On July 17, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published a proposed rule for expanding electronic reporting in the Greater Atlantic Region. This rule mandates 100% electronic reporting for commercial fishermen in the Mid-Atlantic and New England Council fishery management regions as well as federally-permitted for-hire party/charter operators in the New England management region.
For-hire operators in the Mid-Atlantic management region have been mandated to electronically report since April 2019.
Under the rule, fishermen would be required to submit electronic vessel trip reports (eVTRs) within 48 hours of the end of a trip. Current electronic and paper reporting takes place on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on fishery and species. Document retention requirements would also no longer be necessary.
It is still unknown at this time when exactly the final rule will be published and take effect. The public comment period for the proposed rule ends 17 August 2020.
In the Gulf of Mexico fishery management region, NMFS has recently published a final rule concerning federally-permitted for-hire charter/headboat operators. Beginning January 5, 2021, fishermen must submit an electronic hail-out report prior to departure and an electronic fishing trip report prior to offloading fish, or within 30 minutes of arrival if no fish are to be landed. Further vessel tracking regulations are slated to take effect at a later date, which has yet to be announced by NMFS.
This rulemaking comes as electronic monitoring and reporting continue to become more critical to fisheries management in the age of increasingly-accessible technology. As innovation in the private sector evolves and agencies respond to fisher interest in electronic solutions for paper-based reporting and human observers, policies are increasingly becoming reflective of a changing age.