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Request for Comments: Proposed Rule to Modify the Requirements for Federally-Permitted For-Hire Vessels Multi-Day Trip Possession Limits in the Gulf of Mexico

July 28, 2020

FB20-050: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Rich Malinowski, 727-824-5305, rich.malinowski@noaa.gov


  • NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on a proposed rule that would modify the on-board multi-day possession limit of fish species on for-hire trips by federally-permitted vessels in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The rule would increase the required trip duration to greater than 30 hours, but would allow anglers to retain the second daily bag limit at any time after the federally-permitted for-hire vessel leaves the dock.
  • The rule would also require that the receipt issued to passengers specify the date and time of both the departure and return of the trip, and would clarify that the entire trip must occur on days when the harvest and possession of the applicable reef fish species are allowed.
  • Comments are due by August 27, 2020.



  • In response to concerns by some for-hire captains, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council developed an amendment to modify the requirements to retain the possession limit of fish species on for-hire trips by federally-permitted vessels in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Current regulations allow anglers to retain two bag limits of most reef fish or coastal migratory pelagic (CMP) species on multi-day trips, but prohibit anglers from possessing the second bag limit until 24 hours of the trip have passed.  CMP species to which this possession limit applies are king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. 
  • The possession of Gulf of Mexico cobia is limited to two per person per day regardless of the duration of a trip and this proposed rule would not revise the cobia possession limits.
  • Speckled hind and warsaw grouper have daily bag limits of one fish per vessel per day; therefore, the possession limit is two vessel limits, or two fish per vessel. 
  • The rule would require a multi-day trip duration be greater than 30 hours in length to allow anglers to retain the possession limit, but would allow the retention of the possession limit any time during the trip, versus having to wait until the first 24 hours have passed after the federal for-hire vessel leaves the dock.
  • The existing requirements would remain the same for the vessel to have two licensed operators aboard, and each passenger issued and have in possession a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the length of the trip.  However, the receipt would need to specify the date, time of departure, and length of trip.
  • For the purpose of the possession limit, the entire trip duration must coincide with an open fishing season for the applicable species. 
    • For example: if anglers on a federal for-hire vessel intend to retain the possession limit of red snapper, which has an open season beginning on June 1, the vessel cannot depart before 12:01 AM on June 1. 
  • The rule is expected to promote efficiency in the utilization of the reef fish and CMP resources and a potential decrease in regulatory discards by providing the owners and operators of federally-permitted for-hire vessels greater flexibility in determining when to allow passengers to retain the possession limit on multi-day trips.



The comment period is open now through August 27, 2020.  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: 85 FR 45363, published July 28, 2020.


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

1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NOAA_FRDOC_0001-5568

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.


  • 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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Other contacts:

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Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on July 28, 2020