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NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments on an Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit to Test Traps Targeting Lionfish in South Atlantic Federal Waters

December 30, 2021

FB21-094: South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Kelli O’Donnell, 727-824-5305,

Key Messages:

  • NOAA Fisheries is accepting comments on an application for an exempted fishing permit from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.  The applicant proposes to test non-containment fish traps (Figure 1) to harvest lionfish from South Atlantic federal waters off Monroe County, Florida, year round. 
  • This study intends to examine the effectiveness and performance of non-containment trap designs for capturing lionfish compared to spiny lobster traps, with the goal of identifying the best non-containment trap modification to maximize lionfish catch and reduce bycatch of other species.


Project Description:

  • The Reef Environmental Education Foundation would contract commercial lobster fishermen and their vessels and State of Florida research scientists and their vessels, with experience fishing within the study area and in the catch and handling of lionfish.
  • Sampling would occur in depths from 100-300 feet between Alligator Reef to Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys, 50 trips per year total, for the duration of the exempted fishing permit.
  • Non-containment lionfish traps would be fished with standard spiny lobster traps. 
  • Spiny lobster traps would have a current endorsement, stamp, or certification.
  • Both trap types would be fished singularly or in a trawl configuration (with two surface lines and buoys per trawl) with some traps being outfitted with cameras and/or hydrophones.
  • Vessels would deploy no more than 100 non-containment traps in the water at any given time and soak times would vary, but not exceed 21 days per deployment. 
  • Vessels would deploy no more than 100 non-containment traps and no more than 100 spiny lobster traps in the water at any given time during the spiny lobster closed season. Soak time would remain the same year round.
  • Data to be collected per trip would include:  gear configuration and fishing effort data (e.g., date and time of deployment and retrieval, latitude, longitude, and water depth of each deployed trawl); soak time; trap loss and movement from original set position; protected species interactions; bycatch species, amount, length, and disposition; and catch data for each trap type. 


Examples of non-containment lionfish traps.
Examples of non-containment lionfish traps.


Figure 1: Examples of non-containment lionfish traps.


NOAA Fisheries finds this application warrants further consideration, and is seeking public comment on the application.  A final decision on issuance of the exempted fishing permit will depend on NOAA Fisheries' review of public comments received, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils’ recommendations, consultations with the affected states, and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as a determination that it is consistent with all applicable laws.


How to Comment on the Application:

The comment period is open now through January 14, 2022.  You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail.  Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.

Application information:

Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the e-Rulemaking portal. 

1. Go to and enter “NOAA-NMFS-2021-0119” in the Search box.  

2. Click the "Comment" icon, complete the required fields.

3. Enter or attach your comments.

Mail:  Submit written comments to Kelli O’Donnell, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

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Other contacts:

Media: Kim Amendola, 727-551-5707

            Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750 


Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on December 30, 2021