High Seas Fishing Compliance Act: Guide for Revised Regulations
Revised regulations effective January 2016 include adjustments to permitting and reporting procedures and requirements for the installation and operation of vessel monitoring system units, placement of observers on vessels, and reporting of transshipments on the high seas.
Duration/Cost of Permit
The high seas permit will continue to be valid for five years and cost $56.00 (note that this fee is subject to annual review by NOAA for recovery of administrative costs). Permit applications should continue to be sent to the regional NMFS office that you normally interact with on fishery matters. In the revised permit application, there is a new requirement to submit a recent color photo showing identifying markings of the high seas fishing vessel to be permitted.
The revised regulations allow NOAA Fisheries to place an observer on board a high seas fishing vessel where observer coverage is not otherwise required by other regulations or relevant Regional Fishery Management Organization conservation and management measures, thus the requirement applies to all high seas fishing vessels. NOAA Fisheries would carefully take into consideration both the scientific need for observer coverage as well as the characteristics of the fishery when designating high seas vessels for observer coverage under the revised regulations.
In those instances where transshipment on the high seas is not prohibited under other legal authorities, the revised regulations require that U.S. high seas fishing vessels involved in transshipment on the high seas have on board a high seas fishing permit. The permitting requirement applies to both the vessel offloading the fish or fish product and the vessel receiving the fish or fish product. In addition to any other applicable requirements, the owner or operator of a U.S. vessel receiving or offloading fish or fish product on the high seas must notify NOAA Fisheries at least 36 hours prior to each transshipment event, and submit a report on the transshipment event within 15 days after the vessel first enters into port, using the attached form.
Vessel Monitoring System/Enhanced Mobile Transceiver Unit Requirement
Many vessels permitted to fish on the high seas are already required to operate EMTUs when at sea because they participate in fisheries with domestic EMTU requirements. Satisfying those requirements satisfies the new high seas permit requirement if the EMTU is type-approved by NOAA for high seas fisheries, operating at all times, providing hourly position reports while on the high seas, and if EMTU activation and power-down/power-up procedures are the same or are more restrictive than the high seas permit requirements.
All high seas vessels that do not have a VMS unit type-approved by NOAA for use on the high seas need to purchase and install one.
VMS/EMTU Units Type-approved for Use on the High Seas
Please check the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement VMS Type Approvals prior to purchase for the most up to date list. The NOAA Office of Law Enforcement’s VMS Helpdesk (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides both instructions for VMS installation and a list of the current type-approved VMS units and mobile communications service providers.
Paying for a VMS Unit
The vessel owner and operator are responsible for all costs associated with the purchase, installation, and maintenance of the VMS unit and for all charges levied by the mobile communications service provider. However, federal funds may be available to vessel owners or operators for reimbursement of the cost of purchasing type-approved VMS units. Vessel owners are reimbursed on a first-come, first-served basis until funds for the reimbursement program are exhausted. The standard processing time is within 30 days of a completed application. Get more information on both the VMS Reimbursement Program.
When in the EEZ
In an effort to minimize the regulatory burden associated with the new EMTU requirement, high seas vessels are exempt from EMTU requirements and can power down the EMTU if either of the following sets of conditions are met:
- The vessel remains at a dock or permanent mooring for more than 72 consecutive hours (referred to as the in-port exemption).
- The vessel participates exclusively in a domestic fishery within the U.S. EEZ, for 30 or more consecutive days, and there are no other applicable requirements for any EMTU or VMS unit operation for those activities or fishery (referred to as the long-term exemption).
Outside of these two exemptions, however, high seas vessels must operate their EMTUs in the EEZ. If a high seas vessel operator is unsure whether his vessel’s operations will qualify for the second exemption (exclusively participating in a domestic fishery within the U.S. EEZ for 30 or more consecutive days) because there is a possibility that the vessel may operate on the high seas for a portion of the trip, the high seas vessel operator should power up and operate the EMTU in the EEZ to insure compliance with these regulations.