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Monkfish (Lophius americanus)

Monkfish

Implementing regulations are found at 50 CFR part 648 subpart F

Commerical monkfishing is conducted from North Carolina to Maine primarily using trawl gear in northern waters and gillnet gear in southern waters.  Because it is common for monkfish to be caught in conjunction with groundfish, you will see a lot of the information on this site also relates to the Northeast multispecies (groundfish) fishery.  The fishery is managed using a days-at-sea and trip limit management system.  There is no known directed recreational fishery for monkfish.

 

2018-2019 Monkfish Bulletins

05/02/2018
2018 Specifications for the Monkfish Fishery

Click Below for Past Bulletins (Permit Holder Letters):


 Click Below for Past Federal Register Actions & Public Comments:

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

Current Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR)

What are other common names for monkfish?  Monkfish are also referred to as goosefish, monk, anglerfish, and monktails.  Less common names include allmouth, molligut, sea-devil, abbot, lotte, and fishing frog.  Monkfish is also the common and market name for other members of the genus Lophius (7 species), which are found in the northeastern, southeastern, and southwestern Atlantic, and in the western North Pacific Ocean.

What time of year are these fish most commonly found?  In the SFMA, landings peak in the late spring/early summer months when fish are migrating from deeper water.  In the NFMA, landings peak in Jan – Mar.

What is the geographic extent of monkfish?  Maine to North Carolina out to the continental margin.

At what depths are monkfish commonly found?  Monkfish are generally found at depths from 25-200 m.

What gear types are authorized and used in the monkfish fishery?  In the commercial fishery, trawl, gillnet, longline, dredge, and trap/pot gear are authorized.  Commercial takes of monkfish are primarily from trawl gear and gillnet gear.  In the NFMA, landings are primarily by trawl gear, with gillnet gear landings making up a small proportion during the winter months, but a much larger proportion in the summer.  In the SFMA, gillnet gear accounts for the majority of the landings, with a peak in the late spring/early summer months when fish are migrating from deeper water.  Although there is no known recreational fishery for monkfish, recreational fishing is authorized using a rod and reel or spears.

What other fish species are harvested with monkfish?  Northeast multispecies, skate, Atlantic sea scallop, and to a lesser extent, spiny dogfish are also harvested on monkfish trips.

Who manages this fishery? The monkfish fishery is jointly managed by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils.  The National Marine Fisheries Service serves as the implementing body for rules and regulations within the fishery.

How is the fishery managed? The monkfish fishery is managed under a days-at-sea (DAS – the number of days that can be fished per year) management system with corresponding trip limits per DAS.

What is the fishing year for this fishery? May 1 – April 30

What areas are managed for the monkfish fishery?   The range for the monkfish fishery is the EEZ north of the North Carolina/South Carolina border (Maine through North Carolina).  However, there are two separate management areas within that range based on different fishing activity/operations between the two areas: the Northern Fishery Management Area (NFMA) and the Southern Fishery Management Area (SFMA).  The boundary between the NFMA and the SFMA runs south along the 70° W longitude line from the south-facing shoreline of Cape Cod, MA, to 41° N latitude, then eastward to the U.S.-Canada maritime boundary (see figure below).

For more information on these management areas, see the Commercial>Areas tab on this page.

Mid-1980s – Directed trawl and gillnet fisheries for monkfish grow rapidly.  

1989 – European and Mediterranean monkfish species overfished, spurring greater demand for U.S. monkfish.

Early 1990s – Fishing industry expresses concerns over dramatically increased fishing mortality rates, gear conflicts, growing directed trawl fishery, and a decline in size of landed monkfish.  

1997 – Landings peaked at 62 million pounds (28,123 metric tons), with revenues of $35 million.  

1997Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan was developed to reduce the likelihood of fishing gear entanglements of right, humpback, fin, and minke whales in the North Atlantic.  

1998Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan became effective and required gear modifications and area closures to reduce the likelihood of fishing gear entanglements of harbor porpoise.  

1999 – Monkfish FMP was implemented which included a limited access permit program, a DAS management system, trip limits, and minimum size limits.  

1999Amendment 1 (FR Notice) approved to ensure compliance with essential fish habitat requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

2002 – Framework Adjustment 1 (FR Notice) was disapproved by NMFS.  NMFS instead published an emergency rule that implemented measures based upon the best available science to temporarily suspend the restrictive Year 4 default management measures that would have become effective May 1, 2002.

2003Framework Adjustment 2 (FR Notice) modified the overfishing definition and implemented annual adjustments to the management measures.

2003 - Sea Turtle Conservation Final rule implemented a series of seasonal closures that prohibited the use of large mesh gillnets in Federal waters off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina to reduce the impact of the monkfish fishery on endangered and threatened species of sea turtles.

2005 – Amendment 2 (FR Notice) addressed essential fish habitat, bycatch concerns, and issues raised by public comments.

2006 – Framework Adjustment 3 (FR Notice) implemented to prohibit targeting monkfish on Multispecies B-regular DAS.

2007 – Interim management measures Framework 4 (FR Notice) adopted in May to address overfishing while NMFS conducted a stock assessment.  Framework 4 was implemented in October to establish 3-year target total allowable catches (TACs), a target TAC backstop provision, and adjustments to DAS allocations and trip limits.

2007 – Amendment 3 (FR Notice) was implemented as an Omnibus Amendment to standardize bycatch reporting methodology for monkfish and other fisheries. 

2008 – NMFS implemented Framework 5 (FR Notice) to ensure the Monkfish FMP succeeds in keeping landings within the target total allowable catch levels.  Measures include reduction in carryover DAS, reduction in bycatch or incidental catch limits, and revision in the biological reference points used to determine if the stock is overfished.

2008 – Framework 6 (FR Notice) eliminated the backstop provision adopted in Framework Adjustment 4 to the FMP, October 2007.

2011 – Amendment 5 (FR Notice) implemented a suite of measures including annual catch limits and accountability measures, measures to promote efficiency and reduce waste, and bring the biological reference points into compliance. 

2011 – Framework Adjustment 7 (FR Notice) implemented measures that were disapproved in Amendment 5 due to newly available science.  Specifically, DAS allocations, trip limits, and an annual catch target for the Northern Area.

2013 – NMFS implements an emergency action (FR Notice) to suspend the monkfish possession limits in the Northern Fishery Management Area for monkfish permit categories C and D under a monkfish DAS.  

2014Framework Adjustment 8 (FR Notice) implemented measures to incorporate results of latest stock assessment, increase monkfish day-at-sea allocations and landing limits to better achieve optimum yield, and increase operational flexibility by allowing all limited access monkfish vessels to use an allocated monkfish-only day-at-sea at any time throughout the fishing year and Category H vessels to fish throughout the Southern Fishery Management Area.

2015Amendment 7 (FR Notice) implemented Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology.

2016Framework Adjustment 9 (FR Notice) eliminated the monkfish possession limit in the NFMA for Category C and D vessels fishing on both a Monkfish and NE Multispecies DAS, and revised the minimum mesh size and possession restrictions in the SFMA.

2017Framework Adjustment 10 (FR Notice) implemented monkfish specifications for fishing years 2017–2019, and increased days-at-sea allocations and trip limits.

What are the primary markets for the monkfish fishery?  Monkfish is retained primarily for human consumption and is retained in several different forms including fresh, frozen, liver, tails, heads and cheeks, and whole gutted.  Almost all the monkfish sold in the United States comes from U.S. fisheries. The United States is also a major exporter of monkfish, supplying foreign markets in South Korea and Europe with livers, tails, cheeks, and whole fish.

What are the recent landings and value of the commercial fishery?  

Landings:  19.01 million lb (2015)

Ex-vessel landing value:  $19.22 million (2015)

Estimated average ex-vessel price per pound*:  $1.01 (2015)

*It should be noted that this average is highly variable in the monkfish fishery, because monkfish are sold in a number of different forms with a wide range of associated dollar values.

What are the top monkfish landing ports?  The six primary ports are listed in descending order of pounds landed are New Bedford, MA; Gloucester, MA; Boston, MA; Long Beach/Barnegat Light, NJ; Point Judith, RI; and Portland, ME.  

FishWatch Monkfish Information – click here

Stock Northern Area Southern Area
Overfishing? No No
Overfishing Definition Overfishing occurs when F > FMSY Overfishing occurs when F > FMSY
Overfished? No No
Overfished Definition The stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY The stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY
Rebuilding Program None, declared rebuilt None, declared rebuilt
FMSY 0.43 0.46
Fishing Mortality Rate (F) 0.10 (2010) 0.07 (2010)
BMSY Proxy 52,930 mt 74,490 mt
Biomass 66,062 mt (2009) 131,218 mt (2009)

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement:  2005 (Amendment 2).

Most Recent Biological Opinion: 2013.

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2010 (SAW/SARC 50), 2016 (Operational Stock Assessment Update).

Next Stock Assessment: Not scheduled. 

Quota Monitoring – click here

2018 Monkfish Specifications (May 1-April 30)

Stock Northern Monkfish Southern Monkfish
Overfishing Limit (OFL) 17,805 mt 23,204 mt
Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) 7,592 mt 12,316 mt
Annual Catch Limit (ACL) 7,592 mt 12,316 mt
Annual Catch Target (ACT) 6,338 mt 9,011 mt
Total Allowable Landings (TAL) 6,338 mt 9,011 mt

Research Set-Aside:  500 DAS per year

How often do the quotas change for this fishery?  Quotas, catch limits, and other fishery management measures are reviewed annually and may be adjusted for each stock for multiple years as necessary.

What if specifications are not in place at the start of the fishing year? Existing specifications roll over.

Are there in-season adjustments (changes mid-fishing year) in this fishery? Adjustments to management measures may be made by the Councils or the Regional Administrator or the Joint Monkfish Oversight Committee with the approval of the Council at any time (including in-season), if it is determined that action is necessary to meet or be consistent with the goals and objectives of the Monkfish FMP. However, these situations would require public comment and at least one Council meeting to take action.

Accountability Measures: The ACTs established for each management area are the basis for setting management measures (DAS and trip limits) in those areas after accounting for incidental catch in non-directed fisheries and discards.

In the event that an ACL is exceeded in a given fishing year, the exact amount in pounds by which the ACL was exceeded shall be deducted from the ACT for the corresponding monkfish stock on a pound-for-pound basis. The revised ACT and corresponding management measures (DAS and trip limits) will be implemented through a framework adjustment process in the second fishing year following the fishing year in which the ACL overage occurred.

There are seven categories of monkfish permits (see below) in the region that are dependent on fishing history, other types of permits owned, and planned fishing activity.

Permit Categories

Permit Category Description Permits Issued in 2017 Number of Permits in Confirmation Permit History*
Category A Limited access DAS permit that does not also have a Northeast multispecies or Atlantic scallop limited access permit. 20 173
Category B 38
Category C Limited access DAS permit that also has either a Northeast multispecies or Atlantic scallop limited access permit. 260
Category D 220
Category F Limited access permit for the offshore monkfish fishery.** 18
Category H Limited access DAS permit for use in the Southern Fishery Management Area only. 7
Category E Open access incidental permit. 1470 Not Applicable

* A Confirmation of Permit History allows a vessel owner to retain permit eligibility in the event the vessel has been destroyed or sold but the owner retains the permit eligibility. The permit in Confirmation of Permit History may then be placed on a vessel at a later date.

** The Offshore Monkfish Fishery Program is a seasonal offshore monkfish fishery in the Southern Fishery Management Area (SFMA). For more information on the Category F permit and the program's rules and requirements, see our summary page, here.

Control date: The original capacity control date is 9/10/99. There is also a control date of 5/9/12 that was established for consideration of catch shares in Amendment 6. However, this Amendment has been withdrawn, and the associated control date is not currently being used for a specific purpose.

Commercial operator permit: Operator cards are required for any operator of a charter/party boat or a commercial vessel (including carrier and processor vessels) issued a vessel permit from the Greater Atlantic Region and fishing for or in possession of fish.

Commercial dealer/processor permit: Monkfish may only be sold to persons possessing a valid Federal monkfish dealer permit. Monkfish caught in Federal waters may only be purchased from vessel owners possessing a valid Federal monkfish vessel permit (see above).

How to obtain a Federal fishing permit: Anyone with a valid vessel operator’s permit can obtain a Federal incidental catch monkfish permit by submitting a permit application and supporting documentation to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, Permit Division. More information can be found here.

Commercial (limited access) permits have been managed under a limited entry system since 2000; no new limited access permits are being issued.

Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements

Fish size Limits:

Minimum fish size: 17 inches total length (whole fish), or 11 inches tail length (tails only) for both commercial and recreational anglers.

Maximum fish size: None

Possession Limits: Monkfish possession limits vary by permit category, area, gear, and DAS use. The specifics of the catch limits for limited access permit holders and incidental catch limits are outlined in the tables below.  When viewing the tables, please be aware of the footnotes that are outlined in 1 – 5 below.

Possession Limits While on a Monkfish DAS

Northern Fishery Management Area

Permit Category A or C B or D
Landing Limit1 in tail weight per DAS 1,250 lb (3,638 lb whole weight) 600 lb (1,746 lb whole weight)

Southern Fishery Management Area

Permit Category A or C B, D, or H F
Landing Limit1 in tail weight per DAS 700 lb (2,037 lb whole weight) 575 lb (1,673 lb whole weight) 1,600 lb (4,656 lb whole weight)

Possession Limits While on Both a Monkfish DAS and a NE Multispecies A DAS

Northern Fishery Management Area

Permit Category C or D
Landing Limit1 Unlimited

Southern Fishery Management Area

Permit Category C D
Landing Limit1 in tail weight per DAS 700 lb (2,037 lb whole weight) 575 lb (1,673 lb whole weight)

Incidental Possession Limits While on a NE Multispecies DAS

Area NFMA SFMA
Permit Category C D E, F, or H E or H C, D, or H
Gear All Gear Non-Trawl Trawl
Landing Limit1 in tail weight per DAS 900 lb (2,619 lb whole weight) 750 lb (2,183 lb whole weight) Up to 25% (converted to tail weight1) of the total weight of fish on board, not to exceed 300 lb 50 lb (146 lb whole weight) 300 lb (873 lb whole weight)

Note: If you are fishing under a NE multispecies DAS, you may have additional possession restrictions based on the specific fishery in which you are participating (e.g., Regular B-DAS Program, Closed Area I Hook-Gear Haddock Special Access Program, or the U.S./Canada Management Areas). Please view our special access program info page for more information.

Incidental Possession Limits while on a Scallop DAS or in the Sea Scallop Access Area Program

Sea Scallop Access Area DAS Program2 Scallop DAS Program
Area NFMA and SFMA
Gear All Gear
Landing Limit1 in tail weight per DAS 300 lb (873 lb whole weight)

Incidental Possession Limits for Vessels not under a DAS Program

Program Area Gear Landing Limit1 (in tail weight per trip unless stated otherwise)
No DAS Gulf of Maine (GOM) or Georges Bank (GB) Regulated Mesh Areas (RMAs) Minimum mesh size or larger. See "Gear" or "Exempted Fisheries" tabs for more information  Up to 5% (converted to tail weight1) of the total weight of fish on board
Southern New England (SNE) RMA east of the Mid-Atlantic (MA) Exemption Area boundary at 72° 30' W longitude Up to 5% (converted to tail weight1) of the total weight of fish on board, not to exceed 50 lb (146 lb whole weight) per day3, up to 150 lb (437 lb whole weight) per trip
MA Exemption area west of the MA Exemption Area boundary Up to 5% (converted to tail weight1) of the total weight of fish on board, not to exceed 450 lb (1,310 lb whole weight) per trip
NFMA or SFMA Mesh smaller than the minimum (See tabs mentioned above) 50 lb (146 lb whole weight) per day3, or partial day, not to exceed 150 lb (437 lb whole weight) per trip
Rod and reel or handlines only
No DAS and fishing under a skate bait Letter of Authorization SNE RMA Minimum mesh size or larger (See tabs mentioned above) Up to 5% (converted to tail weight1) of the total weight of fish on board, not to exceed 50 lb (146 lb whole weight) per day3, up to 150 lb (437 lb whole weight) per trip

Incidental Possession Limits for Vessels not under a DAS Program that also Hold Permits in Other Fisheries / Special Cases

Additional Permit / Condition Area Gear Landing Limit1 (in tail weight per trip unless stated otherwise)
NE Multispecies Small Vessel Permit4 NFMA or SFMA All Gear 50 lb (146 lb whole weight) per day3, or partial day, not to exceed 150 lb (437 lb whole weight) per trip
Surfclam or Ocean Quahog Permit Hydraulic clam dredge or mahogany quahog dredge
Sea Scallop Permit Scallop dredge only (except scallop dredge exemption areas)5 If in a scallop dredge exemption area, 50 lb (146 lb whole weight) per trip. Otherwise, 50 lb per day3, or partial day, not to exceed 150 lb (437 lb whole weight) per trip

1 Any prorated combination of tail weight and whole weight may also be landed based on the conversion factor for tail weight to whole weight of 2.91 (tail weight x 2.91 = whole weight; or whole weight/2.91 = tail weight). A vessel may also possess or land monkfish livers up to 25% of the tail weight of monkfish, or up to 10% of the whole weight of monkfish, per trip. If a vessel possesses or lands both monkfish tails and whole monkfish, the vessel may land livers up to 10% of the whole weight of monkfish per trip using the following weight ratio: (0.10) x [(tail weight x 2.91) + (whole fish x 1)]. Vessels may also land monkfish heads separate from tails, provided the total head weight does not exceed 1.91 times the total weight of tails onboard.

2 For vessels with limited access sea scallop permits fishing in an established Sea Scallop Access Area, the monkfish possession limit is per day fished inside the access area (as determined by VMS), not including steaming time.

3 A day is the 24-hour period that begins when the vessel leaves port or, if the vessel has an operational VMS, when the vessel crosses the VMS demarcation line when leaving port and ends when the vessel returns to port or, if the vessel has an operational VMS, crosses the VMS demarcation line on its return to port.

4 These vessels are exempt from a NE multispecies DAS provided they meet the vessel size requirements applicable to the limited access NE multispecies small vessel permit category (vessels < 30 ft in length).

5 In order to possess monkfish in the scallop dredge exemption areas, small dredges must be used (combined width not to exceed 10.5 ft).

Gear Requirements

The monkfish fishery has some gear requirements that vary based on permit category, other types of permits owned, and planned fishing activity. All of the following gear requirements apply while fishing for monkfish under a Monkfish day-at-sea (DAS) unless otherwise noted.

Dredge

Dredge gear is prohibited on a Monkfish DAS. You may not have a dredge onboard your vessel while fishing on a Monkfish DAS trip.


Trawl

The minimum mesh size is 10-inch square or 12-inch diamond mesh throughout the codend for at least 45 continuous meshes forward of the terminus of the net. The minimum mesh size for the remainder of the trawl net is the regulated mesh size specified by the regulated mesh area being fished, as outlined in the NE multispecies regulations.

Exception: If you have a Monkfish Category C, D, or H permit and are fishing with trawl gear under both a monkfish and NE multispecies DAS, you are subject to the minimum mesh size determined by the NE multispecies fishery.

The maximum roller size in the Southern Fishery Management Area (SFMA) is 6 inches in diameter.


Gillnet*

The minimum mesh size is 10-inch diamond mesh.

Exception 1: If you have a Category C, D, or H permit and a NE multispecies permit, fishing in the Northern Fishery Management Area (NFMA), and switch from a NE multispecies VMS declaration to a monkfish VMS declaration by using the "monkfish option" on your VMS unit, you may continue to use gillnet gear with less than 10-inch diamond mesh. However, you must go by the more restrictive mesh sizes as outlined in the NE multispecies regulations.

Exception 2: If you have a Category C, D, or H permit and a NE multispecies permit, and you are fishing in the SFMA on a monkfish DAS and a NE multispecies DAS, you may fish with standup gillnets as small as 6.5 inches.

If you have a Category A or B permit, you may not fish with, haul, possess, or set more than 160 gillnets at any time.

If you have a Category C, D, F, or H permit and a limited access NE multispecies permit, you may not fish with, haul, possess, or set more than 150 gillnets at any time. Note: If you are also fishing on a NE multispecies DAS, you must go by the more restrictive net limits of the NE multispecies regulated mesh areas (§ 648.80).

All gillnets must be tagged with one tag per net, and cannot be longer than 300 ft.



*Gillnet and trap/pot fisheries also have Protected Resources requirements to protect marine mammals and other protected species. Please contact the Protected Resources Division at 978-281-9328 for more information, or visit the webpage.

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

There are two separate management areas within the monkfish fishery: The Northern Fishery Management Area (NFMA) and the Southern Fishery Management Area (SFMA). The boundary between the NFMA and the SFMA runs south along the 70° W longitude line from the south-facing shoreline of Cape Cod, MA, to 41° N latitude, then eastward to the U.S.-Canada maritime boundary (see map below). For commercial vessels, these management areas have different possession limits and regulatory requirements. Please see the NFMA section below for more details on requirements specific to the NFMA.

Northern Fishery Management Area Information (§§ 648.92, 648.94

Different Requirements in the NMFA:
Because the regulations for the SFMA are more restrictive (lower possession limits) than the NFMA, a federally-permitted monkfish vessel fishing exclusively in the NFMA without an operational vessel monitoring system (VMS) on board must obtain a monkfish Letter of Authorization (LOA) from us. This LOA is issued for a minimum of 7 days and may be obtained by calling our Permit Office at (978) 282-8438. The non-VMS vessel must also make the proper trip declaration through the interactive voice response (IVR) call-in system. If a vessel has not obtained the LOA and makes a trip declaration through the IVR, it is presumed to have fished in the SFMA, and will be held to the more restrictive requirements of the SFMA.

This does not apply to vessels with an operational VMS unit.  Such vessels must declare the area to be fished using VMS.

Requirement for NFMA Vessels Transiting Through the SFMA:
A vessel that has declared into the NFMA (LOA and IVR, or through VMS), may transit the SFMA, provided that it does not harvest or possess monkfish or any other fish from the SFMA. All fishing gear must also be properly stowed and not available for immediate use.

Flexibility if Exceeding the Incidental Possession Limit on a NE multispecies DAS or Sector Trip:

 If a vessel has declared the "monkfish option" on its VMS unit before leaving port and has only fished in the NFMA, the trip declaration can be changed from a NE multispecies A DAS or sector trip to a Monkfish DAS declaration before crossing the demarcation line on its return to port if the incidental limit has been exceeded. When this "monkfish option" is initiated, both NE multispecies A DAS and Monkfish DAS are charged in conjunction for the course of the trip, although the VMS declaration will show Monkfish DAS. For assistance with your VMS codes, call our Office of Law Enforcement VMS team at (978) 281–9149, or visit the VMS website.

Closed Areas in the Monkfish Fishery

There are two closed areas affecting commercial monkfish vessels: Lydonia Canyon Closed Area and Oceanographer Canyon Closed Area. A vessel fishing on a monkfish day-at-sea (DAS) is prohibited from fishing in these areas regardless of gear used. These areas are not closed to recreational anglers or vessels with a monkfish permit that are not fishing on a monkfish DAS. Please see the "DAS" tab for more information on the monkfish DAS program.

A number of other Northeast (NE) multispecies closure areas may also apply, depending on fishing activity. For more information on NE multispecies closed areas, call us at (978) 281-9315, or view the info sheet, here.

 

 

 

Lyndonia Canyon Closed Area

N. Lat.

W. Long.

40°16'

67°34'

40°16'

67°42'

40°20'

67°43'

40°27'

67°40'

40° 27'

67°38'

40°16'

67°34'


Oceanographer Canyon Closed Area

N. Lat.

W. Long.

40°10'

68°12'

40°24'

68°09'

40°24'

68°08'

40°10'

67°59'

40°10'

68°12'

See ‘Exempted Fisheries’ tab for information on exemption areas in the monkfish fishery.

Days-At-Sea (DAS)

Annual DAS Allocations
Limited access monkfish vessels are allocated 45.2 Monkfish DAS each fishing year. Of these, only 37 can be used in the Southern Fishery Management Area (SFMA). Each permit holder may also carry-over up to four unused monkfish DAS from the previous year, which can be applied to either area (Northern Fishery Management Area [NFMA] or SFMA). However, DAS that are not usable because they are tied to a Northeast (NE) multispecies DAS may not be carried over.

For example, if you have 31 unused monkfish DAS and have a NE multispecies DAS allocation of 35 DAS and you leased out 10 of your NE multispecies DAS to another vessel, you would forfeit 6 of your monkfish DAS (10 - (35 NE multispecies DAS – 31 monkfish DAS) = 6). If you then fished the remainder of your NE multispecies DAS and used all of your monkfish DAS except 6, you could not carry over your 6 remaining monkfish DAS into the next fishing year.

Monkfish DAS charging rates
All monkfish DAS trips using gillnet gear under 15 hours will be rounded up to 15 hours. For example, if you take a trip using gillnet gear that lasts 10 hours, you will be charged 15 hours. Trips over 15 hours will be charged actual time. All trips using trawl gear are charged actual time.

DAS adjustment for trip limit overage provision
A limited access monkfish vessel may land up to one additional day’s trip limit worth of monkfish than would otherwise be allowed based on the vessel’s actual monkfish DAS usage for that trip. The vessel must declare the extra fish via Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) prior to crossing the demarcation line upon returning to port, or via the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) line 1 hour prior to landing, to land the additional day’s worth of monkfish. To account for the trip limit overage, the monkfish DAS charge will be rounded to the next 24-hr period plus 1 minute.

Example: If you have two days’ (trip limits') worth of monkfish on board and you have declared into the monkfish DAS program for 15 hours, once you declare or call in this overage provision, you would be permitted to land 2 days’ worth of monkfish. Your DAS charge for the trip would be adjusted from 15 hours to 24 hours and 1 minute. Also, after using the DAS adjustment provision, you may go right back out to start a new trip, even if the additional time has not passed for which your previous trip was charged.

DAS Measures Applicable to Monkfish Permit Holders That Also Hold a NE Multispecies Permit:
The monkfish and NE multispecies DAS interactions can be complicated, but are summarized below. Please call us at (978) 281-9315 if you have any questions.

  • A monkfish permitted vessel that also holds a NE multispecies or limited access scallop permit must also use either a NE multispecies DAS or scallop DAS whenever using a monkfish DAS.
  • If a vessel's initial allocation of NE multispecies DAS is less than its monkfish DAS allocation, it will receive an allocation of monkfish-only DAS equal to the difference. These monkfish-only DAS are treated separately, and can be used at any time during the fishing year in an exempted fishery. Please see the "Exempted Fisheries" tab for more information.
  • A vessel with monkfish-only DAS may choose to lease in NE multispecies Category A DAS, but these leased DAS will then be tied to the monkfish DAS; so that those DAS will no longer be considered monkfish-only DAS.
  • If a vessel leases out NE multispecies Category A DAS, the vessel forfeits monkfish DAS equal to the difference between the number of remaining NE multispecies DAS and the number of unused monkfish DAS.

Information for Monkfish Permit Holders That are Also in the NE Multispecies Common Pool:
NE multispecies DAS are charged in 24-hour increments. So if a vessel fishes for 15 hours, it will be charged for 24 hours of NE multispecies DAS balance and 15 hours of monkfish DAS balance. Because of this, common pool vessels may run out of NE multispecies DAS faster than monkfish DAS. These remaining monkfish DAS do not become monkfish-only DAS, and are unusable. Because these days are tied together, such vessels must lease in NE multispecies DAS to use these leftover monkfish DAS.

Information for Monkfish Permit Holders That are Also in a NE Multispecies Sector:
Although sector vessels are exempt from the requirement to use a NE multispecies DAS to land allocated groundfish stocks, they must still use a NE multispecies A DAS when using a monkfish DAS. NE multispecies DAS will be charged actual time based on the time fishing, regardless of the monkfish DAS charge. Other interactions for monkfish permit holders in a sector include:

  • Catch (landings and discards) of allocated NE multispecies stocks while on a monkfish DAS and a NE multispecies A DAS will count against the sector's ACEs. This means that sectors must have ACE available for all stocks in the area a sector vessel may be fishing on a monkfish DAS.
  • Sector vessels fishing on a monkfish DAS and a NE multispecies A DAS (i.e., not in an exempted fishery) are required to participate in the at-sea monitoring program, because all catch of allocated groundfish stocks on that trip (including discards) counts against the sector's ACE.
  • Sector vessels fishing only in the NFMA can change declarations from a NE multispecies Category A DAS or sector trip declaration that does not charge a DAS, to the corresponding monkfish DAS declaration during the course of the trip (see "Monkfish Option" below).

Monkfish Option
To have the flexibility to land monkfish caught in excess of the incidental limit when fishing on a NE multispecies A DAS or sector trip, a vessel must first declare the ‘monkfish option’ on the vessel’s VMS unit before leaving port, and can only fish in the NFMA. If this has been done, the vessel can change the trip declaration from a NE multispecies A DAS or sector trip to a Monkfish DAS declaration before crossing the demarcation line on its return to port if the incidental limit has been exceeded. When this is initiated, both NE multispecies A DAS and Monkfish DAS are charged in conjunction for the course of the trip, although the VMS declaration will show Monkfish DAS. For assistance with your VMS codes, call our Office of Law Enforcement VMS team at (978) 281–9149, or visit the VMS website.

Exempted Fisheries

What is an Exempted Fishery?

Exempted fisheries allow fishing vessels to fish for specific species without being subject to certain northeast (NE) multispecies regulations, including days-at-sea, provided the bycatch of regulated species is minimal. To be approved and implemented, exemption programs must have demonstrated that incidental catch of NE multispecies is less than 5 percent of the total catch, by weight, and that the exemption will not jeopardize fishing mortality objectives.

How to Request Fishery Exemptions

An exempted fishery may be added, deleted, or modified pursuant to the procedure described below: 

  1. Applicants must submit a written request to the Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298. The request should describe the area in which the fishery would operate, the period in which it would operate, the gear it would use, the approximate number of vessels likely to participate, and the species it would target, retain, and land.
  2. Those proposing that a fishery should be exempt should describe the fishery and present all information possible that helps determine that the fishery meets the bycatch standard. The Regional Administrator will investigate NMFS data sources, but proposals for exemptions should be complete and clear to facilitate the process. State agencies and universities, for example, may have additional data available and applicants may contact them for assistance.
  3. When a request for an exempted fishery is submitted, the request and any accompanying data are reviewed by the Regional Administrator to determine whether such a fishery would meet the exemption qualifying criteria. The Regional Administrator will also consult with the New England Fishery Management Council on any exemptions requested. This process may take several months to complete.

Monkfish Fishery Exemptions

To fish a monkfish day-at-sea (DAS) as monkfish-only DAS (not also using scallop or NE multispecies DAS), you must fish exclusively in an exemption area within the Southern Fishery Management Area (SFMA) (see guidelines below) or in an Exempted Fishery. If you choose to fish outside of the exemption area or an exempted fishery, you are also required to use a NE multispecies or scallop DAS simultaneously with your monkfish DAS.

Monkfish Exemption Areas

There are five main exemption areas that apply to the monkfish fishery. Visit the summary pages below for more detailed information about each one:

Possession Limits and Mesh Sizes Associated with the SNE and MA Exemption Areas
If you are using trawl gear, you need to be aware that your monkfish incidental trip limits depend upon whether you are fishing on either the east side or the west side of the boundary between the SNE and MA exemption areas. The chart below depicts this area and the table at the end of this section shows the different incidental trip limits.

Minimum mesh size is defined by the summer flounder regulations when fishing west of the SNE/MA Exemption Area boundary, but is defined by the NE multispecies regulations when fishing east of this boundary in the SNE Regulated Mesh Area and Exemption Areas. For a specific breakdown of areas, gear, and trip limits, refer to the table below.

A vessel's monkfish incidental catch limit is based upon the mesh size of the smallest mesh fished during the trip. For example, if you are fishing for squid using a 1-7/8-inch diamond mesh and for summer flounder using a 5.5-inch diamond mesh on the same trip west of the 72˚ 30’ W boundary line, you are subject to the more restrictive possession limit of 50 lb tail weight per day, up to 150 lb tail weight per trip (see table below).

Southern Exemption Area Trip Limits by Mesh Size

Side of SNE/MA Exemption Area Boundary ⇒

West

East

Smallest Mesh Fished During Trip

5.5-inch diamond/6-inch square, or larger, in body, extensions, and codend Smaller than 5.5-inch diamond/6-inch square in body, extensions, and codend Smaller than 6-inch diamond/ 6.5-inch square in body and extensions; and 6.5-inch square or diamond in the codend 6-inch diamond/ 6.5 inch square, or larger, in body and extensions; and 6.5-inch square or diamond, or larger, in the codend

Landing Limit1 (per trip unless stated otherwise)

5% of total weight of fish aboard, up to 450 lb per trip 50 lb per day3, up to 150 lb per trip 5% of total weight of fish aboard, not to exceed 50 lb per day3, up to 150 lb per trip

1 Any prorated combination of tail weight and whole weight may also be landed based on the conversion factor for tail weight to whole weight of 2.91 (tail weight x 2.91 = whole weight; or whole weight/2.91 = tail weight). A vessel may also possess or land monkfish livers up to 25% of the tail weight of monkfish, or up to 10% of the whole weight of monkfish, per trip. If a vessel possesses or lands both monkfish tails and whole monkfish, the vessel may land livers up to 10% of the whole weight of monkfish per trip using the following weight ratio: (0.10) x [(tail weight x 2.91) + (whole fish x 1)]. Vessels may also land monkfish heads separate from tails, provided the total head weight does not exceed 1.91 times the total weight of tails onboard.

2 A day is the 24-hour period that begins when the vessel leaves port or, if the vessel has an operational VMS, when the vessel crosses the VMS demarcation line when leaving port and ends when the vessel returns to port or, if the vessel has an operational VMS, crosses the VMS demarcation line on its return to port.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Regulatory Area Exemption Program

A vessel issued a valid High Seas Fishing Compliance Permit and that complies with the associated requirements is exempt from monkfish permit, mesh size, effort-control, and possession limit restrictions while transiting the EEZ with monkfish on board the vessel, or landing monkfish in U.S. ports that were caught while fishing in the NAFO Regulatory Area. A letter of authorization is required for participation in the NAFO Exemption Program, and other requirements and restrictions may apply. For more information, visit the NAFO website.

Protected Resource and Marine Mammal Regulations

It is illegal to harvest or possess protected species unless otherwise specified under the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act or Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Please see links below for more information or contact NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Protected Resources Division at (978) 281-9328.

Protected Fish Species

Marine Mammals

  • Reporting injured or dead marine mammal caught in fishing gear

Sea Turtles

Gillnet Gear

For vessels fishing with gillnet gear, please look at the websites listed below for more information on regulations regarding marine mammals and sea turtles. 

Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles  

 Trawl Gear

For vessels fishing with trawl gear, please look at the websites listed below for more information on regulations regarding marine mammals and sea turtles. 

Marine Mammals

Sea Turtles

There are currently no recreational possession restrictions for monkfish caught in Federal waters.  Recreational anglers must still comply with minimum fish size regulations (Currently 17 inches whole; 11 inches tail only for monkfish).

Minimum size limits and general information on all recreational fisheries in our region can be found here.

Vessel Trip Reports (VTR): You must keep on board the vessel, and submit to NMFS, VTRs for all fishing trips, regardless of species retained. These reports may be submitted electronically.  Instructions for completing the VTR can be found here. VTRs must be received or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month. For vessels that also hold a NE multispecies permit, VTRs must be submitted weekly by Tuesday of the week after the fishing trip ends.

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements:  A vessel that meets any of the following criteria must use their VMS unit to declare a monkfish trip:

  • Vessel has a Monkfish Category C or D permit if in a sector, or will fish under a groundfish DAS during the year;
  • Category F permit (can turn off VMS outside of the offshore fishery season);
  • Vessel has another permit that requires the use of a VMS unit; and/or
  • Vessel has a NE multispecies or scallop permit and are fishing for monkfish outside of an exemption area or under a monkfish DAS.

Please note that vessels with an operational VMS unit that are declaring a trip that either completely shoreward of the VMS demarcation line or both shoreward and seaward of the demarcation line may also declare using the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. For trips declared using the IVR system, the vessel owner or operator must call into the IVR system again at the end of the trip.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements: A vessel that is not required to use a VMS unit, or has an operational VMS unit and will be fishing both inside and outside of the demarcation line on the same trip, must declare through calling the IVR system at 1-(888) 284-4904 prior to leaving port. For trips declared using the IVR system, the vessel owner or operator must call into the IVR system again at the end of the trip. For more information on IVR, visit our website here.

DAS adjustment for trip limit overage provision:  A limited access monkfish vessel may land up to one additional day’s trip limit worth of monkfish than would otherwise be allowed based on the vessel’s actual monkfish DAS usage for that trip. The vessel must declare the extra fish via VMS prior to crossing the demarcation line upon returning to port, or via the IVR line 1 hour prior to landing, to land the additional day’s worth of monkfish. To account for the trip limit overage, the monkfish DAS charge will be rounded to the next 24-hr period plus 1 minute.

Example: If you have two days’ (trip limits') worth of monkfish on board and you have declared into the monkfish DAS program for 15 hours, once you declare or call in this overage provision, you would be permitted to land 2 days’ worth of monkfish. Your DAS charge for the trip would be adjusted from 15 hours to 24 hours and 1 minute. Also, after using the DAS adjustment provision, you may go right back out to start a new trip, even if the additional time has not passed for which your previous trip was charged.

Monkfish Option: To have the flexibility to land monkfish caught in excess of the incidental limit when fishing on a NE multispecies A DAS, a vessel must first declare the ‘monkfish option’ on the vessel’s VMS unit before leaving port, and can only fish in the Northern Fishery Management Area (NFMA). If this has been done, the vessel can change the trip declaration from a NE multispecies A DAS to a Monkfish DAS declaration before crossing the demarcation line on its return to port. When this is initiated, both NE multispecies A DAS and Monkfish DAS are charged in conjunction for the course of the trip, although the VMS declaration will show Monkfish DAS. For assistance with your VMS codes, call our Office of Law Enforcement VMS team at (978) 281–9149, or visit the VMS website.

Requirement for vessels fishing exclusively in the NFMA without a VMS unit: Because the regulations for the Southern Fishery Management Area (SFMA) are more restrictive (lower possession limits) than the NFMA, a federally-permitted monkfish vessel fishing exclusively in the NFMA without an operational vessel monitoring system (VMS) on board must obtain a monkfish letter of authorization (LOA) from NMFS. This LOA is issued for a minimum of 7 days and may be obtained by calling our Permit Office at (978) 282-8438 or visiting this site. The non-VMS vessel must also make the proper trip declaration through the IVR call-in system. If a vessel has not obtained the LOA and makes a trip declaration through the IVR, it is presumed to have fished in the SFMA, and will be held to the more restrictive requirements of the SFMA.

This does not apply to vessels with an operational VMS unit. Instead of obtaining the LOA and declaring the trip through IVR, vessels with VMS on board must instead declare the area to be fished using VMS.

Requirement for vessels fishing exclusively in the NFMA and transiting through the SFMA: A vessel that has declared into the NFMA (LOA and IVR, or through VMS), may transit the SFMA, provided the vessel does not harvest or possess monkfish or any other fish from the SFMA, and all fishing gear is properly stowed and not available for immediate use.

Observer Requirements: The monkfish fishery does not have specific observer requirements, but must abide by NE multispecies and/or scallop regulations if fishing on a DAS for one of those fisheries. Also, all sector vessels fishing on a monkfish DAS are required to participate in the at-sea monitoring program, because all catch of allocated groundfish stocks on that trip (including discards) counts against sector ACE. Additionally, all federally permitted vessels are obligated to carry an observer if randomly selected by the National Observer Program.

Reporting is not required for the recreational fishery, but the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is a system of voluntary coordinated data collection programs designed to estimate recreational catch and effort.