On February 23, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit set aside the final rule implementing the Southeast For-Hire Integrated Electronic Reporting Program (SEFHIER) in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf). This means the Gulf SEFHIER program is currently not in effect. The ruling does not affect the Atlantic/South Atlantic SEFHIER program.
A Fishery Bulletin (FB23-013) was released March 3, 2023, answering initial questions regarding impacts of the Court decision on the Gulf SEFHIER program. That Fishery Bulletin can be found here.
Further information regarding how the Court decision affects voluntary reporting, vessel monitoring system (VMS) requirements, and federal for-hire permit applications are found below in the frequently asked questions.
New Questions and Answers:
Can I report voluntarily? If I report voluntarily, what will happen with the data if I report?
NOAA discourages captains from reporting voluntarily. Data that are collected voluntarily will have limited utility as not everyone will report and there will be no data validation. In addition, NOAA Fisheries cannot ensure that the data would remain confidential because the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act only protects from disclosure information that is required to be submitted.
I am a dual Atlantic/South Atlantic and Gulf for-hire federal permit holder. Can I still use my VMS to report to the Atlantic/South Atlantic SEFHIER program?
No. The VMS unit’s forms are not type approved for the Atlantic/South Atlantic SEFHIER program. Anyone with an Atlantic/South Atlantic federal for-hire permit (South Atlantic Coastal Migratory Pelagics, Atlantic Dolphin Wahoo, or South Atlantic Snapper-Grouper) permit will need to report using type-approved applications for the Atlantic/South Atlantic SEFHIER program (e.g., eTrips or VESL). Information on these free software applications is available here.
Any vessel with an Atlantic/South Atlantic federal for-hire permit is required to submit trip reports (logbooks or no fishing reports) to NOAA Fisheries by the Tuesday following the fishing week (Monday-Sunday). This includes vessels with both Gulf and South Atlantic/Atlantic federal for-hire permit(s).
Can I turn off my VMS unit and take it off my vessel?
If you are required to have a VMS for another fishery, then you must continue to follow that fishery’s regulations regarding VMS requirements. If you only have a VMS unit to meet the Gulf federal for-hire permit requirements for the SEFHIER program then you may turn off the VMS unit and remove it from your vessel. You will also need to contact your VMS vendor if you want to deactivate your unit.
I submitted a Power Down Exemption for my VMS prior to the Court decision. What happens to that now?
If you are required to have a VMS for another fishery, then the submitted Power Down Exemption (PDE) continues to apply to your vessel. If you only have a VMS unit to meet the Gulf federal, for-hire permit requirements you no longer need a PDE to turn off your unit and may remove the unit from your vessel. Any current PDEs will simply expire, there is nothing an owner/operator needs to do.
Can I still get reimbursed for the VMS I purchased for the Gulf program prior to the Court decision?
The purchase deadline to receive the VMS reimbursement is March 3, 2023, the date the first Fishery Bulletin announcing the decision was published. Reimbursements will be available to federally permitted Gulf for-hire vessels who purchased their SEFHIER, type-approved VMS unit on or before March 3, 2023. The reimbursement process is outlined here: https://www.psmfc.org/program/vessel-monitoring-system-reimbursement-program-vms?pid=17. NOAA Fisheries’ reimbursement policy for fisheries in which a cellular VMS is allowed is to reimburse eligible permit holders for the cost of the first VMS unit they purchase for their federally permitted vessel, up to the cap of $950. Installation costs and communication fees are not included.
Why is the cap on the reimbursement $950?
The reimbursement policy was reviewed and amended when cellular VMS units got approval for use in U.S. Fisheries. The long-standing rule for VMS units allowed for the use of satellite units only, and the modernization of the rule warranted a full review of the reimbursement policy. One outcome of the process was a $950 reimbursement cap for those fisheries in which a cellular VMS is allowed.
I only have federal Gulf for-hire permits. Why am I still seeing compliance when I go to renew my permits?
NOAA Fisheries is required to check compliance with reporting requirements before permit renewal. All federal Gulf for-hire vessels NOT in the Southeast Region Headboat Survey (SRHS) are automatically marked as compliant with SEFHIER. However, vessels in the SRHS are required to submit trip-level reports on a weekly basis and compliance continues to be a permit requirement for those vessels.
Helpful Program Information and Useful Links:
SEFHIER customer service phone number: 1-833-707-1632 (M-F, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., ET) and email: [email protected].
For any federally permitted Atlantic/South Atlantic for-hire vessel, including dual for-hire Gulf and Atlantic/South Atlantic federally permitted vessels, please refer to our South Atlantic Compliance Guide for an overview of the reporting requirements.