How to Start a Fishing Business with the Right Documentation

Let’s face it: office life is not for everyone. If you do not see yourself in a cubicle, toiling away on a computer all day, there are plenty of other avenues for generating a living. If angling is your true passion in life, you may wish to consider starting your own commercial fishing business. Launching such an entrepreneurial venture allows you to spend your days out at sea, catching and selling the fish of your choice. Of course, this can also be a physically demanding line of work, and you will need to be prepared to be away from land for long stretches of time. There are also paperwork matters to take care of such as obtaining the correct commercial fishing permits. If you think this is the right career path for you, you will want to know more about how to start a fishing business.

How to Start a Fishing Business

If you are thinking about turning commercial fishing into your profession, you probably have a fair amount of experience with casting lines and setting traps. You may also know where to fish, as well as how to best catch your desired haul. While that sort of experience will be instrumental to your success, you will also need to have a certain base-level understanding of how to operate a business. A good place to start on this educational journey is having a grasp on which permits you will need.

Working with the NOAA and State Agencies

In figuring out which permits and licenses that your business needs, you may be curious about where to turn to get them. For commercial fishing, different jurisdictions will be responsible for issuing different permits. In more simple terms, the permits you will require can depend on whether or not you are fishing on federal or state waters.

Generally speaking, the area from zero to three nautical miles from shore will fall within the jurisdiction of your state. Anything from three to 200 nautical miles out will be federal waters. Since you need to go wherever the fish are biting, you may want to have permits for both areas, just to cover your bases.

Your individual state will have an agency that is tasked with issuing fishing permits and licenses. These agencies are often called Departments of Natural Resources (DNR), or something similar. As every state will have different permit requirements for commercial fishermen, you will want to acquaint yourself with your region’s specific laws.

If you find yourself in federal waters, you will need to obtain permits from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA, in addition to issuing storm warnings and weather forecasts, is also responsible for the management of coastal fisheries. This government agency is tasked with a number of important duties to the American people, and one of their central missions is to monitor and preserve the health of our fisheries for future generations to enjoy.

Commercial Fishing Permits for Every Region

As the United States features an ample amount of coastline, there are many different fisheries that fall within federal waters. The NOAA takes an organized approach to navigating these different areas, and they separate out commercial fishing permits by region. These different areas specifically include: Alaska, the Atlantic, the South, the West Coast, and the Pacific Islands.

Within each region, you will find that there are different permits for different species. For example, to fish for Halibut off the coast of Alaska, you will need a specific license. If you browse the navigation bar on our website, you will see that we conveniently organize our permits by region, allowing you to quickly locate precisely what you need.

How to Start a Fishing Business

Obtaining a United States Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation

Beyond permits and licenses that you will need to maintain as an individual, you may also need to document your vessel. If your boat has a net weight exceeding five tons and you will be engaging in commercial activities on federal waters, you will need to register it with the United States Coast Guard (USCG). This is formally called obtaining a USCG Certificate of Documentation. 

To accomplish this, you will need to complete an application for documentation and submit it to the USCG along with proof of ownership (a bill of sale or a state title). Fortunately, we make this easy to do online. As you will see in our top navigation bar, we feature a section devoted solely to USCG documentation, a one-stop hub for you to get all of the forms you need.

Learn How to Start a Fishing Business by Working with Us

At the Commercial Fishing Permits Center, we can help you get your business up and running. Take a moment to explore our site and see which forms you need. If you have any questions, you can contact one of our experienced customer service agents by phone or email today.

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