Deep-set Buoy Gear Authorization: Timeline and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Information about NOAA Fisheries' final regulations for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS), authorizing deep-set buoy gear (DSBG) as an additional gear type for catching swordfish and other HMS species
Timeline and Next Steps
- Deep-set buoy gear fishing will be allowed in Federal waters off California and Oregon, north and west of Point Conception, California, for all general HMS Permit holders who obtain a DSBG endorsement. However, the gear will only be allowed on a limited entry basis within the Southern California Bight (south and east of Point Conception).
- Limited entry permits will be issued in a ranked manner according to eight qualification tiers. Once the final rule becomes effective on June 7th, 2023, NOAA Fisheries will send pre-qualification letters by mail and email to eligible applicants informing them of the tier we anticipate them falling under.
- Beginning on June 7th, 2023, applicants will have 60 days to apply for a limited entry permit with the application period ending on August 7th, 2023. Following this period, applicants will be ranked according to the qualifying criteria for Tier 1 through Tier 8, as recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. NOAA Fisheries will then issue initial administrative decisions notifying applicants that either their application has been approved and NOAA Fisheries has issued them a permit, or their application has been approved and NOAA Fisheries plans to issue them a permit at a later date (year to be provided), or their application was denied.
- Those who do not qualify for the initial eight application tiers, or who do not apply, may apply for limited entry permits, under Tier 9, on a first-come-first-served basis at a later date. This date will be announced by NOAA Fisheries in the Federal Register.
- The frequently asked questions (FAQs) below contain additional information on the permitting process. The proposed rule, final rule, and the NOAA Fisheries DSBG webpage, contain detailed information on the background behind the action, management measures, and other procedures and restrictions for those wishing to fish for swordfish with deep-set buoy gear.
Permit requirements and FAQs
Pacific HMS Permit with Deep-Set Buoy Gear (DSBG) Endorsement
Existing regulations at 50 CFR 660.707(a) require commercial fishing vessels that fish for highly migratory species (HMS in Federal waters off of California, Oregon, and Washington to have a general HMS permit that authorizes use of specific gear types. However, the Council recommended and is implementing a prohibition on fishing with DSBG in Federal waters off of Washington (see proposed § 660.715(d)(1)). Therefore, gear endorsements for DSBG will be required under the existing federal general HMS permit regulations to fish with DSBG in Federal waters south of a line extending seaward of the Oregon/Washington border (i.e., off of the States of California and Oregon).
Limited Entry Deep-Set Buoy Gear (LE DSBG) Permits
The LE DSBG Permit is only available to those individuals that qualify for a tier (including the “first-come-first served” tier; see discussion of tiers below). Permits will be issued to individuals beginning with Tier 1 in 2023. Additional permits will be “phased-in” over time. NOAA Fisheries anticipates issuing up to 50 permits in the first year and up to 25 permits in subsequent years until a maximum of 300 valid permits have been issued, or until NOAA Fisheries or the Council decide to stop issuing new permits.
Where does the LE DSBG permit allow me to fish?
The LE DSBG permit allows permit holders to fish with DSBG in Federal waters inside the Southern California Bight (SCB). The SCB is defined by a northern boundary of 34°26'54.96" N. latitude (i.e., Point Conception, California), a southern boundary of the U.S.-Mexico maritime border, and a western boundary of 120°28'18'' W. longitude.
The HMS permit with a DSBG endorsement allows permit holders to fish with DSBG in Federal waters off Oregon and California. Fishing with DSBG is prohibited in Federal waters off the State of Washington (see § 660.715(d)(1)).
Who can hold a LE DSBG permit?
LE DSBG permits will be issued to and held by a “person,” as defined at 50 CFR 660.702 to mean “any individual, corporation, partnership, association or other entity (whether or not organized or existing under the laws of any state), and any Federal, state, or local government, or any entity of any such government that is eligible to own a documented vessel under the terms of 46 U.S.C. 12102(a).” A person shall only hold one LE permit, in whole or in part, including through ownership interest in a partnership, corporation, or other entity. For example, if John Doe holds a permit in their own name, they cannot also hold a permit as a member of a partnership or corporation or other entity. For purposes of enforcing this limitation, partial ownership “counts” as full ownership. For example, if John Doe holds 25 percent ownership of one permit and 25 percent ownership of another permit, that would be considered ownership of two permits, not 50 percent of one permit. To monitor and enforce this requirement, permit holders applying for initial issuance or renewal of an LE permit will be required to submit information on ownership interest as part of their LE permit application, which documents those persons that have an ownership interest in the LE permit.
Can LE DSBG permits be transferred?
LE DSBG permits cannot be transferred, except for a one-time transfer to a family member upon the death or legal incapacitation of the permit holder. One-time transfers also apply to members of a partnership, corporation, or other entity. See the proposed rule for more details on permit transfer restrictions and procedures.
What do I need to do to apply for a federal LE DSBG permit?
To qualify for a LE DSBG permit under Tiers 1-8, applicants have to meet the following requirements: (1) be eligible to own a permit, (2) be in compliance with ownership limitations, (3) meet the criteria for one of the qualification Tiers 1-8 laid out by the Council, and (4) apply for a LE DSBG permit by completing and submitting an initial issuance application package to NOAA Fisheries. The completed application package must be submitted through the NOAA Fisheries Permits website no later than 60 days after the effective date of the final rule (see proposed § 660.707(g)(11)(ii) and § 660.707(g)(12)(i)). This means that the application period will run from June 7th, 2023 through August 7th, 2023.
A complete initial issuance application package consists of the following: (1) a completed initial issuance application form, (2) a completed DSBG Identification of Ownership Interest Form for businesses, (3) a current copy of the United States Coast Guard Documentation Form or state registration form for the vessel that will be registered to the permit, and (4) payment of required fees. NOAA Fisheries may require additional documentation as it deems necessary to make a determination on the application.
Once the final rule is published, NOAA Fisheries will send pre-qualification letters to persons that appear to qualify for a LE DSBG permit based on Federal and State records. NOAA Fisheries will supply directions on how to apply and the tier in which records indicate the applicant may qualify. If the prospective applicant agrees with NOAA Fisheries’s assessment, they would go to the NOAA Fisheries Permits website and apply for a LE DSBG permit. If the prospective applicant does not agree with NOAA Fisheries’ assessment or failed to receive notification and believes they should have, they have 60 days from the effective date of the final rule to seek a data correction before NOAA Fisheries and CDFW “freeze” the databases for purposes of qualifying applicants for LE permits. “Freezing” the databases means that NOAA Fisheries intends to extract a dataset from the NOAA Fisheries and CDFW databases 60 days after the effective date of the final rule and use that dataset to qualify applicants for LE DSBG permits under Tiers 1-8.
Once the application period closes on August 7, 2023, and the data freeze is complete, NOAA Fisheries will review applications. Applicants who submitted complete application packages will then receive an initial administrative decision (IAD) from NOAA Fisheries notifying them of the agency’s decision to issue or deny them a permit. If approved for a permit, the IAD will also provide the applicant’s “rank,” or place in line for receiving a permit, and the approximate year NOAA Fisheries expects to issue them a permit. If the application is denied, the IAD will explain why and notify the application of their right to appeal NOAA Fisheries’ decision and the procedures to do so.
How will LE DSBG permits be issued?
LE DSBG permits will be issued in two phased regimes. The first phase will be an initial, one-time qualification process for applicants meeting the criteria laid out by the Council for Tiers 1-8 (see proposed § 660.707(g)(11)). The second phase will be an annual first-come-first-served application process for applicants under Tier 9 (see proposed § 660.707(g)(12)).
LE DSBG permit applications for Tiers 1-8 will be available as of the effective date of the final rule, June 7th, 2023. Applications will be available through the NOAA Fisheries Permits website and will be due 60 days from the effective date of the final rule. The application period will close on August 7, 2023. After that time, no more applications for Tiers 1-8 will be accepted.
Once the list of approved qualifiers for Tiers 1-8 has been exhausted, NOAA Fisheries will begin issuing permits under Tier 9. At that time, any individual will be eligible to apply for a LE DSBG permit under Tier 9. NOAA Fisheries will publish a notice in the Federal Register to notify interested persons of the application start and end date, along with instructions on how to apply for a Tier 9 permit. NOAA Fisheries will accept applications for initial issuance of LE DSBG permits under Tier 9 on an annual basis until a total of 300 LE DSBG permits are issued, unless NOAA Fisheries determines with a subsequent rulemaking that the maximum number of permits should be fewer than 300.
What information is NOAA Fisheries using to determine who falls in which Tier?
NOAA Fisheries intends to use NOAA Fisheries permit, exempted fishing permit (EFP), observer program, and logbook records; California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) permit, CDFW drift gillnet (DGN) transition program records, and marine landing receipts to determine the tiers.
How many LE DSBG permits will be issued?
To “phase-in” the LE DSBG fishery as recommended by the Council, NOAA Fisheries anticipates issuing 50 permits the first year, followed by 25 permits each year after, up to a maximum of 300 valid permits in total. If at any time, NOAA Fisheries and/or the Council determine that the maximum number of permits should be less than 300, NOAA Fisheries will engage in rulemaking to specify the alternate maximum number of LE DSBG permits.
Where can I obtain the information needed to apply for a federal LE DSBG permit?
To apply for either a LE DSBG permit or an HMS permit with a DSBG endorsement, please visit the NOAA Fisheries Permits website. First register as a new user, then log into the program and follow the prompts to apply for either a LE DSBG permit or an HMS permit with a DSBG endorsement. For questions on your application, please contact email@example.com.
How long are LE DSBG permits effective?
LE permits will be effective for one year (May 1-April 30) and will be required to be renewed by May 31st each year to remain valid. The permit owner is responsible for renewing a LE permit. Permit holders will receive a permit renewal reminder each year that their permit is active. To renew a LE DSBG permit, permit holders will go to the NOAA Fisheries Permits website and submit a renewal application.
Will I need to register a vessel in order to fish?
Yes. A particular vessel must be designated for use with the permit before the permit can be used to fish DSBG, and that vessel must have a valid HMS permit with a DSBG endorsement. The vessel does not need to be owned by the LE permit owner. An HMS permit holder is not required to be onboard the vessel during DSBG fishing. Likewise, an LE permit holder is not required to be onboard the vessel during DSBG fishing in the SCB. A single vessel may be designated on (i.e., registered to) multiple LE permits, but only one LE permit can be fished on a vessel at a time. Vessels must also be registered with the respective state(s) and the U.S. Coast Guard to fish under a DSBG permit, as required by other applicable law.
Can I change my vessel designation?
Yes. If a permit owner wants to use a permit with a vessel other than the one registered for use with that permit, the permit owner must request a change in vessel registration. Changes in the designated vessel will only be allowed once per year, except in cases outside the control of the vessel owner or if the permit holder decides not to designate a vessel. If a permit owner chooses not to designate a vessel it would not count as a change in vessel registration if they then decide to designate a vessel.
To make changes to a registered vessel on a permit or to register a vessel on a permit, please submit a vessel registration transfer application through the NOAA Fisheries Permits website.
Where can I obtain the information needed to apply for a federal LE DSBG permit?
Permit applications are available through the NOAA Fisheries Permits website and due 60 days from the effective date of the final rule.
What will happen to my DSBG Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) once the LE program begins?
Any existing EFPs being used to fish DSBG will become invalid when the final rule is effective. To avoid a potential gap in DSBG fishing in the Southern California Bight, NOAA Fisheries is planning to re-issue existing DSBG EFPs in a new form which exempts them from the new regulations. If you are a current DSBG EFP holder, you only need to make sure you receive one of these updated EFPs, and you can continue fishing until the first batch of LE DSBG permits are issued. However, these re-issued EFPs will be revoked upon issuance of the first batch of LE permits.
Specific Questions on LE DSBG Tiers
When will I know which tier I qualify for?
NOAA Fisheries will notify applicants by email and mail in May 2023 as to which tier they qualify for and how to apply for a LE DSBG permit. Applicants will then have until August 7, 2023, to submit applications.
What if I miss the application deadline to apply for Tiers 1-8?
Individuals who do not apply for Tiers 1-8 during the initial application period (June 7 through August 7, 2023) can apply later for permits issued under Tier 9 (see answer to “How will LE DSBG permits be issued?” above).
What if I qualify for multiple tiers?
NOAA Fisheries anticipates that some individuals may qualify multiple times under the same tier or different tiers. For example, a vessel owner may have eligible effort as a vessel owner and as a captain. However, a person will only be allowed to hold one LE permit. To comply with this requirement, NOAA Fisheries will qualify an individual meeting multiple tiers based on their highest tier, with Tier 1 being highest, Tier 2 second highest, and so forth. NOAA Fisheries also anticipates that some individuals may qualify multiple times under different names. NOAA Fisheries will use ownership interest information submitted with the initial applications to identify such individuals.
What if I believe some of my state or federal fishing records are wrong or missing?
If you believe your state or federal fishing records are wrong or missing, please contact NOAA Fisheries at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to dispute records. When contacting NOAA Fisheries please provide any documentation to demonstrate that existing state or federal records are incorrect.
To obtain a copy of California state landings data, individuals need to submit the Personal Landings Request to the email listed at the bottom of the form. If an error is identified, please contact Liz Hellmers at email@example.com or (619) 871-2231.
What if I disagree with the agency’s decision on which Tier I qualify in?
For purposes of the Tier 1-8 initial issuance qualification, NOAA Fisheries intends to use our permit, EFP, observer program, and logbook records; CDFW permit and DGN transition program records, and marine landing receipts. Applicants will be able to review these records before NOAA Fisheries “freezes” the databases for purposes of qualification. “Freezing” the database means that NOAA Fisheries intends to extract a dataset from NOAA Fisheries and CDFW databases 60 days after the effective date of the final rule and use that dataset for the Tier 1-8 qualification for LE DSBG permits.
If potential applicants have concerns over the accuracy of the records that will be used for qualifications, they should contact NOAA Fisheries or the appropriate state responsible for those records. Any revisions to an entity’s records will have to be approved by NOAA Fisheries or CDFW and completed as of the date we freeze the database in order for the updated information to be used for the qualification process. Points of contact are as follows:
- NOAA Fisheries WCR Permits Office ((562) 980-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org) for WCR Observer Program, logbook, and EFP records.
- California–Liz Hellmers ((619) 871-2231 or email@example.com) for CDFW license, DGN transition program, and marine landing receipt records.
If I was issued an EFP and fished before June 7th, 2023, will I qualify in Tier 3?
Yes. Tier 3 consists of EFP holders approved by the Council prior to April 1, 2021, who conducted at least 10 calendar days of DSBG fishing effort or with 10 days of DSBG effort on their vessel or by vessels they managed under the EFP by the effective date of the final rule implementing the LE DSBG permit.
NOAA Fisheries will qualify individuals for this tier based on a NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Observer Program record or a properly submitted NOAA Fisheries DSBG EFP logbook indicating that the EFP holder was either a vessel captain for fishing days or an EFP manager or owner, or both, of the vessel that conducted the fishing effort. The definition of an EFP holder is the same as for Tier 1. As with Tier 1, NOAA Fisheries would consider the cumulative effort of captains, vessel owners, and EFP managers across vessels to meet the 10-day effort qualification. Tier 3 will consider trips through the effective date of the final rule. To enable timely review of applications and issuance of LE permits, logbooks for trips landed on the effective date of the final rule will need to be submitted within 7 days of landing to be considered under this tier. Logbooks submitted after the deadline may not be considered in qualifying applicants for Tier 3.
Are landings attributed to the permit holder or vessel?
For the purposes of ranking applicants for LE DSBG permits, landings are attributed to individual permit holders, not to vessels.
If I plan to surrender my federal drift gillnet permit under the transition program to be established under the Driftnet Act of 2022, will I be considered for Tier 2?
Because of the timing of ranking and necessary “data freeze” to rank applicants, and the fact that a federal transition program was not in place at the time the DSBG final rule became effective, only drift gillnet permit holders who surrendered their permit under the State of California’s transition program will be eligible under Tier 2. To qualify under Tier 2, permit holders need to have surrendered their permit under the State of California’s transition program and have the appropriate landings.