A Voice for Our Ocean

STATEMENT: A Disappointing Court Decision on Fishery Management Case

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Late last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in the case Mexican Gulf Fishing Company v. NOAA, regarding the electronic logbook (or ELB) program in the Gulf of Mexico. Meredith Moore, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Fish Conservation Program, issued the following statement in response:

“It is extremely disappointing that the Court of Appeals has struck down a program that conserves a public resource while providing long-term economic benefits to fishing businesses.”

“The Gulf ELB program is a great example of a fishing industry-led data modernization effort to meet the needs of today and help ensure that fisheries are sustainably managed into the future.

“The U.S. fishery management system is one of the most advanced in the world, but its continued success relies on high quality data to inform sustainable management decisions. The ELB program provides a long overdue upgrade to support both a thriving fishing industry and healthy ocean.

“This court decision misunderstands the nature and value of this program.  We urge NOAA Fisheries to act quickly to mitigate data losses and continue to improve fisheries information collected from federally-permitted for-hire vessels in the Gulf.”

Notes to Editors:

  • A large portion of the charter for-hire industry supports the ELB program. In fact, NOAA Fisheries reports 83% compliance with the VMS component of the rulemaking. Conservation benefits of the program include reducing management uncertainty and improving accountability, which could lead to important economic benefits such as longer fishing seasons that are more tailored to the needs of the for-hire fleet.
  • The purpose of the program was to improve accuracy and timeliness of fisheries information collected from federally permitted for-hire vessels in the Gulf. It requires an owner or operator of a vessel with a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for certain Gulf of Mexico fish species to submit an electronic fishing report (also referred to as a logbook), via NMFS-approved hardware and software, for each fishing trip before offloading fish from that fishing trip.
  • The Gulf ELB requirements  are officially part of the Southeast For-Hire Integrated Electronic Reporting (SEFHIER) program, which includes both South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico program components with regionally distinct requirements. The Gulf ELB program was unanimously approved by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in 2017. Its January 2021 implementation represents nearly two decades of industry-led effort to improve data collection in the Reef Fish and Coastal Migratory Pelagics For-Hire fisheries.
  • Under the program in the Gulf of Mexico, fishermen who provide charter fishing opportunities in U.S. federal waters report details about their catch and fishing activity for every trip and also provide location information to validate the data. The Gulf program has significantly higher compliance than the South Atlantic program and provides more robust data to inform management. in the Gulf which includes hail-in, trip-level reporting, and VMS.
  • Charter for-hire data is routinely collected by telephone surveys, mail-in surveys, and paper logbooks, which can result in long lag times before the data can be used by management. By contrast, the SEFHIER ELB program supplies accurate and timely data to fishery managers which could accommodate rapid and adaptive in-season management.



Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

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