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 is NOAA Fisheries authorizing 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 whale interactions with the IFQ sablefish fleet 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 and summarized in this document. See Q5 for a description of the GOA IFQ regulatory areas for sablefish.
3. How many vessels are affected by this rule?
It is not possible to estimate how many vessel operators will switch to longline pot gear from hook-and-line gear. The total number of vessels using longline pot gear likely will be limited by the costs of purchasing longline pot gear and vessel reconfiguration. NOAA Fisheries anticipates that most operators in the GOA IFQ sablefish fishery will continue to use hook-and-line 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. These management measures specify that all vessels using longline pot gear must comply with:
- pot tag requirements;
- area-specific pot limits;
- area-specific pot gear removal and redeployment requirements;
- pot gear marking requirements;
- logbook reporting requirements;
- Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) requirements;
- additional Prior Notice of Landing (PNOL) information submission requirements;
- 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 are affected by this rule?
A vessel of any length class can use longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ sablefish fisery. 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 is still subject to the length category requirements on the IFQ permit.
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 for sablefish during the entire fishing season since 2008 (see final rule). Beginning with the 2017 fishing season, longline pot gear is an allowable gear type in the Southeast Outside District, West Yakutat, Central GOA, and Western GOA IFQ sablefish regulatory areas (see Figure 14 to Part 679).
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. Vessel operators in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands IFQ sablefish regulatory areas may continue to use longline pot gear or pot-and-line gear.
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).
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)).
Federal regulations do not include a regulatory definition of a biodegradable panel beyond that which is included in the definition of authorized fishing gear set forth at § 679.2, paragraph (15)(i).
Round tunnel-shaped pots are cylindrical in shape with parallel tunnel openings at each end, which do not have a distinct top or bottom. As described in the response to question 7, these pots may meet the definition for authorized fishing gear as long as each pot is equipped with an 18 inch biodegradable panel. Like conventional square pots, tunnel-shaped pots include a door used to empty the pot. Biodegradable panels in conventional square pots are typically sewn into one side of the pot. A similar panel that is 18” in length must be sewn into the mesh covering the frame of a tunnel-shaped pot on the curved surface of the pot (not on a tunnel end).
Wrapping the door closure of a pot with untreated cotton thread does not meet the regulatory definition of a biodegradable panel for any type of pot. Below are examples of biodegradable panels that comply with regulatory requirements. Other configurations may also be compliant. Please consult your local NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, Alaska Region office with compliance questions.
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.
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. How do I register to use longline pot gear and request pot tags?
Vessel owners must register annually by completing and submitting the IFQ Sablefish Longline Pot Gear: Vessel Registration and Request for Pot Gear Tags form to NOAA Fisheries, according to the instructions on the form.
A vessel owner must request and receive pot tags from NOAA Fisheries. NOAA Fisheries will register the number of tags requested for each GOA IFQ sablefish area, not to exceed the pot limits for each IFQ sablefish area (see Q19), and issue the tags to the vessel owner. Each pot tag will have a unique number and be a color specific to the GOA IFQ sablefish area in which it may be used (see Q14). The operator of the vessel is required to attach a pot tag that is registered to the vessel to each pot before leaving port.
Each vessel owner receiving pot tags is required to coordinate with the vessel operator to ensure the proper use of the pot tags. In cases where multiple IFQ sablefish permit holders fish from the same vessel, all IFQ holders and the vessel operator, or operators, will need to coordinate to ensure that no more pots are deployed from a vessel than the pot limit for a specific IFQ sablefish area (see Q19).
13. How much do the pot tags cost?
There is no fee to obtain IFQ sablefish pot gear tags from NOAA Fisheries. The cost of these tags is included in the management, data collection and enforcement costs assessed in the IFQ cost recovery program.
14. What if I lose one or more pot gear tags?
Submit a completed IFQ Sablefish Request for Replacement of Longline Pot Gear Tags Form to NOAA Fisheries, according to the instructions on the form.
15. What are the pot tag colors for each regulatory area?
Southeast Outside District - Pink
West Yakutat - Blue
Central GOA - Green
Western GOA - White
16. Can I have more than one tag on a pot if I am fishing in multiple areas?
Yes, a vessel operator may attach more than one area-specific tag to a pot if the vessel will be fishing in multiple areas. To be valid, a pot tag must be registered to the vessel, be the appropriate color for the area being fished (see 14), and be attached to a pot bridge or cross member such that the entire pot tag is visible and not obstructed. The vessel operator must comply with the area-specific pot limits (see 19).
17. What are the requirements for marking longline pot gear?
Each end of a set of longline pot gear must have attached a cluster of four or more marker buoys, a flag mounted on a pole, and a radar reflector. One hard buoy in the buoy cluster must be marked with the capital letters “LP” in addition to 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.
18. 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).
19. 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.
20. 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:
Southeast Outside District – 120 pots
West Yakutat – 120 pots
Central GOA – 300 pots
Western GOA - 300 pots
21. Is the pot limit per vessel or per IFQ permit holder?
The pot limit is per vessel.
22. 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 registered to the vessel and used to fish IFQ sablefish from the fishing grounds, 2) return the gear to port, and 3) remove the pot tags that are registered to that vessel from each pot before the gear can be used on another vessel. The operator of the second vessel is required to attach a pot tag registered to their vessel to each pot before deploying the gear to fish for IFQ IFQ sablefish in the GOA.
23. 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, you may not soak gear while making a delivery. A catcher vessel operator must retrieve and remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish when the vessel makes an IFQ landing.
In the Southeast Outside District sablefish area, a catcher/processor must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within five days of deploying the gear.
In the West Yakutat and Central GOA sablefish areas, a vessel operator must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within five days of deploying the gear.
In the Western GOA sablefish area, a vessel operator must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within seven days of deploying the gear.
24. Do I need to maintain a logbook even if my vessel is under 60 ft 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.
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 Daily Fishing Logbook (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 Daily Cumulative Production Logbook (DCPL) and the NOAA Fisheries electronic reporting system for landings (eLandings). 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.
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 DFL (for catcher vessels) or DCPL (for catcher/processors) while fishing for IFQ sablefish.
25. 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 1-800-304-4846 (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.
26. 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 PNOL’s must be made (one for each gear type) to appropriately account for a landing using both pot and longline gear.
27. 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 tags, 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.
- 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