February 1, 2013 (MASGP-13-001-2)
COMMERCIAL FISHING VESSEL SAFETY DECAL UPDATE
On August 15, 2012, the Coast Guard issued a letter explaining that after October 15, 2012, all commercial fishing, fish tender and fish processing vessels that operated (or transited) more than 3 nautical miles offshore must demonstrate full compliance with existing fishing industry vessel safety regulations by completing a biennial safety examination. That requirement was one of several mandates established by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. The examination requirement applied to State-registered or Federally-documented vessels, to vessels with more than 16 individuals on board operated anywhere, and to fish tender vessels engaged in the Aleutian Trade.
That statutory biennial examination requirement for these vessels has changed. The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012, which was signed into law by the President on December 20, 2012, modified the law to require that dockside safety examinations must be completed at least once every 5 years (instead of 2 years), and that the first dockside exam of a vessel must be completed no later than October 15, 2015. Please note, however, that depending on the type and area of vessel operations, other examination requirements may still apply (such as for Distant Water Tuna Fleet manning exemptions, District-granted equipment exemptions, post-search-and-rescue boarding and safety checks, post-voyage termination compliance checks, etc.).
The development of specific regulations to clarify the new examination (and other) requirements of the law is ongoing. Mandatory safety exams on many vessels, for now, are not required until after October 15, 2015. If you had your vessel examined for the first time based on the mandates described in the August letter, please recognize that it was not done in vain. Completion of the exam demonstrated that your vessel was in compliance with current safety regulations. At this point, the Coast Guard encourages you to continue to have your vessel examined at least every 2 years, which will help you align with the current period for which a safety decal is issued after successfully completing an examination. Also, be aware that a 2-year examination requirement remains in effect for your vessel and operation if you are subject to carrying NOAA Fisheries Observers, or if your vessel is a fish processing vessel or fish tender vessel engaged in the Aleutian trade.
To arrange for an examination, or to obtain more information on methods to ensure compliance, please contact your local Coast Guard Sector, Marine Safety Unit, or Field Office and ask for the local fishing vessel safety examiner. They will make every effort to accommodate your operations and schedule an examination. You may also request an examination through a link on the www.fishsafe.info website. If you have any questions regarding exam requirements, please feel free to contact Mr. Jack Kemerer, Chief of Fishing Vessels Division at Coast Guard Headquarters (CGCVC3@uscg.mil), or one of the Area or District Fishing Vessel Safety Program coordinators listed on the website.
For your future awareness, and as required by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012, the Coast Guard is updating the regulations applicable to all U.S. commercial fishing vessels, fish processing vessels, and fish tender vessels. That project, when finished, may have additional requirements for fishing vessels beyond the current regulations. There will also be a new Coast Guard Certificate of Compliance form that will be used when the regulations are updated, but in the interim, a valid safety decal or signed exam form will signify compliance. If you operate your vessel and it is boarded and found not to be in full compliance with the current regulations, your operation may be subject to enforcement action for noncompliance with 46 C.F.R. Part 28, as well as other applicable regulations currently in effect. Such enforcement action may include civil penalties, termination of the vessel’s voyage, or other operational controls such as a Captain of the Port Order.
TAX NEWS OF INTEREST TO COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN
On January 24, 2013 the Internal Revenue Service announced that it will issue guidance in the near future to provide relief from the estimated tax penalty for farmers and fishermen unable to file and pay their 2012 taxes by the March 1 deadline due to the delayed start for filing tax returns. The delay stems from enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA). The ATRA affected several tax forms that are often filed by farmers and fishermen, including the Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization (Including Information on Listed Property). These forms will require extensive programming and testing of IRS systems, which will delay the IRS’s ability to accept and process these forms. The IRS is providing this relief because delays in the agency’s ability to accept and process these forms may affect the ability of many farmers and fishermen to file and pay their taxes by the March 1 deadline. The relief applies to all farmers and fishermen, not only those who must file late released forms.
Normally, farmers and fishermen who choose not to make quarterly estimated tax payments are not subject to a penalty if they file their returns and pay the full amount of tax due by March 1. Under the guidance to be issued, farmers or fishermen who miss the March 1 deadline will not be subject to the penalty if they file and pay by April 15, 2013. A taxpayer qualifies as a farmer or fisherman for tax-year 2012 if at least two-thirds of the taxpayer’s total gross income was from farming or fishing in either 2011 or 2012. Farmers and fishermen requesting this penalty waiver must attach Form 2210-F to their tax return. The form can be submitted electronically or on paper. The taxpayer’s name and identifying number should be entered at the top of the form, the waiver box (Part I, Box A) should be checked, and the rest of the form should be left blank. Forms, instructions, and other tax assistance are available on IRS.gov.
DMR SEEKS VOLUNTEERS TO HELP REMOVE LOST CRAB TRAPS
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) in cooperation with Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is seeking volunteers to participate in Mississippi's Derelict Crab Trap Roundup, to be held February 21 through February 23 to remove derelict crab pots from Mississippi's marine waters. During this period no harvest will be allowed. It is illegal to remove any crab traps not licensed to you unless you are a registered volunteer working during the cleanup dates.
MDMR will hold a crab trap gear closure in all state marine waters beginning at 6 a.m. on February 14 and ending at 6 a.m. on February 24. February 14 through February 20 is the period when crab fishermen must remove their own traps from state marine waters. Harvest will be allowed while removing traps. Any crab traps found in state waters between February 21 and February 23 will be considered derelict and subject to removal by registered volunteers. Traps will be accepted on Feb. 23 at the following sites: Pascagoula Point, Ocean Springs Harbor and Bayou Caddy-Boat Ramp, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Recovered traps will be taken to a recycling facility by Sims Metal Management. On February 18 at 6 p.m. and February 19 at 4 p.m. two training sessions will be held for volunteers to learn trap clean up basics and receive supplies at the Bolton State Building in Biloxi. On February 24 at 6 a.m., all active traps may be placed back into legal waters according to all MDMR regulations.
Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up on the MDMR web site at dmr.ms.gov or call the MDMR Shrimp and Crab Bureau at 228-374-5000. Refreshments will be provided to volunteers and prizes awarded for each site for the most traps turned in. The MDMR began the derelict crab trap program in 1999 working together with the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. Since the program's inception, 18,378 traps have been removed from Mississippi waters and recycled. The project is currently funded through a Mississippi Tidelands Trust Grant.
MISSISSIPPI COMMERCIAL SPOTTED SEATROUT SEASONS OPENS
The commercial fishing season for spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) opened in Mississippi territorial waters on February 1, 2013 at 12:01 a.m. The commercial fishing season for spotted seatrout will remain open for the months of February, March, April and May or until 25,000 pounds of the quota has been met; whichever occurs first. The commercial season will then remain closed until June 1, 2013, on which day the second half of the season will open. The second half of the season will be open for the months of June, July and August and will close on Sept. 30, 2013, unless the full 50,000-pound quota has been reached prior to this date.
MANAGING OUR NATION’S FISHERIES THREE SLATED
With some of the largest and most successful fisheries in the world, the United States is a model of responsible fisheries management. Our success is due to strong partnerships among the commercial and recreational fishing, conservation, and science and management communities. Continued collaboration is necessary to address the ongoing challenge of maintaining productive and sustainable fisheries in a changing world. An important meeting has been scheduled in Washington D.C. and stakeholder involvement is critical.
Twice before in our history, fishery leaders and stakeholders from around the country met to discuss U.S. fisheries management and chart a course for the future. It’s time to do that again. Please consider attending on May 7-9, 2013, at Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries 3—co-sponsored by the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils and NOAA Fisheries—to discuss the challenges facing our nation’s fisheries. Conference sessions will focus on a number of topics related to fisheries management, ecosystems, and communities. Mark your calendars for this important event and stay tuned for more information. Over the next four months, NOAA Fisheries will be posting additional features and information relevant to the Managing Our Nation's Fisheries 3 conference. We will keep you posted.
MCDONALD’S ADOPTS MSC CERTIFICATION
In recognition of its ten year commitment to sustainable fishing practices, McDonald’s USA announced today it would become the first national restaurant chain to adopt the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) blue ecolabel on its fish packaging in restaurants nationwide. As one of the largest single buyers of fish in the US, McDonald’s scale will help assure that growing seafood demands are balanced with MSC’s responsible sourcing practices to maintain the health and sustainability of fish stocks for the future. Sustainable fish sourcing is part of McDonald’s broader commitment to sustainable sourcing and 100 percent of all fish sold in its US restaurants has been certified sustainable. McDonald’s, which uses MSC certified wild-caught Alaska Pollock for its Filet-O-Fish sandwich, will begin displaying the MSC ecolabel on product packaging, in-restaurant communications and external marketing beginning in February 2013.
This information was compiled by Dave Burrage, Chris Boyd, Peter Nguyen and Benedict Posadas. For more information, visit our office at 1815 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 39532 or telephone (228) 388-4710.
MSU Coastal Research and