Experimental Fishing Permit Program

Under the authority of the California Fisheries Innovation Act of 2018, the Experimental Fishing Permit (EFP) Program fosters innovation and experimentation in California’s commercial and recreational marine fisheries to inform the conservation and sustainable use of the state’s marine resources. The program provides opportunities for fishers and scientific partners to obtain limited, short-term exemptions from state fishing laws and regulations to test and deploy new management approaches or pursue fishery-related research. The California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) currently implement this program through Section 91 and Section 704, Title 14, California Code of Regulations (CCR).

Regulatory Language

The regulatory authority for establishing a state EFP Program is found in Fish and Game Code (FGC) Section 1022. Jointly implemented by the Commission and CDFW, the EFP regulations require that anyone seeking to conduct commercial or recreational marine fishing activities that are otherwise prohibited by state fishing laws or regulations must first obtain an EFP. The Commission may authorize CDFW to issue EFPs to qualified applicants for one or a combination of the following purposes: research, educational, limited testing, data collection, compensation fishing, conservation engineering, and exploratory fishing. Learn how to apply for an EFP.

The full text of the regulations that establish the procedures for application submittal, CDFW review, public review and comment, Commission approval, and CDFW issuance and administration of the EFP can be found in Section 91, Title 14, CCR (effective 4/1/2022). The corresponding fee schedule and forms are established in Section 704, Title 14, CCR (operative 4/1/2022).

How to Apply for an EFP

Below are keys steps of the application process. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact the EFP Coordinator.

Step 1: Complete pre-application consultation. All prospective applicants are encouraged to consult with CDFW before applying.

  • Pre-application consultation must be completed before applying for any of the following:
    • Tier 2 EFP
    • Tier 4 EFP
    • Permit fee reduction option
  • Contact the EFP Coordinator to request pre-application consultation. When submitting your request, please provide the following information to help us prepare for your consultation: project description, proposed list of exemptions from code or regulations, list of questions or concerns, and other information that may help us understand the proposed EFP activity.

Step 2: Complete and submit a written application to the EFP Coordinator.

Step 3: Submit payment of the non-refundable application fee to CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch. Refer to the "Fees" tab for information on payment options.

Application Review and Approval Timeframe

To be considered for approval by the Commission, an application must be reviewed and accepted by CDFW. The application review process cannot begin until both the written application and application fee payment have been received and processed by CDFW, respectively. An overview of the application review process (PDF) is provided below.

  • Unless otherwise notified by CDFW in writing, CDFW will determine if the application is complete within 30 days from the date the application fee clears payment.
  • If the application is determined to be incomplete, CDFW will notify the applicant in writing of any deficiencies in the application or information provided. The applicant may submit an amended application within 10 working days of the notification under the original application fee.
  • When an application is accepted for technical review, CDFW will notify the applicant and transmit the application to the Commission. CDFW will complete technical review and transmit its recommendation, including any permit special conditions, to the Commission for consideration within 60 days from the date of the notification.
  • The Commission will notify interested persons of receipt of an accepted EFP application and receipt of CDFW recommendation.
  • At its next available meeting, but not sooner than 30 days after public notice is given, the Commission will schedule the accepted application and any proposed permit special conditions for consideration.

Note: CDFW may extend its review of an EFP application beyond the 30- and 60-day review period for application acceptance/rejection and technical review, respectively, with notification to the applicant explaining why additional time is required.

EFP Fee Schedule

EFP fees were originally set by regulation in Section 704, Title 14, California Code of Regulations and apply to both commercial and recreational marine fishing activities. These initial fees will be adjusted annually and the current year fees are available on the Department's License and Revenue Branch webpage and may be obtained by contacting the EFP Coordinator.

EFP Fee Item Fee Frequency Description
Application Fee One-time Non-refundable fee required pursuant to subsection 91(c)(2), Title 14, CCR. An amended application may be submitted under the original application within the specified time in subsection 91(d)(1)(A)4., Title 14, CCR.
Initial Permit Issuance Fee One-time Non-refundable fee required for issuance of new permits pursuant to subsection 91(m)(1), Title 14, CCR. This fee may be reduced by 50% under the permit fee reduction option.
Permit Fee
(Tier 1-4)
Annual Non-refundable fee required pursuant to subsection 91(m)(2), Title 14, CCR. For more information on permit tiers, see FAQ on this topic.
Minor Amendment Fee Per request Non-refundable fee required for permit amendments under the purview of CDFW pursuant to subsection 91(k)(2)(A)2., Title 14, CCR.
Major Amendment Fee Per request Non-refundable fee required for permit amendments under the purview of the Commission pursuant to subsection 91(k)(2)(A)3., Title 14, CCR.

Payment Options

  • Online License Sales and Services: Online payments may only be made with a credit or debit card displaying a Visa or Mastercard logo and will include a 5% non-refundable license agent handling fee. Online payments generally take 1-2 business days to clear.
  • Secure Document Upload*: Request a “Secure Document Upload Link” from LRBCOMM@wildlife.ca.gov and note what the payment is for. You will receive a response with a link to securely upload the completed Credit Card Authorization Form (PDF Form). DO NOT SEND YOUR PAYMENT INFORMATION DIRECTLY VIA EMAIL. This process will generally take 1-2 business days to clear.
  • By Mail*: Make check or money order payable to California Department of Fish and Wildlife and mail to: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Attn: License and Revenue Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090. DO NOT SEND CASH. If you are paying by debit/credit card, fill out the Credit Card Authorization Form (PDF Form) and mail it to the address above. Along with form of payment, please note what the payment is for. Allow 15 business days for mailed payments to be processed.
  • In Person: Only checks, money orders, and debit/credit cards displaying Visa or Mastercard logos are accepted at CDFW License Sales Offices. NOTE: TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF CDFW LICENSE SALES OFFICES DUE TO COVID-19. We recommend contacting the CDFW License Sales Office prior to visiting.

*If paying by mail or Secured Document Upload, provide your Contact Information (name, affiliation, mailing address, email, and telephone number) and GO ID or Commercial Fishing License Number. If you do not have a GO ID or Commercial Fishing License Number, provide a copy of DMV ID, passport, military ID, or other acceptable form of identification as listed in Section 700.4, Title 14, CCR. This information is necessary for CDFW to create a new customer profile in ALDS.

Permit Fee Reduction Option

Reduced fees are available through a permit fee reduction option. Under this option, the Commission may, on a project-by-project basis, authorize CDFW to reduce both the initial permit issuance fee and designated permit fee by 50%. For more information, see FAQ on this topic.

To be considered for the permit fee reduction option, applicants must complete the following steps.

Step 1: Determine if your proposal addresses at least one identified conservation or management interest or priority. As an example, listed below are general categories or areas of EFP research that may merit special consideration under the permit fee reduction option.

  • Innovative fishing gear and techniques to reduce incidental capture of non-target species, habitat impacts, and/or interactions with protected species.
  • Data collection to fill essential fishery information gaps or monitoring needs for fisheries and associated habitat.
  • New data or methods to quantify catch and effort and/or standardize data reporting for recreational or commercial fisheries.
  • Other areas of research that may be necessary for the purpose of fishery management pursuant to FGC Section 7050.

Step 2: Request and complete pre-application consultation.

Step 3: Submit a complete written application packet that includes a request for permit fee reduction option.

Reporting

All EFP holders are required to submit annual reports and a final report to CDFW. The reports provide documentation of the EFP project performance, results, and recommendations. Outlined below are the general reporting requirements.

  • Annual report containing:
    • A summary of findings and activities completed during the term of the permit.
    • Any additional information required as part of the permit special conditions.
  • Final report containing:
    • A summary describing the EFP project and its outcomes.
    • A discussion of the results and findings, including any conclusion on the effectiveness of the authorized activities in achieving the goals of the EFP project and recommendations for management.
    • Any additional information required as part of the permit special conditions.
    • A list of all key participants on the EFP.
    • Any scientific reports or documents created as a result of the authorized activities.

Unless otherwise specified in the permit special conditions, all reports must be electronically submitted to the CDFW EFP Coordinator.

It is imperative that reports are submitted on time – late or incomplete reports may affect permit renewal and eligibility to participate on future EFP projects. See Form and Documents for samples of the annual and final reports.

General FAQs

What is an Experimental Fishing Permit (EFP)?

An EFP is a permit approved by the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) and issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to allow commercial or recreational marine fishing activities that would otherwise be prohibited under current state fishing laws. Specifically, these permits will be authorized for one or a combination of the following purposes: research, education, limited testing, data collection, compensation fishing, conservation engineering, and exploratory fishing. An EFP exempts a permittee only from those state fishing laws and regulations authorized under the permit. All other applicable laws and regulations remain in effect.

What are the primary differences between compensation fishing, conservation engineering, and exploratory fishing?

The terms “compensation fishing,” “conservation engineering,” and “exploratory fishing” are defined in Fish and Game Code Section 1022, subdivision (h).

Compensation fishing allows fish to be retained (for recreational or commercial fishing purposes) and sold (commercial fishing license required) as part of the authorized EFP activity. The location, time, and type and maximum amount (weight or number) of fish that may be taken under an EFP where compensation is authorized will be specified under the permit special conditions (for additional information, see EFP Projects – What permit special conditions will be included in my EFP?).

Conservation engineering allows for the development and testing of new fishing gear and techniques or assessment of existing fishing gear or techniques applied in novel ways. Fish taken under this authorization are subject to applicable laws and regulations, unless otherwise specified under the special conditions of the EFP.

Exploratory fishing allows for data collection or other research to assess the sustainability and feasibility of future commercial or recreational fisheries (e.g., potential opening of a new fishery or an area currently closed to fishing). Tier 3 and 4 permits that allow exploratory fishing may include other authorized purposes, such as compensation fishing and/or conservation engineering.

How do EFPs and Scientific Collecting Permits (SCPs) differ?

While there may be some overlap in purposes of the permits, the following are key differences between EFPs and SCPs:

  • Provisions concerning commercial and consumptive activities. SCP regulations specify that wildlife shall only be taken and/or possessed for scientific or educational purposes. Commercial sale, trade, or barter of wildlife taken or possessed is prohibited under the SCP. By contrast, these activities may be authorized for the purpose of compensation fishing or exploratory fishing under the EFP.
  • Application review and approval. EFPs are subject to review by CDFW and approval by the Commission while SCPs are reviewed and approved by CDFW.
  • Permit duration and renewal. EFPs are valid for 12 months from the date of issuance and may be renewed annually up to three times (for a project span of four consecutive years) if the EFP holder meets the requirements of subsection 91(n), Title 14, California Code of Regulations (CCR) (for additional information, see EFP Projects FAQs - When does my permit expire and how do I renew it?). SCPs are valid for three years from the date of issuance for entity and individual permitholders or one year from the date of issuance for student permitholders. A permitholder may apply for renewal pursuant to subsection 650(k), Title 14, CCR.

If you are unsure of what type of permit you need to apply for, please contact the EFP Coordinator.

Which species can I take with an EFP?

Any target or incidental take of species under the authority of the EFP must be approved by the Commission as part of the special conditions of the permit (see EFP Projects – What permit special conditions will be included in my EFP?). Applicants must provide a list of species (target and incidental) expected to be taken under the EFP, including the proposed amount and disposition. Take of any species designated as protected, threatened, or endangered is prohibited.

Which permit – a state EFP or a federal exempted fishing permit – do I need for my project?

While both the state EFP and federal exempted fishing permit allow for marine fishing activities that would otherwise be prohibited by applicable laws or regulations, the permit that you will need for your project depends on the management authority of the affected species or fishery. For example, the state EFP applies exclusively to state managed marine species. If you are unsure whether you need a state or federal EFP, please contact the EFP Coordinator.

Who should I contact to learn more about the EFP Program?

For questions pertaining to the EFP Program, please contact the EFP Coordinator.

Applying for an EFP FAQs

How do I apply for an EFP?

Applicants will need to complete pre-application consultation (if required) and submit a complete written application packet and payment of the application fee to CDFW. There are no deadlines to apply for an EFP. For more detailed information, click on the “Application” tab.

Who can apply for an EFP?

An individual or an entity (e.g., corporation, firm, partnership, association, institution, or affiliation) may apply for an EFP. If the applicant is an entity, an entity administrator must be designated as a point of contact for matters concerning the EFP.

How do I know which permit tier to apply for?

There are four permit tiers, the purpose of each is defined in subsection 91(m)(2), Title 14, CCR. Use the permit tier decision tree (PDF) to determine which of the four permit tiers apply to your EFP project. Each permit tier matches the purpose of the EFP project with whether it will be facilitated by CDFW. If you are unsure how these permit tiers apply to your project, please contact the EFP Coordinator.

What is pre-application consultation?

Pre-application consultation is a free, risk reducing first step in the application process. It is intended to provide helpful guidance to prospective applicants to navigate the application process and provide preliminary feedback on EFP project proposals prior to submittal of the application. The quality and quantity of the information provided will have a direct impact on the ability of staff to understand the proposal and formulate appropriate and useful guidance.

Pre-application consultation is required if the applicant is requesting: a Tier 2 or Tier 4 permit and/or permit fee reduction option; however, all prospective applicants are encouraged to contact CDFW to discuss their proposal prior to applying for an EFP.

To request a pre-application consultation meeting, contact the EFP Coordinator.

I am interested in taking part in an EFP project. How can I find out about collaborative EFP research opportunities?

The EFP Program relies on the willingness and desire of fishers, research entities, conservation organizations, fishing industry, and other stakeholders to conduct collaborative research to fill data gaps and generate new scientific information to help inform marine fisheries management. CDFW recommends actively seeking out partners to collaborate on specific topics of interest. As a start, check out our list (subsection 91(m)(3)(A), Title 14, CCR) of general categories of EFP research that may merit special consideration under a permit fee reduction option. Prospective applicants are encouraged to reach out to the EFP Coordinator with questions or to discuss potential project ideas.

What type of assistance or support will CDFW provide on an EFP project?

Applicants may seek scientific and/or technical support from CDFW under Tiers 2 and 4 EFPs. (For additional information on permit types, see Applying for an EFP – How do I know which permit tier to apply for?)

Under the special conditions of these permits, CDFW may assume responsibilities or duties to oversee completion of specific aspects of an EFP project. The scope of CDFW facilitation of an EFP project must be mutually agreed upon by the applicant and CDFW before application submittal, as part of the pre-application consultation (for additional information, see Applying for an EFP – What is pre-application consultation?).

In addition, a permit fee reduction option is available for EFP projects that align with state conservation or management interests and priorities. (For additional information, see EFP Fees – What is the permit fee reduction option?)

How long does it take to get approved for an EFP?

The length of time from application review by CDFW to approval by the Commission may vary by project. However, CDFW has a 90-day (30-day application completeness check and 60-day technical review) target for reviewing EFP applications and transmitting its recommendation to the Commission. The public must be allowed at least 30 days to review and comment on the EFP application and CDFW recommendation. Not sooner than 30 days after the public is notified of CDFW recommendation, an accepted application will be scheduled for consideration at the next available Commission meeting.

How will I be notified that my EFP application has been approved or denied?

If your application has been approved by the Commission, CDFW will mail to you for signature a completed form DFW 1103 that specifies the authorizations, standard terms, and special conditions of the permit. Your permit will be issued once the CDFW License and Revenue Branch has received a signed and dated copy of form DFW 1103 and payment of the applicable EFP fees.

If a permit application is denied, the Commission will notify you in writing of the reason(s) for the denial no later than 60 days from the date of the decision.

Is there a cap on the number of EFPs CDFW will issue?

CDFW will issue EFPs upon application approval by the Commission. Currently, there is no cap on the number of EFPs that may be issued at any one time. However, in making a recommendation to the Commission for approval or denial of an EFP application, CDFW may consider its functional capacity and staff resources to help carry out (for Tiers 2 or 4 EFP only) or oversee new projects (for all permit tiers) in combination with its capability to efficiently maintain ongoing or existing responsibilities and commitments. For this reason, prospective applicants are required to consult with CDFW prior to applying for a Tier 2 or 4 EFP (for additional information, see Applying for an EFP – What type of assistance or support will CDFW provide on an EFP project?).

EFP Fees FAQs

How much will the pre-application consultation cost?

Pre-application consultations with CDFW are free.

What are the costs associated with obtaining an EFP?

EFP Fees were originally set by regulation in Section 704, Title 14, California Code of Regulations. These initial fees will be adjusted annually and the current year fees are available on the Department's License and Revenue Branch webpage and may be obtained by contacting the EFP Coordinator.

There are three main associated costs with an EFP:

  • application fee 
  • initial permit issuance fee, and
  • annual permit fee, which will depend on the permit tier (i.e., Tier 1, 2, 3, or 4) approved for the EFP project

Fee reductions may be considered on a project-by-project basis (for additional information, see EFP Fees FAQs - What is the permit fee reduction option?).

What is the permit fee reduction option?

In the spirit of collaboration, the permit fee reduction option allows CDFW to absorb 50% of the cost of the annual permit fee for EFP projects developed in consultation with CDFW and deemed by CDFW to be of high conservation or management interest. Pursuant to the EFP regulations, the Commission may grant the permit fee reduction option as recommended by CDFW on a project-by-project basis. The permit fee reduction option is provided to further incentivize and advance research under the EFP Program. The permit fee reduction option will also reduce the initial permit issuance fee by 50%.

Contact the EFP Coordinator to find out if your project qualifies for the fee reduction option.

EFP Projects FAQs

Who needs to be listed on an EFP?

In addition to the EFP holder, any person who will be conducting authorized activities independent of the EFP holder will need to be named on the permit as an authorized agent. The authorized agent may serve in place of the EFP holder for all activities requiring the presence or action of the EFP holder. In addition, all vessels operating under the EFP will be required to be identified on the permit. Crewmembers working for the EFP holder or authorized agent are not required to be named on the permit but may be required to possess a crewmember license, as determined by the special conditions of the EFP.

Aside from an EFP, what other permits might I need for my project?

This will depend on the specifics of your project. It is recommended to contact the EFP Coordinator for a pre-application consultation to address any questions or concerns about your project.

What permit special conditions may be included in my EFP?

Unlike the permit standard terms that apply to all EFPs, special conditions are specific to an EFP project and may be added to the permit for research purposes and to ensure the conservation of marine resources and the environment. The following general categories are provided as examples of the types of special conditions and are not meant to be an exhaustive list.

  • The maximum amount and size of each species that can be caught, harvested and/or landed during the term of the project, including trip, annual or other harvest limitations.
  • The time(s) and place(s) where authorized activities may be conducted.
  • A citation of current fishing laws and regulations from which the permit is exempted.
  • The type, size, and amount of gear that may be used by each person or vessel operating under the EFP, and any other restrictions placed on the gear.
  • The number, size, name, and identification number of the vessels or persons authorized to conduct fishing activities under the EFP and whether additional fishing permits or licenses are required.
  • The method in which vessel or gear should be marked or identified to indicate the activity is operating under a current EFP.
  • Any necessary procedures and/or equipment to be used to monitor and track the authorized activities, collect data, or provide for personnel safety.
  • Data reporting requirements for the authorized activities including the method, content, format, and timeframe for submitting data to CDFW.
  • Other conditions as may be necessary to ensure compliance with Section 91, Title 14, CCR, or FGC Section 1022.

When does my permit expire and how do I renew it?

An EFP is valid for 12 months and may be renewed annually up to three times. To renew, the permittee is required to submit a written request to CDFW at least 60 days before the permit expiration date and pay the designated annual permit fee on or before the permit expiration date.

Does my permit need to be on board when I am conducting EFP fishing activities?

Yes, the permittee or authorized agent must have a valid copy of the EFP attached to a signed copy of form DFW 1103 in possession when activities are conducted under the permit.

How will data from my EFP project be used by CDFW?

Timely and reliable data are critical for understanding the status of a resource and sustainable fisheries management. Information developed from an EFP may be used by CDFW to support regulatory change proposals or other management actions.

CDFW views fishing under the EFP as a privilege beyond recreational or commercial fishing, as the EFP Program allows activity that is otherwise unlawful as a tool for informing fisheries management that can significantly improve practices and outcomes across all fishing sectors. As such, permittees are required to collect data and provide annual and final reports to CDFW. Because EFPs are experimental and exploratory in nature, there is no guarantee of increased fishing opportunities or regulatory change following the completion of the experimental period.

Can I make changes to my EFP?

Yes, because the purpose of the EFP is to discover the characteristics of experimental fishing activities while active on the water, permittees may request permit amendments at any time during the term of the EFP by writing to the EFP Coordinator, explaining the reason for the amendment and paying the applicable non-refundable amendment fee.

The type of amendments that may be requested are:

  • Administrative updates (no fee). Changes to contact, affiliation, or vessel information.
  • Minor amendments. Changes to the EFP that are subject to the limitations described in subsection 91(k)(1)(A), Title 14, CCR (e.g., proposed reduction in the amount and type of species to be taken, geographic extent of fishing, amount or type of gear to be used, or changes to authorized agents or vessels).
  • Major amendments. Changes to the EFP that exceed the allowances placed on the permit concerning subsection 91(k)(1)(A) Title 14, CCR.

Administrative updates and minor amendments are subject to review and approval by CDFW while major amendments are subject to public review and Commission action.

How do I find out about proposed or current EFP projects?

Please visit the Fish and Game Commission website to find EFP applications that have been transmitted to the Commission for consideration. If you would like to receive EFP notifications from the Commission, please contact fgc@fgc.ca.gov.

Forms and Documents