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Request for Comments: Proposed Modification to Gulf of Mexico Charter Vessel and Headboat Electronic Reporting Requirements

June 21, 2018

FB18-043 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For More Information, Contact: Rich Malinowski, 727-824-5305, Rich.Malinowski@noaa.gov


NOAA Fisheries requests comments on a For-Hire Reporting Amendment, which if implemented, would establish electronic reporting requirements for charter vessels and headboats with federal Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) reef fish and coastal migratory pelagic permits.  The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved the For-Hire Reporting Amendment in an effort to improve data collection and fisheries management.  

Comments are due by: August 20, 2018



  • Prior to departing for any trip, the owner or operator of a vessel with a federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf Reef Fish or Coastal Migratory Pelagics would be required to declare (hail-out) the type of trip (for-hire or other).  If departing on a for-hire trip, the owner or operator must also report the expected return time, and landing location.
  • The owner or operator of a vessel with a federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf Reef Fish and Coastal Migratory Pelagics would be required to electronically submit trip-level reports prior to off-loading fish at the end of the trip.  If no fish were retained on a trip, submission of an electronic fishing report would be required within 30 minutes after the trip ends.
  • The fishing reports would be submitted via NOAA Fisheries-approved hardware and software with GPS capabilities that, at a minimum, archive vessel position data during a trip for subsequent transmission to NOAA Fisheries.  This requirement would not preclude the use of GPS devices that provide real-time location data or vessel monitoring systems.  The GPS portion of the hardware would have to be permanently affixed to the vessel and have uninterrupted power unless the owner or operator applies for and is granted an exemption. 


The comment period is open through August 20, 2018.  You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail.  Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.


FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 83 FR 120, published June 21, 2018.

Electronic Submissions:  Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 

1. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0075.

2. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields.

3. Enter or attach your comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Rich Malinowski, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.


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




Why are the proposed actions needed?

  • The electronic reporting system proposed in the For-Hire Reporting Amendment is expected to allow better monitoring of recreational annual catch limits to more efficiently manage recreational fishing seasons. 
  • The trip-level for-hire reporting proposed in this amendment is expected to help improve population assessments by providing a more accurate record of for-hire vessel landings and data associated with the fishing locations. 
  • The new system would also provide a history of landings by vessel, which could be used if the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council develops new management strategies for the for-hire industry in the future.  


Who would be required to submit fishing records electronically?

  • The owner or operator of a for-hire vessel that has a federal Gulf for-hire permit (reef fish or coastal migratory pelagic) would be required to submit trip-level electronic reports regardless of where they are fishing, including other regions and state waters.


How would the electronic reporting for federally permitted charter vessels work?  Do I need to have a computer?

  • NOAA Fisheries is currently evaluating potential software applications for the electronic reporting program, and is considering the use of software applications that are already being used by partners in the region, including “e-trips online” and “e-trips mobile,” which are products of the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program
  • These programs would require the use of a computer or tablet with access to the internet.  We are looking into the possibility of using smartphones for reporting in the future.  If the rule is implemented, outreach sessions will be held to explain the reporting program software and requirements. 


What type of information would be collected?

  • The owners or operators of Gulf for-hire vessels would be required to submit trip information such as:  start and end dates, start and end time, vessel and captain identification, number of crew, method of fishing, hours fished, depth fished, species kept, species discarded, charter fee, fuel used, and fuel price per gallon. 
  • These core data elements may be modified through coordination with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. 
  • This information would be required to be reported regardless of where fishing occurs or what species are harvested.  


Does this electronic reporting program replace the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP)?

  • Even if the new electronic reporting program is implemented, charter vessels with a federal permit would still need to report to MRIP if selected, until the new program is certified. 
  • Currently, landings and discards from federally permitted charter vessels of reef fish and coastal migratory pelagics are monitored through the MRIP survey of charter vessels.  Fishing effort is calculated based on a monthly sample of federally permitted charter vessels through a phone survey, which is transitioning to a new mail survey.  Catch rate observations and catch sampling are provided through dockside monitoring. 
  • If NOAA Fisheries implements the electronic reporting requirements described in the For-Hire Reporting Amendment, the MRIP survey of charter vessels would continue until the proposed electronic reporting program described in the For-Hire Reporting Amendment is certified by NOAA Fisheries, and then the electronic reporting program could replace the MRIP survey of federally permitted charter vessels.


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

  • No, because a continually operating GPS unit must be permanently attached to the vessel, allowing NOAA Fisheries to know if vessels are fishing or not.


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

  • Federally permitted for-hire vessel owners and operators who are delinquent in submitting their reports are prohibited from continuing to harvest and possess Gulf reef fish or coastal migratory pelagic fish until they have submitted all required reports. 
  • Permits would not be renewed if the vessel is delinquent in reporting.
  • Reporting violations would be subject to NOAA Policy for Assessment of Penalties and Permit Sanctions     



What type of GPS device would be required?

  • The GPS unit would require archiving or sending real-time location information,  must be permanently affixed to the vessel, and must have uninterrupted power.
  • The final rule will notify permit holders where to find a list of approved systems.


When would the requirements be effective?

  • NOAA Fisheries is working to develop the new for-hire electronic reporting system.
  • NOAA Fisheries anticipates the earliest the system would be ready would be spring of 2019.
  • More information will be provided in the final rule.


Where can I find more information on the amendment and environmental assessment?



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Other contacts:
Media: Kim Amendola, 727-551-5707
           Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750 


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