Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS)
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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.

An operator of Federally permitted vessel must use a VMS if:

  • The vessel has a species and gear endorsement on its Federal Fisheries Permit for directed fishing for pollock, Pacific cod, or Atka mackerel and these fisheries are open, except if the vessel is using jig gear or dinglebar gear (50 CFR 679.7(a)(18)).
  • The vessel is operating in the Aleutian Islands or in adjacent State of Alaska waters (50 CFR 679.28(f)(6)).
  • The vessel has non-pelagic trawl or dredge gear onboard in the Gulf of Alaska or in adjacent State of Alaska waters (50 CFR 679.28(f)(6)).
  • The vessel is in federal reporting areas 610, 620, or 630, and receives and processes groundfish from other vessels (50 CFR 679.28(f)(6)).
  • The vessel is participating in the Rockfish Program (50 CFR 679.7(n)(3)).
  • The vessel is fishing for sablefish in the Bering Sea or Aleutian Islands (50 CFR 679.42(k)(2)).
  • The vessel is participating in the Crab Rationalization Program (50 CFR 680.23(d)).23(d)

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What additional requirements does an operator of Federally permitted vessel have if trawling in the Aleutian Islands?

    Vessels that are using trawl gear to harvest groundfish that is required to be deducted from a Federal total allowable catch (TAC) must set their VMS to transmit the vessel location at least 10 times per hour (50 CFR 679.28(f)(7)). Effective for the 2015 fishing year.

  2. What are the VMS requirements for non-Federally permitted vessels operating in State of Alaska waters?
  3. Contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for information on State requirements for VMS.

  4. More Questions? Please contact: Scott Gray, PH: 907-586-7551, Email:

Enforcement VMS Information

VMS Regulations

  • 50 CFR 679.28 (f) Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements
  • 80 FR 32095, June 05, 2015. Notice that three enhanced mobile transceiver units (EMTU) that were previously approved for use to comply with vessel monitoring system (VMS) requirements in United States federal fisheries are no longer approved for use after September 30, 2015. An up to date list of type-approved VMS EMTUs can be found on the VMS website.
  • 79 FR 77399, December 24, 2014. Final rule implementing regulations to codify type-approval standards, requirements, procedures, and responsibilities applicable to commercial Enhanced Mobile Transceiver Unit (EMTU) vendors and mobile communications service (MCS) providers seeking to obtain and maintain type-approval by NMFS for EMTU/MTU or MCS, collectively referred to as vessel monitoring systems (VMS), products and services. Effective January 23, 2015.
  • 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 63500 November 9, 2007. Final rule to clarify that essential fish habitat in the AI Subarea includes State waters adjacent to the AI Subarea. The final rule also applies the VMS requirement to a Federally permitted vessel when the vessel is operating in State waters adjacent to the AI Subarea and the Gulf of Alaska.
  • 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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