NOAA Fisheries announces new measures affecting commercial reef fish fishermen. The purpose of this action is to improve compliance and increase management flexibility in the Gulf of Mexico individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs.

All owners or operators of a commercial reef fish permitted vessel landing any commercially caught, federally managed reef fish from the Gulf of Mexico will be required to provide an advance notice of landing at least 3 hours, but no more than 24 hours, prior to landing. This applies even if the reef fish landed are not part of the IFQ program. Landing must occur at approved landings locations.
Any shares contained in IFQ accounts that have never been activated since January 1, 2010 will be returned permanently to NOAA Fisheries.
If needed, NOAA Fisheries will be allowed to withhold the distribution of IFQ allocation equal to the amount of an expected commercial quota reduction on January 1, the beginning of the fishing year, but will distribute that allocation if the expected reduction does not take place by June 1 of that year.

The actions to return non-activated shares and withhold quota in the event of an anticipated quota decrease will be effective July 12, 2018.
The advance notice of landing requirement will be effective January 1, 2019.

83 FR 27927, published June 12, 2018


Why are landing notifications being required for all commercial trips landing reef fish species, not just IFQ species?

  • One issue identified in a 5-year review of the red snapper IFQ program was additional enforcement efforts are needed to deter violations in the program.
  • Extending the landing notification requirement to all commercial reef fish trips should help to deter fishermen from illegally landing IFQ species or reporting IFQ species as another species (e.g., red snapper reported as vermilion snapper).
  • With this requirement, law enforcement and port agents can be alerted in advance of all reef fish trips returning to port and can meet vessels to inspect landing

What information needs to be in the landing notification?

  • The landing notification must provide the vessel identifier (name and official vessel registration), date and time of expected landing, expected landing location, and certification that there are no IFQ species on board the vessel.
  • Landing locations must be on NOAA Fisheries’ pre-approved landing location list.
  • This does not change the landing notification required by the IFQ program.

When and how are landing notifications made?

  • Landing notifications can be made through the vessel monitoring system (VMS) required for federally permitted commercial reef fish vessels.
  • Notifications can be submitted by other NMFS-approved methods in the future (e.g., by phone) if they are developed.
  • Landing notifications need to be made at least 3 hours, but no more than 24 hours, prior to landing.

What are the landing notification time requirements?

  • A vessel can land anytime during the day and night, provided that a landing notification has been given between 3 to 24 hours prior to landing.
  • A vessel must landwithin 1 hour after the arrival time given in the landing notification. If a vessel is going to be more than 1 hour after the arrival time, a new notification with an updated arrival time must be submitted. The captain is not required to wait an additional 3 hours if only one superseding landing notification has been submitted for the trip.
  • Vessels are allowed to land prior to the 3-hour landing notification time of arrival if an authorized officer is present, is available to meet the vessel at the landing site, and authorizes the owner or operator of the vessel to land early.
  • Fishers only need to notify law enforcement in advance of landing, not offloading.

How do I find out if my landing location is pre-approved and what do I need to do to get a landing location approved?

  • A list of currently approved landing locations and a map can be found here (select view landings locations).
  • If your landing location is on this list, you do not need to submit a new one.
  • If your landing location is not on the list, then you must submit a new landing location.
    • Landing locations must be submitted by mailing a form to 263 13th Avenue South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701.
    • The form can be obtained here.
  • The landing location must contain a contact name and phone number, a location name, and the location’s street address, unless there is no street address on record. If a particular landing location has no street address on record, global positioning system (GPS) coordinates for an identifiable geographic location must be provided in decimal degrees.
  • Landing locations must be publicly accessible by land and water. No conditions may impede free and immediate access to the site by an authorized law enforcement officer or port agent. Examples of which include, but are not limited to: A locked gate, fence, wall, or other barrier preventing 24-hour access to the site; a gated community entry point; a guard animal; a posted sign restricting access to the site; or any other physical deterrent. Other criteria may also be used by the Office of Law Enforcement when approving locations.
  • New landing locations will be approved only at the end of each calendar-year quarter. To have a landing location approved by the end of the calendar-year quarter, it must be submitted at least 45 days before the end of the calendar-year quarter. Quarters end on March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31.

Why must pre-approved landing locations be used?

  • Landing locations must be approved in advance to ensure the sites actually exist and law enforcement agents can access these sites. The landing notification requirement is intended to provide law enforcement officers the opportunity to be present at the point of landing so they can monitor and enforce IFQ requirements dockside.
  • Landing locations are approved by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.
  • More information on landing locations, how to submit a new landing location, and general information on the IFQ program can be found here.

Which IFQ share accounts are being returned to NOAA Fisheries?

  • Shares in accounts that have never been activated since January 1, 2010, will permanently be returned to NOAA Fisheries on July 12, 2018.
  • The amount of shares in accounts that have not been activated since January 1, 2010, is small.
  • Because all the share accounts have not been activated, this means that not all the allocation is being harvested and the entire commercial quota cannot be caught.
  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council intends to redistribute these shares to IFQ program participants through a mechanism determined in Amendment 36B to the to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico, which is currently under development.

Why does NOAA Fisheries need to hold back some of the quota?

  • Sometimes a quota needs to be reduced quickly to address overfishing (too many fish being caught), or a change in status is detected through a recent scientific assessment of the population.
  • Under the IFQ programs, annual allocation is distributed to IFQ shareholders on January 1, and most IFQ program participants begin to use or transfer their allocation early in the year.
  • After shareholders begin transferring or landing allocation, it would not be possible to go back and withdraw allocation from shareholder accounts if a quota decrease became effective after January 1.
  • This action allows NOAA Fisheries to anticipate a decrease in the quota of any IFQ species or multi-species share categories after the start of a year and distribute a portion of the annual allocation to shareholders on January 1.

What if NOAA Fisheries is not able to reduce the quota in a timely fashion?

  • NOAA Fisheries understands that fishermen need time to plan to fish or transfer IFQ allocation.
  • If the quota decrease cannot be completed by June 1, then the withheld quota will be distributed back to IFQ participants that hold shares for the given share category at the time of distribution.
  • If the quota decrease is not effective by June 1, the distribution of allocation for the next year will be based on the reduced quota.

Where can I find more information on Amendment 36A?