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Federally Permitted For-Hire Fishing Operations In Florida States Listen Up! A Quick Review of NOAA’s New Southeast For-Hire Electronic Reporting Program

Beginning January 2021, NOAA Fisheries is implementing a new reporting requirement for federally permitted South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico for-hire fishing vessels called the Southeast For- Hire Electronic Reporting Program. The official start date of the program in the South Atlantic Jan 4th 2021 and Jan 5th 2021 in the Gulf of Mexico. Read below to learn more on what you may need to do.

SA- South Atlantic
GOM- Gulf of Mexico
GARFO- Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office
HMS- Highly Migratory Species  

The Current Situation:

There are 1,328 Gulf of Mexico federally permitted for-hire vessels taking ~128,000 trips a year (from Florida to Texas)

There are 2,138 SA federally permitted for-hire vessels taking ~282,000 trips a year (North Carolina to the FL Keys)

373 of these vessels are dual permitted for the GOM and SA

That’s a lot of unknown fishing effort and catch data that could provide more accurate decision making!

Who Does It Effect and Where?

Fishermen with charter and headboat permits issued by NOAA’s Southeast Regional Office are required to participate in this program. Don’t know which permits are applicable to and require compliance to the new program? Below is a table with the body of water and permits for each that need to take part in the Southeast For-Hire Electronic Reporting Program.

Applicable Gulf of Mexico Permits Applicable South Atlantic Permits
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish South Atlantic Snapper/Grouper
Gulf of Mexico Coastal Migratory Pelagic Atlantic Coastal Migratory Pelagics (FL-NY)
Atlantic Dolphin/Wahoo (FL-MA)
All permit holders are required to report regardless of where they are fishing (includes state waters) or what the target species is

Headboats Permit Holders: These operations have been reporting for some time now. Permit holders that are currently participating in the Southeast Region Headboat Survey will continue to do so using VESL reporting software but will have additional data to input. This new program changes reporting due dates from from Sunday to Tuesday and in the if you’re permitted in the Gulf, headboats will be required to declare each time the vessel leaves the dock with an expected return time at a verified location and submit fishing report before offloading.

Charter Permit Holders: This sector hasn’t had to submit reports in the past and this is a newer type of requirement. Report level is per fishing trip, reports are due weekly on Tuesday but its recommend complete your trip report the day of the trip. If your operation did not fish that week, you will have to submit a report indicating no fishing took place.

Potential Benefits of Electronic Reporting:
  • Increase accuracy of fisheries data
  • Up-to-date/real time data for researchers and regulators
  • Census bases data
  • In season datasets more complete
  • No legibility issues (easy to read without questioning handwriting etc…)
  • Reduce recall bias (easier to remember and produce more accurate data with new frequent reports)

Better data means better understanding of the species, more accurate models, and more informed fisheries management/decisions.

Info required for trip declaration:

Trip declarations are required any time a GOM federally permitted vessel leaves the dock

  • Vessel ID
  • Start and end time of trip
  • Start and end date of trip
  • Trip type (fishing or non-fishing)
  • Trip activity (charter, commercial, headboat, recreational)
  • Type of gear used
  • Start location (port)
  • Approved landing location
Info required for trip reports:

Applicable for both SA and GOM permitted vessels

  • Captain name
  • Vessel ID
  • Start and end time of trip
  • Start and end date of trip
  • Fishing location
  • Start and end location (port)
  • Gear used
  • Min and max fishing depths
  • Primary fishing depth
  • Target species
  • Number of crew
  • Number of anglers
  • Hours fished
  • All species caught
    • Number of species kept
    • Number of each species released
  • Fuel used
  • Trip fee (number of paying passengers/charter fee)
  • Cost of fuel per gallon

The information provided above helps identify trips, estimate possible discard mortality, fishing effort/landings and economic value of the fishery/industry. Collection of this information may help with best management decisions and the addition of economic data may help obtain accurate disaster relief funding to the industry.

How to Report:

Southeast For-Hire Electronic Reporting must be done on approved software and hardware, lists of approved reporting programs and hardware (VMS if/when applicable) are available on the NOAA Fisheries SE Electronic Technologies website. Currently only 2 software options (eTRIP and VESL) available but there should be additional options in the future.

Why would choose one reporting software over another? Some software options can be used by existing reporting requirements you may already have have.

eTRIPS: Free, also compatible with GARFO (Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office) and HMS (Highly Migratory Species) requirements

VESL: Free, also compatible with SC State Charter Program and the Headboat Survey.

If you have permits for both the GOM and SA, you must adhere to the Gulf requirements regardless of fishing location. Steps for that you need to take:

  • Trip declaration, when you’re going out and when expected to return and must be at a verified landing location.
  • Must report prior to offloading

If you have both SA and HMS permits, you must report within 24 hours after the trip has ended if you catch any bluefin tuna, swordfish, billfish (white/blue marlin, sailfish, round scale spearfish). I would probably stick to eTRIPs for your new landing reports as that is the same portal for HMS reporting.

*There may be different steps for permit holders who also have GARFO permits and participate in the SC State Charter Program, this article was written with Florida based charter and headboat operators in mind*

 Before January 4-5th 2021, what should you do?
  1. Make sure your info is correct on your permit paperwork
  2. Watch the videos on the website and read the toolkit information (GOM toolkit, SA toolkit)
  3. Select your software, create a profile and install it on your devices

Check the toolkits out if you have any questions, the info in them covers bunch of FAQs and walks you through the most if not the whole process

Contact info:

Electronic Reporting Phone line: 1-833-707-1632 6:30 am- 6:30 pm M-F EST

Ser.electronicreporting@noaa.gov

Past NOAA Webinar Links For The Southeast For-Hire Electronic Reporting Program:

South Atlantic focused webinar 

Gulf of Mexico focused webinar

Additional Resources:

Program announcement with FAQs