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National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Regional Office

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS)

Vessel Monitoring Systems

A Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) consists of a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)-approved VMS transmitter that automatically determines a vessel's position and transmits it to a NMFS- approved communications service provider. The communications service provider receives the transmission and relays it to NMFS.

VMS must be used on:
(i) All vessels for which the vessel has a species and gear endorsement on its Federal Fisheries Permit under 679.4(b)(5)(vi) for directed fisheries for pollock, Pacific cod, and atka mackerel during those times when these fisheries are open. The only exemptions are for vessels using jig gear or dinglebar gear. Jig gear is not exempt in the Aleutian Islands subarea (see 71 FR 36694, July 28, 2006).

VMS must be used if:
(ii) You operate a vessel required to be federally permitted in reporting areas located in the Aleutian Islands subarea or operate a federally permitted vessel in adjacent State waters; or
(iii) You operate a vessel required to be federally permitted with non-pelagic trawl or dredge gear onboard in reporting areas located in the GOA or operate a federally permitted vessel with non-pelagic trawl or dredge gear onboard in adjacent State waters;
(iv) A vessel is required to use functioning VMS equipment in the Rockfish Program as described in 679.7(n)(3); or
(v) You operate a vessel in federal reporting areas 610, 620, or 630, and receive and process groundfish from other vessels.
(vi) You are a vessel operator who fishes for sablefish in the Bering Sea or Aleutian Islands IFQ regulatory areas, you must possess a transmitting VMS transmitter while fishing for sablefish, 50 CFR 679.42(k)
(vii) A vessel is a crab rationalization vessel, which must have a transmitting VMS, 50 CFR 680.23(d)

Enforcement VMS Information

VMS Regulations

  • 50 CFR 679.28 (f) Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements
  • 74 FR 3446, January 21, 2009. Regulatory amendment to exempt fishermen using dinglebar fishing gear in federal waters of the Gulf of Alaska from the requirement to carry a vessel monitoring system. Effective February 20, 2009
  • 73 FR 24955, May 06, 2008. Notice to revise the availability of grant funds for vessel owners and/or operators who have purchased an Enhanced Mobile Transmitter Unit for the purpose of complying with fishery regulations requiring the use of VMS.
  • 72 FR 44795 August 9, 2007. Final rule to modify the IFQ Program for the fixed-gear commercial Pacific halibut fishery and sablefish fishery by revising regulations specific to those fisheries. Effective on September 10, 2007.
  • 71 FR 36694, July 28, 2006. Final rule that identifies and describes essential fish habitat (EFH), designating habitat areas of particular concern (HAPC), and measures to minimize to the extent practicable adverse effects on EFH. All vessels fishing under federal permits in the Aleutian islands sub-area - including state waters - must have an operational vessel monitoring system. VMS is also required for all vessels using mobile bottom contact gear in the Gulf of Alaska. The new regulations list mobile bottom contact gear as non-pelagic trawl, dredge, and dinglebar gear. Effective on July 28, 2006.
  • 70 FR 10174 March 2, 2005. Final rule to implement Amendments 18 and 19 to the FMP for BSAI King and Tanner Crabs, amending the FMP to include the Voluntary Three-Pie Cooperative Program. Effective on April 1, 2005.
  • 73 FR 19985, April 15, 2004. Notice of NOAA-approved VMS mobile transmitting units for use by vessels participating in Alaska fisheries requiring VMS, and sets forth relevant features of the monitoring systems.
  • 67 FR 956, January 8, 2002. Emergency interim rule to implement Steller sea lion protection measures. Section 679.7(a)(18) requires all vessels using pot, hook-and-line or trawl gear that are permitted to directly fish for Pacific cod, Atka mackerel or pollock to have an operable VMS. This requirement is necessary to monitor fishing restrictions in Steller sea lion protection and forage areas. Effective June 10, 2002, through July 8, 2002.
  • 65 FR 3892, January 25, 2000. Emergency interim rule to implement a VMS requirement for vessels directed fishing for Atka mackerel

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