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What is VMS?

The vessel monitoring system (VMS) is a satellite surveillance system primarily used to monitor the location and movement of commercial fishing vessels within U.S. jurisdiction and treaty areas. The system uses satellite-based communications from on-board transceiver units, which certain vessels are required to carry. The transceiver units send position reports that include vessel identification, time, date, and location, and are mapped and displayed on the end user’s computer screen.


VMS is used to support law enforcement initiatives and to prevent violations of laws and regulations. VMS also helps enforcement personnel focus their time on areas with the highest potential for significant violations. It is used as evidence in the prosecution of many environmental laws and regulations including regional fishing quotas, the Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Southeast Fisheries

The Southeast For-Hire Integrated Electronic Reporting Program implements electronic reporting of for-hire vessel catch data for over 3,000 vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic.  The purpose of this program is to provide more accurate and reliable fisheries information about for-hire catch, effort, and discards. Fishermen will directly improve data collection that is critical to population assessments and better fisheries management. Electronic reporting can also provide more timely, accurate, and reliable information for species with low catches, low annual catch limits, or rarely encountered species. 

The southeastern United States is home to the largest concentration of saltwater recreational fishing in America. Whether seeking iconic fish to catch for sport or for sustenance, recreational fishing in the Southeast generates more than $15 billion in sales annually for more than 4.5 million fishermen taking more than 36 million fishing trips every year.

The commercial fishery represents the second largest by volume in the United States and the third largest by landings revenue. The Gulf of Mexico region dominates landings for the southeast where commercial fishermen land more than 1.7 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish. Landings revenue totaled $912.1 million in the Gulf and $190.9 million in the South Atlantic in 2016. 

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