Permits FAQ

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Permits Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding permits issued by the Southeast Permits Office. Please take a look here for an answer to your question before calling the Permits Office.

Please click here for step by step instructions on how to fill out your Federal Permit Application for Vessels Fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone.

New

Gulf of Mexico Aquaculture Permit

To view the Final Rule frequently asked questions please click here- Gulf of Mexico Aquaculture FAQ's

Commerical Smoothhound Shark Permit

What is the purpose of Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan: Atlantic Shark Management Measures?

This Amendment implements management measures in the shark fisheries and could affect fishermen who fish for smoothhound sharks (smooth dogfish, Florida smoothhound, and Gulf smoothhound) and fishermen who fish for sharks with gillnet gear.

To view the final amendment please click here- Amendment 9

What do the measures include?

  • Commercial smoothhound shark permit requirement for commercial fishing and retention (cannot have Commercial Caribbean Small Boat Permit) may only sell catch to federally-permitted shark dealers
  • Atlantic Shark Dealer permit requirement to purchase smoothhound sharks
  • HMS Angling or HMS Charter/Headboat recreational permit requirement for retention of recreationally-caught smoothhound sharks
  • Observer requirements in the commercial smoothhound shark fishery
  • Allowance for retention of smoothhound sharks incidentally caught in trawl gear, provided smoothhound catch does not exceed 25 percent of the total catch
  • Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regional smoothhound shark quotas
  • Regulations to allow, in limited circumstances, the at-sea removal of some smooth dogfish fins provided certain criteria are met
  • Gillnet gear tending requirements for Atlantic shark and smoothhound shark gillnet fishermen
  • Modifications to VMS requirements in the directed shark gillnet fishery

Dealers must report smoothoundshark purchase (contact eDealer Customer Service at (301) 427-8590 or HMS.DealerReports@noaa.gov

HMS Angling or HMS Charter/Headboat recreational permits for retention of recreationally-caught smoothhound sharks can be obtained at - HMSpermits. There are no recreational size or retention limits for smoothhound shark at this time. Recreationally-caught smoothhound sharks cannot be sold.

All Amendment 9 measures are effective on March 15, 2016

How do I get a Smoothhound permit application?

The Southeast Permits Office can mail an application or you can download the application and instructions from the Southeast Permits Office website - sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/permits. The Southeast Permits Office cannot fax or email applications.

Expiration Date

When do permits expire?

The Southeast Permits Office initially issues permits for as short as 7 months to as long as 17 months. Permits renewed before the expiration date are valid for 1 year.

There are a few exceptions. Golden Crab permits expire on December 31 every calendar year and permit holders must renew them by June 30 of the following year.  Wreckfish permits expire on January 14th the year following the year it was issued.  Live Rock Aquaculture permits expire on December 19 every year.

What date does the Southeast Permits Office use for setting the expiration date?

If the vessel owner is a person, the annual permit expiration date will be the last day of the permit holder’s birth month. In the case of multiple owners, the birth date of the managing owner is the determining date. 

If the vessel owner is a business, the expiration date will be the last day of the month the company was formed. If the vessel is leased, the expiration date will be the last day of the last full month of the lease term.

Permit Applications

How do I get a permit application?

The Southeast Permits Office can mail an application or you can download the application and instructions from the Southeast Permits Office website - sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/permits. The Southeast Permits Office cannot fax or email applications.

Will the Southeast Permits Office process an application faster if a prepaid overnight envelope is included?

The Southeast Permits Office processes permit applications in the order in which they are received. You may include prepaid overnight UPS, FEDEX, or US Post Office air bill to expedite the permit delivery. Otherwise, the Southeast Permits Office mails all permits by US Post Office, which normally takes 2-3 days to reach their destination.

Why can't an applicant fax an application?

Fees and other required documentation must accompany the application. Applications must have an original (not photocopied) signature, which is not possible by fax. The same original signature rule applies to the Income Qualification Affidavit and all original permits submitted for transfer to a different vessel owner.

What is accepted by fax?

We do accept leases, U.S. Coast Guard documentation, state registration, and all other supporting documents by fax.  The Southeast Permits Office cannot accept an application, income qualification affidavit, or signed permit for transfer by fax. 

Can I bring my application to the Southeast Permits Office?

Yes, the Southeast Permits Office accepts applications during business hours. Office staff will put the application in the queue with all other applications, to be processed in the order in which they are received.

How do I check the status of an application?

Applicants can check the status by visiting the Application Status Page and selecting either vessel or dealer applications. Application status information is listed on this website from the time the application is received until 30 days after it has closed.


The Southeast Permits Office processes applications in the order they receive them. Please note that it may be several days between when the Southeast Permits Office receives an application and when they begin to process the application. If an application is not complete or missing requirements, the Southeast Permits Office will send a letter with instructions on how to complete the application.  Applicants can also call to find out what documentation or requirements they need for their permit application if it is incomplete.  

Applications are always in one of three types of status:

Received – The Southeast Permits Office have your application and it is waiting to be processed.

In Progress - The Southeast Permits Office is currently processing the application. This may take a few days as they check with other offices regarding different requirements such as logbooks, VMS, etc. The applicant will receive a letter with instructions if the application is incomplete or they have not met certain requirements.

Closed - The application review is complete and the Southeast Permit Office has mailed all permits or a letter explaining why permits have been denied.

Please wait for your renewed permits or a missing requirements letter before contacting the Southeast Permits Office with questions.

Permit Renewals

How are permits renewed?

Permit holders renew their permits by submitting an application with required documents to the Southeast Permits Office. The Permits Office will mail a renewal package to the address on file approximately 60 days before a permit expires. Permit holders can call the Southeast Permits Office and request an application or download one from sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/permits. The law states that it is the permit holder’s responsibility to renew permits even if they do not receive a renewal package.

Most permit renewals follow the Rule of Three:

  1. Complete application (with ink signature)
  2. Check or Money Order made out to US Treasury
  3. USCG Certificate of Documentation or vessel's state registration

Can I renew my permits early?

The Southeast Permits Office can only renew a permit if they receive an application no more than 60 days before the permit expires. Applications received more than 60 days from expiration will be denied. The 60 day period allows the Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami, FL to complete logbook data entry as close as possible to the expiration date; any application received more than 60 days prior to permit expiration would not receive a comprehensive logbook check.

Can I renew my expired Open Access permits?

A permit holder may apply for and get new Open Access permits even if the permits have been expired for more than a year.

Can I renew my Limited Access (Moratorium) permit?

All Limited Access (Moratorium) permits except South Atlantic Golden Crab are renewable within one year of the permit’s expiration date. Federal law requires the Southeast Regional Office receive renewal applications for South Atlantic Golden Crab no later than June 30 following the permit’s December 31 expiration.

An application postmarked within the renewal period but received by the Southeast Permits Office after the last day of the renewal period does not meet this requirement. If the last day of the renewal period falls on a weekend or holiday, then the Southeast Permits Office must receive the application on the last business day before that weekend or holiday.

How long does it take to renew my permit?

Turnaround time, from the date the Southeast Permits Office receives an application to the date they mail out permits, varies. Applications are reviewed in the order in which they were received to ensure fairness to all applicants. The regulations advise to allow at least 30 days for the review of your application.

How does a permit holder renew permits without a boat?

The Southeast Permits Office assigns permits to a specific vessel. An applicant must obtain the use of a U.S. Coast Guard documented or state registered vessel to renew permits. This means an applicant must either buy or lease a vessel. The only limitation is that the vessel cannot already have federal permits from the Southeast Permits Office owned by someone else or those permits will no longer be valid. 

The only exceptions to the rule requiring a vessel are the Highly Migratory Species “Tri-pack” which may be transferred and renewed without a vessel. Please refer to 50 CFR 635.4 for more information.

Can an applicant fish while waiting for the Southeast Permits Office to renew expired permits?

No, you must have the original, unexpired permits on your vessel to fish. It is a violation to fish on expired permits and a fisherman could be subject to penalties if found fishing without valid permits onboard.

What are the logbook requirements to renew a permit?

Logbooks are the most common reason for permit renewal delays. Applicants should make sure they submitted logbooks up to the month they mailed in an application. Reporting requirements are on the Southeast Fisheries Science Center Logbook Office web page. Questions regarding whether or not logbooks were received need to go to the Logbook Office directly. A permit holder can view their logbook status online at the Logbook Status or call the logbook office at (305)361-4581.

Permit Transfers

What is the difference between renewing and transferring a permit?

A transfer means you are either:

  1. Changing ownership of the permit.
  2. Changing what vessel the permit is assigned to.
  3. Or both.
A transfer is the same procedure as a renewal except:
  1. The box next to a transferred permit must be marked “transfer” on the application, not renewal.
  2. The ORIGINAL permits must accompany the application.  These permits must be signed and notarized by both the buyer and seller in most cases.
  3. Copies of official documents such as birth certificates, death certificates, or court records may have to accompany the application.

Which permits can be transferred?

Only Limited Access / Moratorium permits are available for transfer. Open access permits cannot be transferred.

How do I know a permit is transferable?

Check the expiration date. If it is not expired and it is signed and notarized by the seller, or if it is expired but signed by the seller and notarized before it expired, then it may be submitted for transfer. If the permit is more than 1 year past the expiration date, it is terminated and is not transferable. Our office cannot check the up-to-date status of the logbooks for a permit until it is received and selected by a processor for processing. Our office does not track things such as liens against permits.

Is there a limit on the number of times I can transfer my permit in a year?

No, permits issued by the Southeast Regional Office can be transferred any time. However, other restrictions may apply depending on circumstances.

How long does a permit have to be assigned to one vessel before it can be transferred to another vessel, or to a new owner/lessee of the same vessel?

A permit may be transferred from one vessel to another vessel, or to a new owner/lessee of the same vessel, at any time between the effective date of the permit and the expiration date of the permit. If the permit has expired it may still be transferred provided the permit holders' signature(s) is notarized prior to the permit expiration date and the application is submitted before the permit becomes non-renewable (which is one year following expiration for most transferable permits). Additional transfer restrictions may apply.

Can I transfer my permit back to the old vessel if I decide I need to?

Yes, permits issued by the Southeast Regional Office may be transferred back to the same vessel. However, other restrictions may apply depending on circumstances.

What are the logbook requirements to transfer a permit?

Logbooks are the most common reason for permit transfer delays. Before submitting an application to transfer a permit, make sure the logbooks are complete for both the vessel the permits are coming from and the vessel the permits are going to. They must be complete right up to the date the permits were signed and notarized by the seller, or if not signed, to the date the Southeast Permits Office received the application. The vessel owner can check their logbook status online at Logbook Status or call the logbook office at (305)361-4581.

How does a permit holder transfer a permit to a different vessel with the same owner?

The applicant must send an application, original permits, and support document to the Permits Office. Permit holders transferring a permit to a different vessel that they also own must submit a complete application, and ensure compliance with all reporting compliance for the vessel form which the permits are being transferred. When transferring a permit to another vessel with the same owner and lessee, so the permit holder(s) will remain the same, the permit holder(s) is/are not are not required to sign the permit unless it is a Gulf of Mexico Charter/Headboat permit. The signature on the Gulf of Mexico Charter/Headboat permit confirms that the permit holder(s) has/have removed the decal from the old vessel.

How does a permit holder transfer a permit to a different vessel with a different owner or to the same vessel with a different owner?

The applicant must send an application, original permits, and support document to the Permits Office. A permit holder must sign a permit if they are transferring it to a vessel that shows ANY different owner name on the U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation or the State Registration. This includes adding or removing an owner. A notary must verify the seller’s signature and date.

  • The seller must sign the permit. Permits owned by multiple owners, but not a business, must be signed by all owners.
  • A permit owned by a corporation/company/business must be signed: Person’s signature, position, name of company e.g. John Doe, President, ABC Corporation.
  • Print the name(s) of the new permit holder(s) in the space for “Receiving Vessel Permit Holder.”

   Other restrictions may apply depending circumstances.       

Do any permits have restrictions or special provisions about transferring?

Eligible permits may be transferred upon submission of a complete application and compliance with applicable reporting compliance. Additional transfer restrictions may apply. Consult the federal regulations for additional information, and/or contact the permit office for information about your particular scenario.
Open Access permits are not transferable.

South Atlantic 225 lb. Trip Limit Snapper-Grouper permits are only transferable to the same owner on a different vessel; they cannot be transferred to a new owner.

South Atlantic Unlimited Snapper Grouper permits have multiple restrictions regarding transfer. Please refer to 50 CFR 622.171 for more information.

Swordfish handgear permits have size limitations on length, tonnage, or horsepower. Check each permit for specific restrictions. Please refer to 50 CFR 635.4 for more information.

Gulf of Mexico Historical Captain Charter/Headboat permits are not transferable except to a vessel operated by the historical captain that owns the permits.

Gulf of Mexico Charter/Headboat permits have passenger capacity limits that may not be upgraded. Please refer to 50 CFR 622.373 and 50 CFR 622.20 for more information.

South Atlantic Golden Crab permits issued for the middle or southern zone have vessel length restrictions, and there are procedures associated with changing fishing zones for these permits.  Please refer to  50 CFR 622.241 for more information.

How is max tonnage calculated from a permit?

The U.S. Coast Guard gives tonnages as whole numbers, not decimals. Round down from the tonnage on a permit to determine the maximum tonnage. Federal regulations do not allow any increase above the decimal value on the permit. For example, the permit may state the maximum gross tonnage is 25.6 tons. An applicant may transfer the permit to a vessel with a maximum gross tonnage of 25 tons as shown on the U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation. A 26-ton vessel would exceed the maximum allowable tonnage.

Leases

What does the Southeast Permits Office require for a vessel lease agreement?

A lease must have:

  1. Vessel Name
  2. Vessel Coast Guard Documentation or State Registration number
  3. Lessor’s name – if a corporation or business owns the vessel, the lessor’s name is the corporation or business
  4. Lessee’s name - if a corporation or business owns the vessel, the lessee’s name is the corporation or business
  5. Specific start date
  6. Specific end date – make the end date a few years in the future if you anticipate a long-term arrangement. The last full month of the lease will be the month the permits expire every year.
  7. Lessor’s signature – An officer of the corporation or business must sign the lease if a business or corporation owns the vessel
  8. Lessee’s signature - An officer of the corporation or business must sign the lease if a business or corporation owns the vessel.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has a Vessel Lease Agreement template that we do not require to be notarized.

Does a lease have to be notarized?

Leases do not need notarization. Applicants may fax leases to the Southeast Permits Office at (727) 551-5747.

Can someone lease a permit?

No. A specific person(s) or corporation owns the permit for use only on a specific vessel.

Cost

How much are permits?

The application fee is listed on each application.

Vessel permits are $25 for the first permit and $10 for each additional permit.  Gulf of Mexico Charter/Headboat applicants are also accessed a $10 decal fee for each Gulf of Mexico Charter/Headboat permit received..

Dealer permits are $50 for the first permit and $12.50 for each additional permit.

Corrected permits, issued to resolve errors or to reflect a change of address, are free.

Is there a discount for disabled persons, veterans, or seniors?

No, current federal regulations do not have a discount provision for permit fees.

Can applicants pay with credit cards or cash?

 All payments that accompany a paper application must be a check or money order made out to the U.S. Treasury.

If renewing permits online, applicants may pay with a credit card or virtual check via Pay.gov.  Online renewals are available for limited fisheries.

Receiving Permits

Can you overnight permits?

Yes, if an applicant includes a prepaid, pre-addressed UPS or FEDEX air bill or a U.S. Post Office pre-paid envelope. The Southeast Permits Office mails all permits via US Postal Service which reaches its destination within 2-3 days.

Can the Southeast Permits Office fax a permit holder a copy of their permit?

No. The original, unexpired permit issued by the Southeast Permits Office is required for fishing. Permit holders may request file copies by letter or fax but they are not valid for fishing.

Lost or Incorrect Permits

What happens if permits never arrive after the Southeast Permits Office mails them?

All permits are tracked via USPS, FedEx, or UPS.  Contact the Permits office to obtain your tracking number. 

How does a permit holder correct wrong information on a permit?

The permit holder can download an application from the Southeast Permit Office website. There is no fee for corrected permits. The Southeast Permits Office cannot make changes from telephone conversations or faxed requests.

If the corrected permits are moratorium permits, permits holders must mail back the old permits to the Southeast Permit Office once they receive the new permits. This protects both the Southeast Permits Office and the permit holder by preventing fraud and/or the office inadvertently transferring the wrong permit.

How do I update my personal information?

The permit holder can download an application from the Southeast Permit Office website. There is no fee for updating information. The Southeast Permits Office cannot make changes from telephone conversations or faxed requests.

If the updated permits are moratorium permits, permits holders must mail back the old permits to the Southeast Permit Office. This protects both the Southeast Permits Office and the permit holder by preventing fraud and/or the office inadvertently transferring the wrong permit.

Business Types on the Application

What are the different types of businesses on the application?

S Corporation: An S corporation is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election. An eligible domestic corporation can avoid double taxation (once to the corporation and again to the shareholder(s)) by electing to be treated as an S corporation. An S corporation is a corporation with the Subchapter S designation from the IRS.

C Corporation: A C corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders. This means that the corporation itself, not the shareholders that own it, is held legally liable for the actions and debts the business incurs.

Cooperative: A cooperative is a business or organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Profits and earnings generated by the cooperative are distributed among the members, also known as user-owners..

Limited Liability Company (LLC): A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid type of legal structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership. The "owners" of an LLC are referred to as "members." Depending on the state, the members can consist of a single individual (one owner), two or more individuals, corporations or other LLCs.

Partnership: A partnership is a business where two or more individuals, businesses, or other organizations share ownership. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business, including money, property, labor or skill. In return, each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business.

Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual with no distinction between the business and the individual who is the owner. The owner is entitled to all profits and is responsible for all your business’s debts, losses and liabilities.

Specific Permit Information

Do I need a federal permit to go recreational fishing?

Recreational fishing from a private, non-commercial vessel in federal waters does not require a federal fishing license or permit. Anglers must abide by all current federal fishing rules and regulations such as seasonal closures, bag limits, size etc. Anglers are responsible for obtaining any state fishing licenses that may be required.

What is a Limited Access or Moratorium permit?

The number of permits has been capped and no new permits can be issued for a specific fishery. The only permits that are valid for the fishery have already been issued. To obtain a permit, a person must transfer an existing permit to their vessel.

Where can I find more information on Catch Shares or Individual Fishing Quotas?

More information on Catch Shares or Individual Fishing Quotas is available at SERO Catch Shares Program.

Can I get a Tuna permit from the Southeast Permits Office?

The Southeast Regional Office only handles the Atlantic Tuna Longline and Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permits. Otherwise, a “Tuna Permit” is a Highly Migratory Species permit that could mean Atlantic Tuna General, Atlantic Tuna Harpoon, Purse Seine, or Trap category permits. It is required to fish for, retain, possess, or sell Atlantic Bluefin, Bigeye, Albacore, Yellowfin, and Skipjack tunas in federal or most state waters of the Atlantic ocean, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. For more information call 1-888-USA-TUNA or visit hmspermits.noaa.gov.

What is an Operator Card?

An Operator Card is an identification card. The Atlantic Dolphin-Wahoo permit and the South Atlantic Rock Shrimp permit requires at least one person on the vessel hold an operator card. Various permits issued by the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office also require an Operator Card.  Permits are not valid during the trip if there is no one on the vessel with an operator card. Operator cards are valid for 3 years and are issued by both the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and the Southeast Permits Office.  You can download an application from the Southeast Permits Office website.

Where should someone direct species specific questions such as gear, quotas, seasons, etc.?

Many questions can be answered by visiting a Regional Fishery Management Council’s webpage or the Southeast Regional Office Sustainable Fisheries Division webpage.

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council www.safmc.net
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council www.gulfcouncil.org
Caribbean Fishery Management Council www.caribbeanfmc.com
Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries

They can also be contacted at:

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (866)SAFMC-10
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (888)833-1844
Caribbean Fishery Management Council (787)766-5926 or (787)766-5927
Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division (727) 824-5305

There is also a List of Helpful Links available for download at sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/permits.

How do I comply with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) requirements?

Federal regulations require a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) be installed and operational before renewing or transferring a Gulf Reef Fish permit. The Southeast Permits Office database automatically lets the Southeast Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) know that a vessel is trying to transfer or renew a Gulf Reef Fish permit. They will check to see if the VMS is operational or if there is a Power Down Letter of Exemption on file. If the vessel meets VMS requirements, OLE will alert the Southeast Permits Office database. If the vessel does not meet VMS requirements, OLE will alert the Southeast Permits Office database and the applicant will receive a non-compliance letter. The Southeast Permits Office cannot answer specific questions regarding VMS compliance. Please direct all questions to the Southeast OLE VMS Helpline at (800)758-4833.

Please keep in mind it may take a few hours before OLE’s system signals the Southeast Permits Office database even if someone at OLE reported the vessel is compliant.

Other Southeast Permits Office Services

How does someone get the Catch History of a vessel or permit?

The Southeast Permits Office can mail a Catch History request form or someone can download one from the Southeast Permits Office website - sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/permits. Catch History records are stored at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami, FL. The Southeast Permits Office verifies permit and vessel ownership during the requested logbook period and forwards the Catch History request to the Southeast Fisheries Science Center. Due to database changes throughout the years, the Southeast Permits Office can only verify permit and vessel ownership to the mid-1990s. For anything earlier, a requester must provide proof of ownership for a vessel or permit.

The federal government considers Catch History proprietary business information. Releasing the information requires signatures from everyone who owned a vessel or permit or leased a vessel during the requested period. The Southeast Permits Office can only provide the address of previous vessel or permit owners, not their phone numbers. Please contact the Southeast Permits Office at (877)376-4877 for help finding previous vessel or permit owners.

Is there a list of current permit holders?

The Southeast Permits Office maintains a list of current permit holders.