Passports for Offshore Fishermen and Sailors

Carry your passport whenever you are on a deep sea fishing trip or a sail out into the open ocean

Planning a deep sea fishing trip or a sail out into the open ocean? You may need to pack your passport along with your sunscreen and life jacket.

The United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty, which has been in effect since 1994, gives nations sovereignty over the waters for 12 nautical miles (13.8 miles or 22.2 kilometers) off of their coastline. This means that if you sail out of a US port, you are still in the United States until you are more than 12 nautical miles offshore. Beyond that, you are in international waters… until you get within 12 nautical miles of the coastline of another country.

Fishermen in Southern California were recently surprised by a new Mexican law that requires all anglers fishing in Mexican waters to carry a passport. Since Mexico controls the waters for 12 miles off their coast, this particularly effects popular destinations for fishing charters out of San Diego. The Coronado Islands and the Rockpile, both popular fishing spots for day outings, both are within Mexican territorial waters.

Boat skippers who will be entering Mexican waters will need to apply online for a FMM document that lists the names and passport details for all crew and passengers on the boat. This document costs 332 pesos per person, approximately $21, and is generally built into the price of the fishing charter.

Even if your maritime adventures will not take you into Mexican waters, it is a good idea to carry your passport if you will be venturing into international waters. Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative of 2007, everyone entering the United States must show a passport, even US citizens. Travelers entering the US by sea from nearby destinations such as Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean may use a passport card to enter. The law specifies that boaters do not technically need to carry a passport unless they have docked or gone ashore in another country, but the US Coast Guard has been known to ask sailors to present a passport when they come in from international waters, since the boat may or may not have landed in another nation.

At, we think that a passport card is an ideal addition to every offshore sailor and deep sea fisherman’s gear. It’s portable, it’s waterproof, and it proves your US citizenship beyond a doubt!

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