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High Seas Fishing Permits

Bluefin tuna fishing vessel. Photo Credit: Large Pelagics Research Center.

NOAA Revises High Seas Permitting Program

NOAA Fisheries published a final rule on October 16, 2015, to improve the administration of the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act (HSFCA) and the monitoring of U.S. fishing vessels operating on the high seas. The rule includes adjustments to permitting and reporting procedures for all U.S. fishing vessels on the high seas.

It also includes requirements for the installation and operation of enhanced mobile transceiver units for vessel monitoring, carrying observers on vessels, reporting of transshipments taking place on the high seas, and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

The requirements are in effect as of January 14, 2016.


The HSFCA, 16 U.S.C. 5501 et seq., was adopted in 1994 to implement the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (Compliance Agreement) Exit. HSFCA requires, among other things, that U.S. vessels operating on the high seas possess a permit issued in accordance with Section 104 of the HSFCA and be marked for identification purposes. HSFCA also requires permit holders to report their fishing activities. The HSFCA prohibits use of high seas fishing vessels in contravention of international conservation and management measures recognized by the United States or in a manner that would violate a permit condition. A list of the international conservation and management measures recognized by the United States is published in the Federal Register from time to time in consultation with the Secretary of State, as required by section 5504(e) of the HSFCA. The last such notice was published on May 19, 2011 (76 Federal Register 28954).

The high seas fishing permit application should be submitted to the NMFS Region with whom you normally interact on fisheries matters.


High seas fishing regulations are found at 50 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 300, Subparts A and Q. Fishing vessels operating on the high seas may also be subject to permit requirements and regulations, such as the following:

Vessels operating in the Northwest Atlantic trawl fisheries or the South Pacific albacore troll fisheries are required to obtain high seas fishing permits and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Learn more: High Seas Fishery Compliance Act Permits, Compliance Guide for Revised Regulations (1/2016) 

For questions on high seas fishing permits, please contact Kent Laborde (