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Final Rule to Replace Historical Captain Permits with Standard Federal Charter/Headboat Permits in the Gulf of Mexico

April 21, 2020

FB20-027: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin, For more information, contact: Rich Malinowski, 727-824-5305, rich.malinowski@noaa.gov


This final rule allows eligible historical captains the opportunity to replace their historical captain permits with standard federal charter/headboat for-hire permits for the reef fish and coastal migratory pelagic fisheries.  An eligible captain is one that had a valid, non-expired, or renewable historical captain permit as of October 25, 2018, the qualifying date determined by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.



The final rule will be effective on May 21, 2020.



  • Only historical captain permits that were valid (non-expired) or renewable on October 25, 2018, will be eligible for replacement with standard for-hire permits.
  • Individuals would have two years, or until June 21, 2022, from the implementation date of this action to replace eligible historical captain permits with standard for-hire permits and associate the newly issued standard for-hire permits with a vessel.
  • On the effective date of this rule, May 21, 2020, all outstanding eligibility letters will become invalid.  Persons who redeem a letter of eligibility for a historical captain permit before the implementation date of this rule will receive a historical captain permit, but will not be eligible to convert that permit into a standard for-hire permit at this time.

If you have further questions regarding this matter, please contact the Southeast Regional Office Sustainable Fisheries Office by telephone at (727) 824-5305, weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The Environmental Assessment for the Framework Amendment Final Rule may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Web site at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/framework-action-replacement-historical-captain-permits-standard-federal-charter-headboat.


What is a Historical Captain Endorsement/Permit?

  • A federal permit for historical captains was established in July 2002. 
  • Persons who met the eligibility requirements to qualify as a historical captain (listed below), and submitted evidence of eligibility within 90 days of the implementation of the 2001 final rule, were issued a letter of eligibility, which could be used to obtain a historical captain permit, valid only on the vessel that was operated by the historical captain. 
  • The eligibility criteria for the historical captain endorsement included any U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) licensed captain, who:
  • demonstrated to NOAA Fisheries they were licensed by the USCG and operated (as a captain) a for-hire federally permitted vessel prior to March 29, 2001, but did not have a for-hire permit issued in their name,
  • qualified for the permit within 90 days of implementation of the final rule, and
  • demonstrated at least 25% of their earned income came from recreational for-hire fishing in one of the years 1997, 1998, 1999, or 2000.
  • Captains who were issued a historical captain endorsement were able to continue participating in for-hire fishing.  However, unlike the standard for-hire permit, the historical captain endorsement cannot be transferred to another entity and requires the endorsement holder to be present on the vessel while it is operating as a for-hire vessel.


How do I convert my eligible Historical Captain Permit?

  • An eligible historical captain who wishes to convert their historical captain permit to a standard for-hire permit must submit an application along with their current historical captain permit (original document, not a copy) and supporting documents and fees.  NOAA Permit Office staff will verify that the vessel the new for-hire permit will be issued to is either: 
  • owned by the historical captain applicant and does not have an existing Coastal Migratory Pelagics and/or Reef Fish Charter/Headboat For-Hire Federal Permit associated with it, or
  • is leased to the historical captain applicant and does not have any other federal permit(s) associated with it in another permit holder's name. 
  • If the vessel is to be leased, a fully executed lease agreement, of at least seven months, between the vessel owner and permit holder will need to be included with the application. 
  • Once the application has been approved, the historical captain will receive a Coastal Migratory Pelagics or Reef Fish Charter/Headboat For-Hire Federal Permit. 
  • Those individuals who do not take the opportunity to replace their historical captain permits with standard for-hire permits within this two-year period (by June 21, 2022) would maintain their historical captain permits.
  • The new for-hire permit will keep the existing permit number, e.g., HRCG-9999 will convert to RCG-9999.  All permit history associated with a historical captain permit will stay with the new standard permit. 


Where can I find more information on Replacement of Historical Captain Permits with Standard Charter/Headboat Permits Framework Amendment?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

            By Mail: Rich Malinowski

NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

Sustainable Fisheries Division

263 13th Avenue South

St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505

By FAX: (727) 824-5308

By Phone: (727) 824-5305

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Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on February 10, 2022