Reminder of DESCEND Act Requirements and Effective Date

Home Conservation Reminder of DESCEND Act Requirements and Effective Date
Reminder of DESCEND Act Requirements and Effective Date

The Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices Act of 2020 (DESCEND Act) requires persons on commercial, for-hire, and private recreational vessels to have a venting tool or descending device rigged and ready to use when fishing for reef fish species in Gulf of Mexico federal waters.  The effective date of the DESCEND Act is January 13, 2022.  NOAA Fisheries has a final rule clarifying the definitions of a descending device and venting tool that will publish January 14, 2022.

When the DESCEND Act will take effect:

  • The DESCEND Act is effective January 13, 2022.

When the Rule will take effect:

The rule will publish on January 14, 2021 and clarifying regulations from that rule will be effective February 14, 2022.

Summary of Requirements:

  • The DESCEND Act:
    • Requires fishermen to have a venting tool or descending device rigged and ready to use when fishing for reef fish by January 13, 2022.
    • Applies to fishing for reef fish from commercial vessels, charter vessels and headboats, and private recreational fishing vessels.
    • Allows fishermen to choose which device to have rigged and ready for use.
    • Does not prevent fishermen from carrying both types of devices as a fisherman may find that they favor certain devices for individual situations.
    • The descending device and venting tool requirements expire on January 13, 2026.
  • Descending Device:
    • An instrument capable of releasing a fish at the depth from which the fish was caught.
    • It must be rigged and ready for use when fishing.
    • It is a weighted hook, lip clamp, or box that will hold the fish while it is lowered to depth.
    • The rule sets a minimum of a 16-ounce weight and a minimum length of 60 feet of line attached to the descending device.
  • Venting tool:
    • Must be capable of penetrating the abdomen of a fish to release the excess gases accumulated in the body cavity when a fish is retrieved from depth.
    • Must be a sharpened, hollow instrument that allows air to escape, such as a hypodermic syringe with the plunger removed.
    • The rule sets as a minimum a 16–gauge needle, which has an outside diameter of 0.065 inches, as the minimum diameter hollow tube that must be used.
    • Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishermen may also choose to use a larger diameter hollow needle because it will allow air to escape from a fish faster.
    • A tool that is not hollow, such as a knife or an ice pick, does not meet the requirements of a venting tool, and must not be used to vent a fish.

This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.

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