50 CFR 635.69 - Vessel monitoring systems.

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§ 635.69 Vessel monitoring systems.

(a) Applicability. To facilitate enforcement of time/area and fishery closures, enhance reporting, and support the IBQ Program (§ 635.15), an owner or operator of a commercial vessel permitted, or required to be permitted, to fish for Atlantic HMS under § 635.4 and that fishes with pelagic or bottom longline, gillnet, or purse seine gear, is required to install a NMFS-approved enhanced mobile transmitting unit (E-MTU) vessel monitoring system (VMS) on board the vessel and operate the VMS unit under the circumstances listed in paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(4) of this section. For purposes of this section, a NMFS-approved E-MTU VMS is one that has been approved by NMFS as satisfying its type approval listing for E-MTU VMS units. Those requirements are published in the Federal Register and may be updated periodically.

(1) Whenever the vessel has pelagic longline or purse seine gear on board;

(2) Whenever a vessel issued a directed shark LAP, has bottom longline gear on board, is located between 33°00′ N. lat. and 36°30′ N. lat., and the mid-Atlantic shark closed area is closed as specified in § 635.21(d)(1); or

(3) Pursuant to Atlantic large whale take reduction plan requirements at 50 CFR 229.32(h), whenever a vessel issued a directed shark LAP has a gillnet(s) on board.

(4) A vessel is considered to have pelagic or bottom longline gear on board, for the purposes of this section, when the gear components as specified at § 635.2 are on board. A vessel is considered to have gillnet gear on board, for the purposes of this section, when gillnet, as defined in § 600.10 of this chapter, is on board a vessel that has been issued a shark LAP. A vessel is considered to have purse seine gear on board, for the purposes of this section, when the gear as defined at § 600.10 is onboard a vessel that has been issued an Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine category permit.

(b) Hardware specifications. The VMS hardware must be approved by NMFS and must be able to perform all NMFS required functions. NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification listing the specifications for approved VMS units. As necessary, NMFS will make additions and/or amendments to the VMS hardware type approval list to account for changes in specifications or new products offered by manufacturers. NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification listing such additions and/or amendments.

(c) Communications specifications. The communications service provider must be approved by NMFS and must be able to provide all NMFS required functions. NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification listing the specifications for approved VMS communications service providers. As necessary, NMFS will make additions and/or amendments to the VMS communications service providers type approval list to account for changes in specifications or new services offered by communications providers. NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification listing such additions and/or amendments.

(d) Installation and activation. Only an E-MTU VMS that has been approved by NMFS for Atlantic HMS Fisheries may be used. Any VMS unit must be installed by a qualified marine electrician. When any NMFS-approved E-MTU VMS is installed and activated or reinstalled and reactivated, the vessel owner or operator must -

(1) Follow procedures indicated on a NMFS-approved installation and activation checklist for the applicable fishery, which is available from NMFS;

(2) Submit to NMFS a statement certifying compliance with the checklist, as prescribed on the checklist; and,

(3) Submit to NMFS the checklist, completed by a qualified marine electrician. Vessels fishing prior to NMFS' receipt of the completed checklist and compliance certification statement will be in violation of the VMS requirement.

(e) Operation.

(1) Owners or operators of vessels subject to requirements specified in paragraph (a) of this section must ensure the VMS unit is on so that it will submit automatic position reports every hour, 24 hours a day. Except as otherwise noted in this paragraph (e)(1), the VMS unit must always be on, operating and reporting without interruption, and NMFS enforcement must receive hourly position reports without interruption. No person may interfere with, tamper with, alter, damage, disable, or impede the operation of a VMS unit, or attempt any of the same. Vessels fishing outside the geographic area of operation of the installed VMS will be in violation of the VMS requirement. Owners of vessels may request a documented power down exemption from NMFS enforcement if the vessel will not be fishing for an extended period of time. The request must describe the reason an exemption is being requested; the location of the vessel during the time an exemption is sought; the exact time period for which an exemption is needed (i.e., the time the VMS signal will be turned off and turned on again); and sufficient information to determine that a power down exemption is appropriate. Approval of a power down must be documented and will be granted, at the discretion of NMFS enforcement, only in certain circumstances (e.g., when the vessel is going into dry dock for repairs, or will not be fishing for an extended period of time).

(2) Hailing out. Prior to departure for each trip, a vessel owner or operator must initially report to NMFS declaring any highly migratory species the vessel will target on that trip and the specific type(s) of fishing gear that will be on board the vessel, using NMFS-defined gear codes. If the vessel owner or operator participates in multiple HMS fisheries, or possesses multiple fishing gears on board the vessel, the vessel owner or operator must submit multiple electronic reports to NMFS. If, during the trip, the vessel switches to a gear type or species group not reported on the initial declaration, another declaration must be submitted before this fishing begins. This information must be reported to NMFS using an attached VMS terminal or using another method as instructed by NMFS enforcement.

(3) Hailing in. A vessel owner or operator must report advance notice of landing to NMFS. For the purposes of this paragraph (e)(3), landing means to arrive at a dock, berth, beach, seawall, or ramp. The vessel owner or operator is responsible for ensuring that NMFS is contacted at least 3 hours and no more than 12 hours in advance of landing regardless of trip duration. This information must be reported to NMFS using an attached VMS terminal and must include the date, approximate time, and location of landing.

(4) Bluefin tuna and fishing effort reporting requirements for vessels fishing either with pelagic longline gear or purse seine gear -

(i) Pelagic longline gear. The vessel owner or operator of a vessel that has pelagic longline gear on board must report to NMFS using the attached VMS terminal, or using an alternative method specified by NMFS as follows: For each set, as instructed by NMFS, the date and area of the set, the number of hooks and the length of all bluefin retained (actual), and the length of all bluefin tuna discarded dead or alive (approximate), must be reported within 12 hours of the completion each pelagic longline haul-back.

(ii) Purse Seine gear. The vessel owner or operator of a vessel that has purse seine gear on board must report to NMFS using the attached VMS terminal, or using an alternative method specified by NMFS as follows: For each purse seine set, as instructed by NMFS, the date and area of the set, and the length of all bluefin retained (actual), and the length of all bluefin tuna discarded dead or alive (approximate), must be reported within 12 hours of the completion of the retrieval of each set.

(5) Vessel owners or operators that decide not to fish for or retain HMS for a period of time encompassing two or more trips may follow the requirements of this paragraph (e)(5) in lieu of paragraphs (e)(2) and (e)(3) of this section.

(i) If a vessel owner or operator decides not to fish for or retain HMS for a period of time encompassing two or more trips, that owner or operator may choose to “declare out” of the fishery. To “declare out,” the vessel owner or operator must contact NMFS using an attached VMS terminal to indicate the operator does not plan to fish for or retain HMS. By “declaring out” of the HMS fishery, the vessel owner or operator is exempt from the requirements of paragraphs (e)(2) and (e)(3) of this section, unless the circumstances described in paragraph (e)(5)(ii) of this section apply, but must still comply with all other HMS regulations that are applicable to the vessel including area and gear closures.

(ii) If a vessel owner or operator has advised NMFS that it will not be fishing for or retaining HMS as described in paragraph (e)(5)(i) of this section, but incidentally catches and retains any HMS while fishing, the vessel owner is required to change the target species declaration and advise NMFS, as described in paragraph (e)(2) of this section while at sea before landing with any HMS. The vessel must also report advance notice of landing to NMFS as described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section.

(iii) Once the vessel owner or operator changes the declaration per paragraph (e)(5)(ii) of this section, that vessel is assumed to be fishing under the requirements of paragraphs (e)(1) through (e)(3) of this section until the vessel owner or operator makes another declaration under paragraph (e)(5) of this section.

(f) Interruption. When the vessel operator is aware that transmission of automatic position reports has been interrupted, or when notified by NMFS that automatic position reports are not being received, the vessel operator must contact NMFS and follow the instructions given. Such instructions may include but are not limited to manually communicating to a location designated by NMFS the vessel's position or returning to port until the VMS is operable.

(g) Repair and replacement. After a fishing trip during which interruption of automatic position reports has occurred, the vessel's owner or operator must have a qualified marine electrician replace or repair the VMS unit prior to the vessel's next trip. Repair or reinstallation of a VMS unit or installation of a replacement, including change of communications service provider, shall be in accordance with the installation and activation requirements specified at § 635.69(d) of this part.

(h) Access. As a condition to obtaining a LAP for Atlantic swordfish, sharks, or tunas, all vessel owners or operators using pelagic or bottom longline or gillnet gear, subject to the VMS provisions of this section must allow NMFS, the USCG, and their authorized officers and designees access to the vessel's position data obtained from the VMS at the time of or after its transmission to the vendor or receiver, as the case may be.

[64 FR 29135, May 28, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 37705, July 13, 1999; 65 FR 47238, Aug. 1, 2000; 68 FR 45169, Aug. 1, 2003; 68 FR 74788, Dec. 24, 2003; 69 FR 51012, Aug. 17, 2004; 72 FR 57194, Oct. 5, 2007; 73 FR 40712, July 15, 2008; 75 FR 30528, June 1, 2010; 76 FR 75502, Dec. 2, 2011; 78 FR 68763, 68764, Nov. 15, 2013; 79 FR 71606, Dec. 2, 2014; 80 FR 73146, Nov. 24, 2015]

Title 50 published on 2015-10-01

The following are ALL rules, proposed rules, and notices (chronologically) published in the Federal Register relating to 50 CFR Part 635 after this date.

  • 2015-12-02; vol. 80 # 231 - Wednesday, December 2, 2015
    1. 80 FR 75436 - Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Commercial Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks in the Gulf of Mexico Region
      GPO FDSys XML | Text
      DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
      Temporary rule; closure.
      The commercial fishery for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is closed effective 11:30 p.m. local time December 5, 2015, until the end of the 2015 fishing season on December 31, 2015, and will reopen on January 1, 2016.
      50 CFR Part 635