Frequent Questions Modifications to Reporting Requirements for Vessels with Federal For-Hire Permits for Reef Fish or Coastal Migratory Pelagic Species

August 22, 2019

Gulf of Mexico - Updated August 2019

These frequently asked questions are to inform the for-hire industry of electronic reporting requirements, and provide updated timelines for program implementation.

What are the new requirements?

  • The final rule for the For-Hire Reporting Amendment would establish electronic reporting requirements for federally-permitted charter vessels and change the reporting requirements for federally-permitted headboats.
  • The owner or operator of a charter vessel who has been issued a federal Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) charter/headboat permit for reef fish or coastal migratory pelagic species would be required to provide fishing records to NOAA Fisheries for each trip via electronic reporting (using NOAA Fisheries approved hardware/software) prior to offloading fish.
  • Prior to departing on any trip, the owner or operator of a vessel issued a charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish or coastal migratory pelagic species would be required to declare (hail-out) the type of trip (e.g., for-hire or other trip). 
  • Vessel operators would be required to have a GPS device affixed to the vessel that, at a minimum, archives vessel position data for submission to NOAA Fisheries. 

Why are the new requirements necessary?

  • Trip-level reporting would allow better monitoring of recreational quotas, which is expected to provide more timely and efficient management of recreational fishing seasons. 
  • The trip-level reporting could help improve population assessments by providing a more accurate record of for-hire vessel landings and locations. 
  • The new system would provide a history of landings for each vessel, as well as economic information, which could help improve analyses for proposed Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council actions.  
  • Economic data could also be used in determining the costs of disasters, such as hurricanes or red tide events.
  • Hail-outs and 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 would be required to submit trip-level electronic reports.
  • Reporting would be required regardless of where fishing occurs, including other regions and state waters.
  • Owners and operators of vessels that have both a South Atlantic and a Gulf for-hire permit would report only to the Gulf system to reduce duplicate reporting.

How often would I need to submit logbooks?

  • You would 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 you leave the dock, you would be required to hail-out declaring the type of trip you are taking.
  • If you are taking a non-fishing trip, private recreational fishing, sunset cruise, etc., you would declare that in your hail-out and would not need to submit a logbook.
  • If your vessel remains at the dock, no reporting would be required.

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

  • You must report all species caught, regardless of where you fish, as a condition of holding the federal permit.
    • NOAA Fisheries is refining a species list to include specific federal and state managed species; other species would be grouped for simplicity.
  • 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, you may estimate amounts.  However, you should count all fish caught by passengers.

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

  • Economic data collected would include:
    • Trip fee
    • Approximate fuel used and price per gallon
    • Number of passengers and crew
  • Entering these data would take approximately 2 minutes.
  • Economic data can 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
    • Make decisions about quota allocations
    • Assess damage during 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 would 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?

  • Prior to departing for any trip, the owner or operator of a vessel issued a federal for-hire Gulf reef fish or Gulf coastal migratory pelagic species permit would be required to hail-out the type of trip (e.g., for-hire or other trip).  It would be required that the hail-out include the expected return time and landing location. 
  • VMS would have an option to submit a new hail-out with the modified landing time or location, similar to the commercial IFQ program.
  • NOAA Fisheries is working on a procedure for new hail-out submissions for cellular units.
  • Under any emergency condition, you should return to port without worrying about changing your hail-out landing location or time.

What equipment would I need?

  • You would be required to have hardware and software that meets NOAA Fisheries’ technical requirements and has been approved by NOAA Fisheries.
    • Hail-out: You can submit your hail-out report through a phone app, tablet, computer, or VMS unit that allows for internet access and is capable of operating approved software.
    • Logbook:  You can submit your logbook through a phone app, tablet, computer, or VMS unit that allows for internet access and is capable of operating approved software.
    • Location Tracking:  A GPS unit would be required that is permanently affixed to the vessel.  This can be a cellular-based store-and-forward device or a satellite-based real-time device, such as a VMS.
      • Currently NOAA Fisheries has a list of VMS Units that will be evaluated to determine if these systems meet the new reporting requirements.
      • A vessel with both a commercial and charter/headboat federal permit should 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.
  • 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.  For example:
    • E-trips
    • VESL
  • Approved hardware and software would be posted on the Southeast Regional Office’s website upon approval.

What if my equipment fails?

  • Logbooks and Hail-outs
    • Have a backup - multiple options are available (tablet, PC, cell phone).
    • Phone home!  You could call your office or home and have someone else submit your logbook.
  • Location Devices
    • If your GPS device is not functioning, you should first contact the unit’s vendor to see if it can be repaired.  If the problem is not remedied, your vessel cannot leave the dock and you would need to contact NOAA Fisheries to notify the staff of the problem.
    • NOAA Fisheries is aware of the burden this would create for for-hire businesses that would need to cancel trips.  Staff are working to develop a means of allowing trips to take place in the case of unexpected equipment failure, under limited circumstances.
    • In the commercial sector, VMS failure rate is around 1%; the life of a VMS unit is 5-10 years (depending on brand).

What if I lose my GPS signal?

  • For appropriate validation of effort, the units must either have a power-down exemption or be turned on and functional.
  • As stated above, if your location tracking device is not working you should first contact the unit’s vendor to see if the situation can be repaired.  If the problem is not remedied, you should notify NOAA Fisheries.
  • You may lose a satellite signal if your vessel is in covered storage.  If you intend to keep your vessel in covered storage, you should choose a cellular-based unit, which should work anywhere cell phones work.
  • If you have a small vessel, you may be concerned about battery drainage.  However, many commercial fishermen have smaller vessels with VMS units that do not drain batteries.  Also, solar options may be available that can store power for up to 2 weeks.

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

  • If you are delinquent in submitting your reports, you would be prohibited from continuing to harvest and possess Gulf reef fish or coastal migratory pelagic species until you have submitted all required reports. 
  • Your 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.

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

  • For logbooks
    • If your vessel does not leave the dock, the location device would allow NOAA Fisheries to know, and no logbook would be expected.
    • If the vessel leaves the dock but is carrying out non-fishing activities, you would state that in the hail-out, and no further reporting would be required.
  • For location devices
    • A power-down exemption would allow your unit to be turned off as long as your vessel will not leave the dock (minimum 72 hours).
    • 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?

  • More information on the for-hire reporting program can be found at:

Any questions regarding reporting requirements should be directed to the Southeast Regional Office, Saint Petersburg, Florida @ 727-824-5305

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on 08/22/2019

Charter/headboat Vessel Monitoring Systems