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Q: Are there any conditions under which I am allowed to fillet, at sea, the fish I catch in the Gulf of Mexico EEZ?

A: Federal regulations generally required that all finfish taken from the Gulf of Mexico EEZ be kept with heads and fins attached through landing and offloading. However, there is an exception for personal consumption, per 50CFR Section 622.38(d)(2), which states:

Legal-sized finfish possessed for consumption at sea on the harvesting vessel are exempt from the requirement to have head and fins intact, provided:

* such finfish do not exceed any applicable bag limit

* such finfish do not exceed 1.5 lb of finfish parts per person

* the vessel is equipped to cook such finfish on board

Additionally, shark, swordfish, and tuna species may have head and fins removed under certain conditions (see the 2006 Compliance Guide for details).

Bait is exempt from the head and fins attached rule; however, reef fish cannot be used as bait.