Council Seeks Public Comment on Use of Vessel Monitoring Systems

SAFMC logo South Atlantic Fishery Management Council  
News Release  
March 18, 2013 CONTACT: Kim Iverson
Public Information Officer
(843) 571-4366


Council Seeks Public Comment on Use of Vessel Monitoring Systems
     Public hearings scheduled on proposed requirement for vessels with federal commercial snapper grouper permits

News Release (PDF)   Additional Information

 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 and increase with unit features.  Fishermen would be responsible for installation, monthly fees and maintenance. In addition to providing information for compliance and management, VMS have been shown to serve as an added safety tool, providing location information that has resulted in at-sea rescues of vessels in distress.  The units may also be equipped to handle email and other communication services. The Council’s preferred alternative in Amendment 30 is dependent upon federal funding being available for the VMS units.

The Council will hold a series of public hearings in April to gather public input on Amendment 30 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan.  Council staff will be on hand to provide an overview of the measures proposed in the amendment, and available for informal discussions and to answer questions.  Members of the public will have an opportunity to go on record after the presentation to record their comments for consideration by the Council.  Local Council representatives will attend the hearings and listen to public comment.

The Council is also accepting written comments on Amendment 30.  Written comments should be addressed to: Robert Mahood, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405. Comments may be sent via FAX to 843/769-4520.  Email comments may be submitted to  Written comments will be accepted until 5:00 PM on May 3, 2013. The public hearing in North Charleston, SC will be held in conjunction with a meeting of the Council’s Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel and will be held from 5:30 PM until 7:00 PM.  All other hearings will be held from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM. Copies of the public hearing document will be posted on the Council’s web site at and available by contacting the Council office at 843/571-4366 or Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10. 

SAFMC Public Hearing Schedule for Snapper Grouper Amendment 30 (VMS)
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM (Except for 4/23/13)

 Monday, April 15
Jacksonville Marriott
4670 Salisbury Road
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Phone: 904/296-2222

Tuesday, April 16
Radisson Resort at the Port
8701 Astronaut Boulevard
Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
Phone: 321/784-0000

Wednesday, April 17
Holiday Inn Key Largo
99701 Overseas Highway
Key Largo, Florida 33037
Phone: 305/451-2121

Tuesday, April 23 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM)
Hilton Garden Inn
5265 International Boulevard
North Charleston, SC 29418
Phone: 843/308-9330

Thursday, April 25
 Doubletree by Hilton New Bern
100 Middle Street
New Bern, NC 28560
Phone: 252/638-3585

Council Seeks Public Comment on Use of Vessel Monitoring Systems