The Council took final action to establish electronic monitoring (EM) as a part of the North Pacific Observer Program. Under the Council’s preferred alternative, Alternative 2, regulations would be implemented to allow EM to be used for catch estimation. EM would be integrated into the established Observer Program process, by which the Council and NMFS can annually determine the best monitoring tool for the Alaska fixed gear fisheries, in the Observer Annual Deployment Plan. Through that process, the Council and NMFS will consider how to optimize observer and EM deployment for fisheries in the partial coverage category each year, based on an analysis of costs, budget, fishing effort, and monitoring needs. The Council also included Option A in the preferred alternative, which would allow vessels opting in to the EM selection pool to use EM for compliance monitoring when fishing IFQ or halibut CDQ in multiple areas.
The Council also specified additional tasking for the EM Workgroup, to continue to track the EM program over the next two years through the transition to implementation. Specifically, the Council directs the Workgroup to review the proposed rule for EM integration and provide comments to the Council; provide input to the Council about policy considerations that NMFS should address when developing the Request for Proposals for an EM service provider contract; continue to consider EM program efficiencies, costs and cost optimization, working closely with the Observer Program on EM metrics in the Annual Report and the Annual Deployment Plan; and review and provide feedback on EM research and development projects.
The Council also noted that there will be opportunities to discuss costs in the partial coverage category of the Observer Program more generally in conjunction with rebidding the human observer contract, which expires in 2019. The Observer Program will be developing a timeline for developing a combined EM and observer provider contract in early 2017, and the Council will be informed of the appropriate timing and mechanism for providing input into the Request for Proposals at the June 2017 Council meeting. It is likely that the Council will need to provide any input by October 2017. Staff contact is Diana Evans.