Electronic monitoring option coming for more harvesters

Federal fisheries officials plan to integrate electronic monitoring into the North Pacific Observer Program in 2018, making it available to more harvesters who may not have space on their vessels for a NOAA Fisheries observer.

EM systems use cameras and associated sensors to record and monitor fishing activities-work traditionally done by human observers placed onboard commercial fishing vessels to collect data.

The information is crucial to sustainable management of Alaska’s multi-billion dollar fisheries.  NOAA Fisheries restructured the North Pacific Observer Program in 2013 to allow, for the first time, placing fisheries observers on small boats between 40 and 60 feet, and boats harvesting halibut in Alaska.  Given space limits, some small boat owners and operators advocated to use an EM system instead.

Boat owners worked with NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop the EM technology that works best in Alaska to collect fishery data.

Under NOAA’s final rule, which was published Aug. 8 in the Federal register and is effective on Sept. 7, EM technology will only be available to owners and operators of fixed gear vessels in the “partial coverage category” of the observer program, in which NOAA Fisheries places observers on randomly selected vessels.  Vessels in the full coverage category are required to have observers on board. Full coverage vessels have separate requirements for video monitoring systems for compliance monitoring purposes only, not catch estimation.

Participation in EM is voluntary. Each year vessel owners or operators would need to apply by Nov. 1 to participate in EM rather than carrying an observer.

For more information, log on to http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/