Council Seeks Public Input on Use of Vessel Monito

Council Seeks Public Input on Use of Vessel Monitoring Systems
Public hearings scheduled on proposed requirements for vessels with a federal commercial snapper grouper permit

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is requesting public input on management alternatives that may require the use of vessel monitoring systems (VMS) on vessels with a Federal South Atlantic Commercial Snapper Grouper Permit, both unlimited or trip-limited (225 pounds) permits. The Council is not considering the use of VMS on private recreational or for-hire vessels unless these vessels have a South Atlantic Federal Commercial Snapper Grouper permit. Currently, the Council is developing Amendment 30 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan to address the proposed VMS requirement.

VMS is a satellite-based program installed on vessels in a fishing fleet to assist with monitoring vessel movement and fishing activity in real time. These systems have been used in the South Atlantic rock shrimp fishery since 2003 and have been required in the Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fish fishery since 2005. The Council is considering the use of VMS in the commercial snapper grouper fishery in the South Atlantic to improve data collection and better quantify fishing locations to improve management and compliance in the fishery, including enforcement of area closures and marine protected areas. The system consists of a mobile transceiver unit placed on the vessel that is linked via satellite between the vessel and a shore-based satellite monitoring system located at a secure NOAA Fisheries facility. The mobile transceiver unit automatically sends VMS data in “real time” to the shore-based satellite monitoring system, where NOAA Office of Law Enforcement staff can monitor compliance. VMS data are considered highly confidential.

Currently, federal funds are available to reimburse fishermen for the initial purchase of units for up to $3100. Units range in price from $3100 to $3800. Monthly usage fees begin at $45 a