Observer fees will increase in GOA, BSAI

Fish fillets freshly cut by Dana Smyke. (July 7, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Fish fillets freshly cut by Dana Smyke. (July 7, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Fees will increase starting in 2021 for partial coverage observer programs of commercial fishing boats throughout the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.

The boost from 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of the fish on board to 1.65 percent was approved during the North Pacific Fishery Management Council ‘s meeting its October meeting in Homer.

The federal fisheries council heard extensive public testimony about controlling costs in the partial coverage observe program before taking action on the fee increase, then approved a motion to set cost efficiency as its highest priority for work on the program.

The council prioritized several immediate efforts to consider how to potentially lower costs and yet increase coverage rates for monitoring, by developing the pelagic trawl electronic monitoring program, integrating electric monitoring and observer data for fixed gear, and optimizing the size and composition of fixed gear observed and electronic monitoring fleets, noted Diana Evans, deputy director, in council notes.

The council at length decided that because observer program data is foundational to the council’s management program that additional revenue and mechanisms to reduce costs would be needed to address projected revenue shortfalls identified in the analysis.

The amount selected will improve the stability of the program, increase the fee in an equitable way across gear sectors and ensure that the monitoring objectives will continue to be met, Evans said.