during the fishing season, NOAA Fisheries requires a vessel operator to 1) remove all longline pot gear used by the vessel to fish IFQ sablefish from the fishing grounds, and 2) return the gear to port as set forth in 50 CFR § 679.42(l)(5)(iv).
19. Can I let my gear soak while I make a delivery?
Gear soaking is allowed for a limited period of time specific to each GOA IFQ sablefish area.
In the Southeast Outside District sablefish area, a catcher vessel operator must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear used by the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within five days of deploying the gear.
In the Southeast Outside District sablefish area, a catcher/processor must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear used by the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within five days of deploying the gear.
In the West Yakutat sablefish area, a vessel operator must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear used by the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within five days of deploying the gear.
In the Western GOA and Central GOA sablefish areas, a vessel operator must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is used by the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within seven days of deploying the gear.
20. Do I need to maintain a logbook even if my vessel is under 60 feet length overall?
Yes, NOAA Fisheries requires all vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery to complete logbooks. NOAA Fisheries uses the logbook to monitor fishing activities and enforce IFQ Program regulations including the management measures for vessels using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery.
All vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery, including vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) length overall, must maintain a Daily Fishing Logbook (DFL) (for catcher vessels) or Daily Cumulative Production Logbook (DCPL) (for catcher/processors) while fishing for IFQ sablefish as set forth in 50 CFR § 679.5(c)(2)(ii). For each day during a fishing trip, vessel operators are required to record in a DFL or DCPL information on deployed, retrieved, and lost gear and catch information per unit of gear deployed.
Once a vessel uses longline pot gear to harvest IFQ sablefish, that vessel must continue to maintain a DFL for all subsequent IFQ halibut and sablefish fishing trips and all groundfish fishing trips, if utilizing longline gear or longline pot gear, for the remainder of the calendar year. Regulations specifying how to fill out the logbook for active or inactive periods are found at: 50 CFR 679.5(c)(2). In the scenario where a vessel under 60’ length overall does not trigger the logbook requirement until later in the year, the vessel operator would record an “inactive period”. Non-federal fishing may be logged as an inactive period.
The operator of a catcher vessel greater than 60 feet (18.3 m) length overall using hook-and-line gear in the IFQ sablefish or IFQ halibut fisheries is required to maintain a DFL. The operator of a catcher/processor using hook-and-line gear in the sablefish or halibut IFQ fisheries must use a combination of a DCPL and the NOAA Fisheries electronic reporting system for landings (eLandings).
21. What is a VMS and why do I need one to use longline pot gear?
A Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) monitors the location and movement of commercial fishing vessels in Federal fisheries in Alaska. NOAA Fisheries uses VMS to monitor fishing activities and enforce IFQ Program regulations, including the management measures for vessels using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery.
NOAA Fisheries requires all vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery to use a VMS while fishing for IFQ sablefish. Vessel operators using longline pot gear to fish IFQ sablefish in the GOA are required to contact NOAA Fisheries at (800) 304-4846 (select option 1) to confirm that VMS transmissions are being received from the vessel. The vessel operator is required to receive a VMS confirmation number from NOAA Fisheries at least 72 hours prior to the vessel’s first fishing trip of the year in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery. More information on VMS can be found on the NOAA Enforcement VMS page.
22. What are the Prior Notice of Landing (PNOL) requirements for vessels using longline pot gear?
In addition to providing the standard PNOL information for hook-and-line IFQ landings, vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery must report on the PNOL the number of pots deployed, the number of pots lost (if applicable), and the number of pots left deployed on the fishing grounds. If a vessel used two gear types during a trip, two PNOLs must be made (one for each gear type) to appropriately account for a landing using both pot and longline gear.
23. Can I keep halibut caught in longline pot gear?
Vessel operators must retain legal size halibut (32 inches or greater) caught in longline pot gear while fishing for IFQ sablefish in the GOA if: 1) the operator complies with all of the requirements for using longline pot gear in the GOA (i.e., pot limits, gear removal and redeployment, gear marking, logbook reporting, VMS, and additional PNOL information); and 2) any IFQ permit holder on board the vessel has sufficient unused halibut IFQ for the IFQ regulatory area fished and IFQ vessel category. If halibut is discarded because it is less than legal size or no IFQ permit holders on board hold sufficient unused halibut IFQ, the halibut must be immediately released and returned to the sea with a minimum of injury.
24. What are the tunnel size opening requirements for the sablefish IFQ fishery in the BSAI and GOA?
In the BSAI: Pots used in the sablefish IFQ fishery are required to have tunnel openings no wider than nine-inches unless there is unused halibut IFQ onboard.
In the GOA: Beginning in 2023, if one or more permit holders on board the vessel have both unused halibut and unused sablefish IFQ or CDQ, an exception to the nine-inch tunnel opening requirement applies and the vessel operator may use longline pot gear with tunnel openings greater than nine-inches wide (88 FR 12259, February 27, 2023).
- Questions about the permit or applications process, contact Restricted Access Management (RAM)
- Questions about the regulatory process, contact the Sustainable Fisheries Division
- Questions about Enforcement, contact NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, Alaska Region