Letters of acknowledgment (LOAs) of scientific research activity and exempted fishing permits (EFPs) are issued under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) for situations where research activities would normally be prohibited by federal fishing regulations. This could include, for example, possession of certain prohibited species or fishing during seasonal or area closures. Other authorization may be required for scientific research activities occurring in marine sanctuaries, marine protected areas, special management zones, or over artificial reefs.
For information about current EFP:
For information about permitting requirements for marine sanctuaries, please contact:
Letters of Acknowledgement (LOA)
Issued to individuals conducting scientific research activities from scientific research vessels. Persons planning to conduct scientific research activities on board a scientific research vessel in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or on the high seas are encouraged to submit a scientific research plan to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The NMFS acknowledges the activities qualify as scientific research by issuing an LOA. Scientific research activity includes, but is not limited to: sampling, collecting, observing, or surveying the fish or fishery resources within the EEZ. Activities considered scientific research will be specified in the LOA, are exempt from the definition of fishing under the MSA and, therefore, are not subject to the fishing regulations developed under the MSA.
For more application information: LOA Application Information
Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP)
Issued to individuals for the purpose of certain efforts to target or incidentally harvest species managed under a fishery management plan or fishery regulations that would otherwise be prohibited. Generally, EFPs are issued for activities in support of fisheries-related research, including seafood product development and/or market research, compensation fishing, conservation engineering (that doesn’t meet the definition of scientific research), and the collection of fish for public display. Activities exempt from fishing regulations will be specified in the EFP. If NMFS determines that the EFP application warrants further consideration, the EFP request will be presented to the applicable fishery management council, and published in the Federal Register and made available for public comment (30 day comment period) prior to the issuance of the EFP. Upon completion of the activities of the EFP, or periodically as required by the terms and conditions of the EFP, persons fishing under an EFP must submit a report of their catches and any other information required, to the appropriate Regional Administrator. Persons conducting EFP activities are also requested to submit a copy of any publication prepared as a result of the EFP activity.
For more application information: EFP Application Information
For information about current EFP:
Applicable Federal Regulations and Definitions
Regulations at 50 C.F.R. § 600.745 provide information on applying for a LOA and an EFP.
Definitions can be found at 50 C.F.R. § 600.10.
Scientific research activity: An activity in furtherance of a scientific fishery investigation or study that would meet the definition of fishing under the MSA, but for the exemption applicable to scientific research activity conducted from a scientific research vessel. Scientific research activity includes, but is not limited to, sampling, collecting, observing, or surveying the fish or fishery resources within the EEZ, at sea, on board scientific research vessels, to increase scientific knowledge of the fishery resources or their environment, and to test a hypothesis as part of a planned, directed investigation or study conducted according to methodologies generally accepted as appropriate for scientific research. At-sea scientific fishery investigations address one or more topics involving taxonomy, biology, physiology, behavior, disease, aging, growth, mortality, migration, recruitment, distribution, abundance, ecology, stock structure, bycatch or other collateral effects of fishing, conservation engineering, and catch estimation of fish species considered to be a component of the fishery resources within the EEZ. Scientific research activity does not include the collection and retention of fish outside the scope of the applicable research plan, or the testing of fishing gear. Data collection designed to capture and land quantities of fish for product development, market research, and/or public display are not scientific research activities.
Scientific research plan: A detailed, written formulation, prepared in advance of the research for the accomplishment of a scientific research project. At a minimum, a sound scientific research plan should include:
- A description of the nature and objectives of the project, including the hypothesis or hypotheses to be tested.
- The experimental design of the project, including a description of the methods to be used, the type and class of any vessel(s) to be used, and a description of sampling equipment.
- The geographical area(s) in which the project is to be conducted.
- The expected date of first appearance and final departure of the research vessel(s) to be employed, and deployment and removal of equipment, as appropriate.
- The expected quantity and species of fish to be taken and their intended disposition, and, if significant amounts of a managed species or species otherwise restricted by size or sex are needed, an explanation of such need.
- The name, address, and telephone/telex/fax number of the sponsoring organization and its director.
- The name, address, and telephone/telex/fax number, and curriculum vitae of the person in charge of the project and, where different, the person in charge of the research project on board the vessel.
- The identity of any vessel(s) to be used including, but not limited to, the vessel's name, official documentation number and IRCS, home port, and name, address, and telephone number of the owner and master.
Scientific research vessel: A vessel owned or chartered by, and controlled by, a foreign government agency, U.S. Government agency (including NOAA or institutions designated as federally funded research and development centers), U.S. state or territorial agency, university (or other educational institution accredited by a recognized national or international accreditation body), international treaty organization, or scientific institution. In order for a domestic commercial fishing vessel to meet this definition, it must be under the control of a qualifying agency or institution, and operate in accordance with a scientific research plan, for the duration of the scientific research activity. (See 50 C.F.R. § 600.10for information regarding foreign vessels.)
Scientific cruise: The period of time during which a scientific research vessel is operated in furtherance of a scientific research project, beginning when the vessel leaves port to undertake the project and ending when the vessel completes the project as provided for in the applicable scientific research plan.
Conservation engineering: The development and assessment of fishing technologies and fishing techniques designed to conserve target and non-target species, and may include the study of fish behavior and the development and testing of new gear technologies and fishing techniques to minimize bycatch and any adverse effects on essential fish habitat and promote efficient harvest of target species. Conservation engineering may include the assessment of existing fishing technologies applied in novel ways. An example would be assessing the ability of a bycatch reduction device (BRD), designed and proven in one fishery, to reduce bycatch in another fishery. Conservation engineering meeting the definition of scientific research activity is not fishing.
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