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Sea Turtle Observer Requirement - Annual Determination

  green turtle underwater
Green Turtle
(Chelonia mydas)
Photo: Andy Bruckner, NOAA

Annual Determinations

2013 - no additional fisheries identified

  • Notice (77 FR 75999, December 26, 2012) 

2012 - no additional fisheries identified

  • Notice (77 FR 474, January 5, 2012)

2011 - no additional fisheries identified

  • Notice (75 FR 81201, December 27, 2010)

2010 - identified the fisheries listed in the table below

Fishery Years Eligible to Carry Observers
Trawl Fisheries
Atlantic shellfish bottom trawl
Mid-Atlantic bottom trawl
Mid-Atlantic mid-water trawl (including pair trawl)
Southeastern U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl
Gillnet Fisheries
CA halibut, white seabass and other species set gillnet (>3.5 in mesh)
CA yellowtail, barracuda, and white seabass drift gillnet (mesh size >3.5 in. and <14 in.)
Chesapeake Bay inshore gillnet
Long Island inshore gillnet
Mid-Atlantic gillnet
North Carolina inshore gillnet
Northeast sink gillnet
Southeast Atlantic gillnet
Trap/Pot Fisheries
Atlantic blue crab trap/pot
Atlantic mixed species trap/pot
Northeast/mid-Atlantic American lobster trap/pot
Pound Net/Weir/Seine Fisheries
Mid-Atlantic haul/beach seine
Mid-Atlantic menhaden purse seine
U.S. mid-Atlantic mixed species stop seine/weir/pound net (except the NC roe mullet stop net)
Virginia pound net

More Information

  loggerhead turtle escaping net equipped with turtle excluder device
Loggerhead Turtle escaping a trawl net equipped with turtle excluder device (TED)
(Caretta caretta)
Photo: NOAA


The Endangered Species Act (ESA) authorizes NOAA Fisheries to identify, each year, the commercial or recreational fisheries operating in state and/or Federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific Ocean that would be required to take sea turtle observers upon our request.

Observation of identified fisheries allows us to learn more about sea turtle interactions in that fishery, evaluate existing measures to reduce or prevent prohibited sea turtle "takes", and to determine whether additional measures may be necessary to prevent sea turtle takes. Fisheries identified through the Annual Determination process will be required to carry sea turtle observers upon our request over a 5-year period.

Process for Developing an Annual Determination

  1. In consultation with states, NOAA Fisheries identifies which commercial and recreational fisheries should be considered in the determination. We then develop a proposed determination identifying which fisheries are required to carry observers, if requested, to monitor potential interactions with sea turtles.

  2. We provide an opportunity for public comment on any proposed determination.

  3. We consider public comments and then implement a final rule that identifies those fisheries subject to observer coverage.

We identify fisheries in the determination using the best available scientific, commercial, or other information regarding:

  • sea turtle-fishery interactions
  • sea turtle distribution
  • sea turtle strandings
  • fishing techniques, gears used, target species, seasons and areas fished
  • qualitative data from logbooks or fisher reports

Specifically, this determination is based on the extent to which:

  • the fishery operates in the same waters and at the same time as sea turtles are present
  • the fishery operates at the same time or prior to elevated sea turtle strandings
  • the fishery uses a gear or technique that is known or likely to result in incidental take of sea turtles based on documented or reported takes in the same or similar fisheries
  • NOAA Fisheries intends to monitor the fishery and anticipates that it will have the funds to do so

We use the most recent version of the MMPA List of Fisheries (LOF) as the comprehensive list of commercial fisheries for consideration. The LOF includes all known state and Federal commercial fisheries that occur in U.S. waters. However, the classification scheme used in the LOF is not relevant to the determination process.

Implementing Observer Coverage in the Listed Fisheries

The design of any observer program, including how observers are allocated to individual vessels, varies among:

  • fisheries,
  • fishing sectors,
  • gear types, and
  • geographic regions

The individual NOAA Fisheries Regional Office, Science Center, or observer program ultimately determines the program design. During the program design, we are guided by the following standards when determining observer distribution among identified fisheries and the placement of observers on vessels in those fisheries:

  • obtain the best available scientific information
  • assign observers fairly and equitably among fisheries and among vessels in a fishery
  • subject no individual person or vessel, or group of persons or vessels, to inappropriate, excessive observer coverage
  • minimize costs and avoid duplication, where practical

Fisheries not included on the determination may still be observed under a different authority than the ESA (for example, Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) or Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA)).

Additional information on observer programs in commercial fisheries can be found on NOAA Fisheries' National Observer Program (NOP) website; links to individual regional observer programs are also available on the NOP website.

Updated: December 31, 2012

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