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Modifications to Charter Vessel and Headboat Electronic Reporting Requirements

July 21, 2020

FB20-049: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Southeast For-Hire Electronic Reporting Program; ser.electronicreporting@noaa.gov, 1-833-707-1632


NOAA Fisheries has published a final rule to modify reporting requirements for the owners or operators of vessels with Charter Vessel/Headboat federal permits for Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) reef fish or Gulf coastal migratory pelagics.    


The final rule will be effective on January 5, 2021, for the trip declaration and trip level electronic logbook component of the rule.  The effective date for the location tracking component of the rule will be announced at a later date.



  • The owner or operator of a vessel with a Gulf federal for-hire permit must electronically declare (hail-out) a trip before leaving the dock, berth, beach, seawall, or ramp.
  • The owner or operator of the vessel must submit an electronic fishing report for each trip prior to offloading fish, or within 30 minutes after the end of the trip if no fish are landed. 
  • The vessel owners or operators must install NOAA Fisheries approved hardware/software with location tracking capabilities that, at a minimum, archives vessel position data and transmits data to NOAA Fisheries.  This requirement would not preclude the use of location tracking devices that provide real-time location data or vessel monitoring systems (VMS).
  • The location tracking portion of the hardware must be installed by a certified installer, permanently affixed to the vessel and turned on at all times, unless a power-down exemption is granted. 
  • The owner or operator of a vessel with a Gulf for-hire federal permit must comply with these reporting requirements no matter where the vessel is fishing.

FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 85 FR 44005, published July 21, 2020

This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why are the new requirements necessary?

  • Trip-level reporting will allow better monitoring of recreational quotas, which is expected to provide more timely and efficient management of recreational fishing seasons. 
  • The trip-level reporting is expected to help improve population assessments by providing a more accurate record of for-hire vessel landings and locations. 
  • The new system will provide a history of landings for each vessel, as well as economic information, which will help improve analyses for proposed Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council actions.  
  • Economic information may also be used in assessing the negative impacts of disasters, such as hurricanes or red tide events on for-hire businesses.
  • Trip declarations and location tracking devices are expected to provide better data on fishing effort (number of trips) and allow for better enforcement of fishing regulations.


Who would be required to submit fishing records electronically?

  • Owners or operators of vessels that have a federal Gulf Charter Vessel /Headboat permit for Reef Fish or a Gulf Charter Vessel/Headboat permit for Coastal Migratory Pelagics (for-hire vessel) will be required to submit trip-level electronic reports before offloading fish.
  • Reporting will be required regardless of where fishing occurs, including other regions and state waters.
  • For-hire vessels that have both a South Atlantic and a Gulf for-hire permit will only be required to report to the Gulf system to reduce duplicate reporting.


How often would I need to submit logbooks?

  • Federally permitted for-hire charter and headboat vessels will be required to submit reports electronically prior to off-loading fish at the end of each fishing trip, or within 30 minutes of landing if no fish were harvested.
  • Previously, electronic reports were submitted by headboats on a weekly basis and charter vessels were only required to report if selected by NOAA Fisheries.


Is a report required if I don’t go charter fishing?

  • Anytime a federally permitted for-hire vessel leaves the dock, berth, beach, seawall, or ramp, it will be required to declare the purpose of the trip being taken.
  • If the for-hire vessel is taking a non-fishing trip or the trip is for private recreational fishing, the vessel operator will declare that trip type in the trip declaration and would not need to submit an electronic logbook report.
  • To reduce duplicative trip declarations, an owner or operator of a vessel with both a Gulf commercial reef fish permit and a Gulf for-hire permit leaving for a commercial trip can meet the requirements of both programs by submitting a trip declaration only using the commercial program declaration form, if they use VMS hardware and software that has been approved for both programs.
  • A for-hire trip declaration may not be submitted using the commercial telephone system or using software that has not been approved for the Gulf for-hire reporting program.


What species must I report?  Do I have to count every fish?

  • For-hire vessel operators must report all species caught, regardless of where fished, as a condition of the federal permit.
  • All species from all areas must be reported because catch data may be used by state agencies or other federal regions.
  • When large quantities of baitfish are caught, estimate amounts.  However, all fish or other marine species caught by passengers need to be counted and recorded.


What type of economic data are required to be reported and why is this information needed?  How much extra time will I need to report economic data?

  • Economic data collected includes:
    • Trip fee
    • Approximate fuel used and price per gallon
    • Number of passengers and crew
  • Entering these data will take approximately 2 minutes.
  • Economic data will be used to:
    • Estimate revenue, value, and economic impacts of the for-hire sector
    • Improve analysis of regulatory costs and benefits for more effective management
    • Estimate marginal value per fish for individual species or species groups
    • Assess economic impact of disasters
  • Current economic data are based on regional averages, which does not take into consideration the wide variation among different sizes and types of for-hire vessels.
  • Economic data will not be available to the public except in aggregate form, or provided to the IRS without a court order.


What if I have to change my landing location or time?

  • Landing locations must be verified by NOAA Fisheries. Owners and operators will be required to submit a Landing Location Request Form to NOAA Fisheries. There will be a list of verified landing locations posted on our website.  The electronic form can be found on the our website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/southeast/southeast-electronic-reporting-technologies
  • Prior to departing for any trip (i.e., leaving the dock, berth, beach, seawall, or ramp), the for-hire vessel is required to declare the type of trip it will be taking. The trip declaration includes the expected return time and landing location. 
  • There is no requirement to update the declaration if the landing location or time changes.  However, owners and operators of vessels with VMS will have an option to submit a new declaration with the modified landing time or location.
  • Under any emergency condition, the for-hire vessel should return to port without worrying about changing the landing location or time.


What equipment do I need?

  • The for-hire vessel will be required to have hardware and software that meets the requirements of the Southeast For Hire Electronic Reporting Program and has been approved for use in the program.
  • Trip Declaration: Submit the declaration through a phone app, tablet, computer, or VMS unit that allows for internet access or satellite transmission, and is capable of operating approved software.
  • Electronic Fishing Report:  Submit the fishing report through a phone app, tablet, computer, or VMS unit that allows for internet access and is capable of operating approved software.
  • Location Tracking:  A location tracking device will be required to be permanently affixed to the vessel.  NOAA Fisheries is testing both cellular-based devices and satellite-based real-time devices, such as a VMS.  Location tracking devices approved for use in the Southeast Electronic Reporting For Hire program will be posted on our website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/southeast/southeast-electronic-reporting-technologies
    • A vessel with both a commercial and charter/headboat federal permit may be able to use the same system for both types of fishing trips.  However, commercial VMS units still need to be evaluated by NOAA Fisheries for approval in the for-hire reporting system.  Vendors may need to upgrade their systems to meet the new reporting requirements.
    • Current commercial reef fish approved VMS units will need to be upgraded, tested, and approved for use in the for-hire program.
    • NOAA Fisheries has a list of VMS units that have been approved for the commercial fishery.  Both cellular and satellite VMS that are approved for the for-hire program will also be listed on this website https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/enforcement/noaa-fisheries-type-approved-vms-units#reef-fish-fishery-of-the-gulf-of-mexico
  • NOAA Fisheries is evaluating potential software for the program and is considering the use of existing software applications already being used by partners in the region.  Approved hardware and software will be posted on the Southeast Regional Office’s website upon approval at 



What if I don’t submit fishing records on time?

  • If the for-hire vessel is delinquent in submitting the reports, it will be prohibited from continuing to harvest and possess Gulf reef fish or coastal migratory pelagic species until all required reports have been submitted. 
  • The federal for-hire permit would not be renewed until all required reports are submitted.
  • Reporting violations would be subject to the NOAA Policy for Assessment of Penalties and Permit Sanctions, which can be found at     



What will I be required to do if I am not actively fishing with my permit?

  • For electronic logbook
    • If the vessel does not leave the dock, the location device will allow NOAA Fisheries to know, and no logbook will be required.
    • If the vessel leaves the dock but is carrying out non-fishing activities, declare that in the hail-out, and no further reporting will be required.
  • For location devices
    • A power-down exemption request form will need to be submitted and approved in order for the vessel’s unit to be turned off. The vessel MAY NOT LEAVE THE DOCK for the duration of the power-down exemption. This needs to be carefully considered by the permit holder.
    • NOAA Fisheries may consider long-term exemptions for vessels that will not be operating at all during the year.


Where can I find more information about the requirements and the amendment that established the reporting program?

  • NOAA Fisheries and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council staff will be hosting outreach and training webinars in the fall.  Additionally, NOAA Fisheries is creating a series of videos to explain the program requirements.   A list of dates, and times of the webinars will be posted to our website.
  • The federal permit holder will be mailed a Notification Letter explaining the new requirements within the next few weeks.
  • The federal permit owner will be mailed an informational packet explaining the new reporting, how to set-up an account, and what to do or who to call, if there are issues with reporting.
  • The For-Hire Electronic Reporting Amendment and information is available on line at: NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Web site https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/southeast/et, or the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Web site: http://gulfcouncil.org/fishery-management/implemented-plans/generic-amendments/.


Any questions regarding reporting requirements should be directed to the Southeast Regional Office, Saint Petersburg, Florida @ 833-707-1632, or by email @ SER.ElectronicReporting@noaa.gov.


NOAA's Text Message Alert Program allows you to receive important fishery related alerts via text message (SMS).  Standard message & data rates may apply.  You may opt-out at any time.


Text alerts you may receive include:

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Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

  • Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFRECFISH to 888777
  • Gulf of Mexico Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
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  • South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
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  • South Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
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  • Caribbean Fisheries Related Alerts
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Other contacts:

Media: Kim Amendola, 727-551-5707

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Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on February 28, 2022

Small Entity Compliance Guide