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Mark Sampson Column on HMS Permits
Monday, February 1, 2016

I just finished renewing my annual NMFS HMS permit that allows me to fish for marlin, tuna, and sharks. Getting the permit was as easy as going online, entering my documentation number, paying $20 with my credit card, and printing the permit. It took all of about 7-minutes to complete and now I can fish for marlin, tuna, and sharks in 2016.

I expect that pretty soon I’ll receive the renewal forms for my charter boat dolphin/wahoo permit. This permit also comes from NMFS but it’s handled through their Southeast Regional Office in St.Petersburg Florida. The annual cost is also $25 but the application is eight pages - not including the four pages of instructions on how to fill out the application. Even though I filled it all out last year and have no changes in my boat or home address I will still have to write down all the details about my boat including length, gross tonnage, net tonnage, hailing port, hull material, whether or not I have a live well, ice chest or freezer, engine type, horsepower, year built etc-etc. I’ll have fill all that out on the application even though that same information is on Coast Guard documentation papers that they also require. When I get to page four I’ll provide my personal info including name, address, phone number, residency status, date of birth, and of all things - my social security number. And guess what? Since my wife is listed on the boat’s documentation I’ll have to provide all those details about her as well!

For years I’ve been trying to understand why in the world the Southeast Regional Office makes it so complicated to get a silly permit to fish for dolphin and wahoo. The HMS permit to fish for marlin, tuna and sharks is a snap and I’m pretty sure that in the big scheme of things those fish are of much higher priority to our national and global fisheries than dolphin and wahoo and we don’t need eight pages and social security numbers fish for them!

I’ve been biting my tongue on this issue for a long time and would have again “begrudgingly” filled out my eight page application, written a $25 check to the “U.S.Treasury” and let it go at that, except for the fact that the folks at South Atlantic Fishery Management Council have now decided to crank the dolphin/wahoo insanity up a few notches by proposing that they might also start requiring that everyone with charter boat permits to catch those fish will have to submit weekly (or possibly daily) trip reports. Since I don’t have “eight pages” for this column, space doesn’t allow me to post everything their proposed trip reports might require, but the list had twenty topics, including such “critical” information as maximum depth fished, minimum depth fished, number of paying customers, hours spent fishing, locations, and so forth. Most of this information, by the way, we record already in the Vessel Trip Reports (VTRs) that we are required to fill out and send to the NMFS “Northeast” Regional office already. And I guess this would be a good time to also point out that much of this information we are also required to provide every day we fish to Maryland DNR. Of course if the NMFS Southeast office can’t get our dolphin/wahoo catch data from the NMFS Northeast office I surly wouldn’t expect them to reach out to the state of Maryland for it. No - it makes a lot more sense to waist taxpayer’s money and fishermen time by implementing a mandatory dolphin/wahoo reporting program!

So the Southeast Regional office has scheduled public hearing on this issue and is soliciting public comments. Of course the hearings are all being held from North Carolina south to Florida because that’s their region. But make no mistake, the South Atlantic Council has made it clear that their intent is to extend the reporting requirements through the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery, so if this proposal goes through it will apply to anglers off Delmarva as well. More information, including how to make your own public comment, on Amendment 9 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery can be found at SAFMC.NET. You can probably guess what my comments will be.


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