NPFMC Shares Future of Electronic Monitoring Program with Fishermen

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is trying to figure out the best way to use video and camera technology for catch monitoring, and it’s on the brink of transitioning into a regulated program.

Members of the council spoke at ComFish last week and elaborated on its efforts.

Bill Tweit, council vice chair, explained they’ve been working on the partial coverage fleet – the vessels that get observer coverage only some of the time.

“Again I think a lot of you are aware that when we restructured the observer program, we extended the size range of boats that are likely to be covered for catch monitoring purposes by an observer, and that’s definitely created some issues around how you fit a human observer onto a fairly small fishing boat, and we knew at the time that it was probably going to be a little problematic, so we’ve trying hard to provide electronic monitoring as an alternative to that.”

They’ve been experimenting with that alternative over the last few years, said Jennifer Mondragon, who’s with the Catch Accounting and Data Quality Branch of the National Marine Fisheries Service. They’re now in the comment period for the program’s proposed rules.

Mondragon said the goal of the program is catch accounting, or using data to estimate catch and bycatch, rather than policing the fleet. Brent Priestas, with the National Marine Fisheries Service enforcement division, echoed that and said NMFS doesn’t review the video itself or scope for minor violations.

“The review takes place down in Portland and then Anchorage and we don’t actually see it. We have mentioned concerns to the reviewers that if you see this we would like to know about it, but the primary purpose is not for enforcement.”

He said if they do catch a violation, it’s more likely to result in a phone call rather than a direct fine or other punishment.

As for cost, one provider at the table gave an installment price estimate of 10 to 12 thousand dollars, but Mondragon said, right now, that is coming from either NIMFS’ federal budget or from grants.

“Moving forward, we’ll be transitioning from using the funds that we’ve been getting just for this to the point where we eventually will be using the observer fees that we’re collecting and Bill was talking about how this program is an industry funded program, so it’s the fees that we collect that go to the pay for the observers that will have a budget that will pay for both the observers and the EM program in that integrated program.”

She said the move to that funding system should take place by 2019.

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