Maritime GPSA group of charter boat captains are making waves by challenging NOAA Fisheries plan to monitor charter boats in the Gulf of Mexico. Last July, NOAA Fisheries issued a mandate requiring charter boats to allow federal agencies to monitor 24-hour GPS devices on their boats. The rule, which has since been delayed would affect an estimated 1,700 charter boat captains, including many in Lee County.

NOAA New Rule

The new rule requires charter boat captains to submit an electronic fishing report (or logbook) using federally approved hardware and software with GPS location capabilities. Along with the transmission of fish-related information, captains are “required to report certain business data: charter fee, fuel usages, fuel price, number of passengers, and crew size.” Prior to departing for any trip, charter boat captains must declare the type of trip, whether for-hire or not, and details of the expected completion. NOAA states the new rule is intended to

improve the best scientific information available for regulatory decisionmaking; increase the accuracy of economic impacts and value estimates specific to the for-hire industry; and will support further value-added research efforts and programs aimed at increasing net benefits to fishery stakeholders and the U.S. economy.”

Captains’ Concerns

Charter boat captains assert the new rule forces them to purchase, without criminal conviction, their own “anchor bracelets” and subjects all captains to 24-hour warrantless surveillance. Adding insult to injury, the GPS data collected on the software would allow other fisherman to see favorite “fishing spots,” providing a disadvantage to successful fishermen.

In a recently-filed Motion for Summary Judgment, charter boat captains seek a decision that the electronic monitoring order is unconstitutional and violates their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, among other rights. Specifically, they claim the 24-hour GPS tracking of all charter boats in the Gulf of Mexico, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. They also claim the permanent installation of GPS-tracking devices on charter boats constitutes an uncompensated taking, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The case is currently sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In the meantime, charter boat captains are hopeful for a judicial decision that protects both their businesses and freedoms.

If you should have any questions or concerns on NOAA fishery requirements and compliance, please feel free to contact me by email at or by phone at 239-344-1105 or Amanda Ross at or by phone at 239-344-1249.