Sea Turtle Observer Requirement Annual Determination
Through the Annual Determination, NOAA Fisheries identifies U.S. fisheries operating in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific Ocean that will be required to take observers upon NOAA Fisheries' request.
We annually identify, per the Endangered Species Act (ESA), commercial or recreational fisheries operating in state and/or Federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific Ocean that would be required to take sea turtle observers upon our request in order to:
- learn more about sea turtle interactions in the fishery
- evaluate existing measures to reduce or prevent prohibited sea turtle "takes"
- determine whether additional measures may be necessary to prevent sea turtle takes
The fisheries identified through the Annual Determination process will be required to carry sea turtle observers upon our request for a 5-year period. At the end of a 5-year period they may be relisted.
Fisheries Currently Listed on the Annual Determination
The Final 2023 Annual Determination (88 FR 4792) published on January 25, 2023 and listed two fisheries that required to take fisheries observers upon NOAA Fisheries’ request for a five-year period, through December 2027.
The Final 2022 Annual Determination (86 FR 52650; September 22, 2021) and Final 2021 Annual Determination (85 FR 60963; September 29, 2020) did not identify any additional fisheries.
We listed four fisheries on the 2020 Annual Determination published on August 31, 2020 (85 FR 53684) and these fisheries are required to take observers upon NOAA Fisheries’ request for a five-year period, until September 2025.
|Fishery||Years Eligible to Carry Observers|
|Southeastern U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl||2020-2025|
|Gulf of Mexico mixed species fish trawl||2020-2025|
|Chesapeake Bay inshore gillnet||2020-2025|
|Long Island inshore gillnet||2020-2025|
|Pound Net/Weir/Seine Fisheries|
|Gulf of Mexico menhaden purse seine||2023-2027|
Previous Annual Determinations
- 2022 Notice (86 FR 52650; September 22, 2021)
- 2021 Notice (85 FR 60963; September 29, 2020)
- 2020 Final Rule (85 FR 53684; August 31, 2020)
- 2020 Proposed Rule (85 FR 3880; January 23, 2020)
- 2019 Notice - no additional fisheries identified (83 FR 63483, December 10, 2018)
- 2018 Final Rule (83 FR 21738, May 10, 2018)
- 2018 Proposed Rule (82 FR 48674, October 19, 2017)
- 2017 Notice - no additional fisheries identified (81 FR 903330, December 14, 2016)
- 2016 Notice - no additional fisheries identified (80 FR 80323, December 24, 2015)
- 2015 Final Rule (80 FR 14319, March 19, 2015)
- 2015 Proposed Rule (79 FR 63066, October 22, 2014)
- 2014 Notice - no additional fisheries identified (78 FR 77428, December 23, 2013)
- 2013 Notice - no additional fisheries identified (77 FR 75999, December 26, 2012)
- 2012 Notice - no additional fisheries identified (77 FR 474, January 5, 2012)
- 2011 Notice - no additional fisheries identified (75 FR 81201, December 27, 2010)
- 2010 Final Rule (75 FR 27649, May 18, 2010)
- 2010 Proposed Rule (74 FR 59508, November 18, 2009)
Process for Developing an Annual Determination
We consult with state partners to identify which commercial and recreational fisheries should be considered for inclusion on the Annual Determination. We then develop a proposed determination, which is published in the Federal Register and is available for public comment for 30 days. After considering all public comments, we publish a final Annual Determination.
We identify fisheries in the determination using the best available scientific, commercial, or other information regarding:
- sea turtle-fishery interactions
- sea turtle distribution
- sea turtle strandings
- fishing techniques, gears used, target species, seasons and areas fished
- qualitative data from logbooks or fisher reports
Specifically, this determination is based on the extent to which:
- the fishery operates in the same waters and at the same time as sea turtles are present
- the fishery operates at the same time or prior to elevated sea turtle strandings
- the fishery uses a gear or technique that is known or likely to result in incidental take of sea turtles based on documented or reported takes in the same or similar fisheries
- NOAA Fisheries intends to monitor the fishery and anticipates that it will have the funds to do so
We use the most recent version of the MMPA List of Fisheries (LOF) as the comprehensive list of commercial fisheries for consideration. The LOF includes all known state and Federal commercial fisheries that occur in U.S. waters. However, the classification scheme used (categories based on marine mammal interaction) in the LOF is not applicable to this determination process.
Implementing Observer Coverage in the Listed Fisheries
The design of any observer program, including how observers are allocated to individual vessels, varies among:
- fishing sectors
- gear types
- geographic regions
The individual NOAA Fisheries Regional Office, Science Center, or observer program ultimately determines the program design. During the program design, we are guided by the following standards when determining observer distribution among identified fisheries and the placement of observers on vessels in those fisheries:
- obtain the best available scientific information
- assign observers fairly and equitably among fisheries and among vessels in a fishery
- subject no individual person or vessel, or group of persons or vessels, to inappropriate, excessive observer coverage
- minimize costs and avoid duplication, where practical
Fisheries not included on the determination may still be observed under a different authority than the ESA (for example, Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) or Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA)).
Additional information on observer programs in commercial fisheries can be found on NOAA Fisheries' Fishery Observer Program website, including links to individual regional observer programs.