In 2010, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved an expanded observer program to prioritize ovserver coverage in specific fisheries. That gave the National Marine Fisheries Service the green light to assign observers (through a random selection process) to halibut vessels and groundfish vessels down to 40 feet in length. The NMFS observer program went into effect in 2013.
Many vessels between 40 and 58 feet cannot accommodate ad additional person without leaving behind a crewman or changing their fishing strategy. Therefore, the FCN designed a pilot program to develop an accurate, cost effective, electronic monitoring (EM) system for small longline vessels. The goal is to provide longliners with the option of either EM or human observers to fulfill the at-sea monitoring requirements.
In 2011 and 2012, cameras were installed on six FCN members' boats and on six Homer vessels. The results were collected and analyzed to provide an accurate and cost effective alternative monitoring system.
The program proved that EM systems:
- Are reliable and adaptable to a variety of vessel configurations.
- Allow species level identification for 94% of fish on reviewed hauls.
- Are cost effective: costs, including data analysis, were $198/sea day for Sitka vessels and $332/sea day for Homer vessels.
- Offer substantial savings, when compared to the cost of human observers under the restructured Observer Program.
Download the full report: Electronic Monitoring of Alaska Halibut and Sablefish Quota Share Fisheries
ALFA secured a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, developed a partnership with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and contracted with Archipelago Marine to install EM cameras on longline boats.