Understanding the Regional Classification System for NOAA Permits

NOAA Permits

If you own and operate a commercial fishing business, you will need to have the appropriate NOAA permits that make it legal to do so. However, it’s not as simple as just applying for a license. You will need to be sure you file for the correct one, based on the region where you fish and the species that you are fishing for. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or confused, we can help. Use this guide to help you get through the process with ease. 

Federal Fishing Permits

Federally issued commercial fishing permits are issued based on region. On top of that, each state in that region likely has its own set of regulations and guidelines that you must adhere to. Knowing the regions is a great first step because it allows you to determine which fishing permit you should apply for. Keep in mind that if you fish in more than one region, you will need the appropriate license for each region. The regions are as follows:

  • Alaska
  • Southeast
  • New England/Mid-Atlantic
  • West Coast
  • Pacific Islands
  • Atlantic Highly Migratory Species

Let’s look at them each a little closer.


Because of the host of ecological concerns that are present in Alaska’s ocean, there are a range of federal permits that you must pay attention to here. At the same time, there are also requirements for state permits that you must adhere to. 


The southeast region encompasses many southeastern states (each of which may have its own set of guidelines). They include Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina and Iowa. You will also need a federal permit for this region. 

New England/Mid-Atlantic

There are a whole range of fishing areas in this region, which is found in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. This region also contains Lake Michigan. Again, each state may have its own set of guidelines so be sure you know which permits you need. 

West Coast

On the other side of the United States, you’ll find the West Coast region. States that are a part of this area include those along the Pacific coast – Oregon, Washington, and California, as well as Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho. In order to fish in this area, be sure you apply for the West Coast permit.

Pacific Islands

This region covers the Hawaiian islands, an area with a very delicate ocean ecosystem, which means there are additional regulations that you must follow for fishing here. 

NOAA Permits

Atlantic Highly Migratory Species

This permit covers, as the name implies, highly migratory species living in the Atlantic and may be needed in addition to your other permits. The permit covers Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Wondering which NOAA permits you need? Contact the Commercial Fishing Permits Center today for the help that you are looking for. 

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