At the core of the North Pacific fisheries management system is a comprehensive, industry-funded data collection and monitoring program that uses onboard observers and electronic monitoring (EM). Fisheries monitoring data plays an important role in the Council’s decision-making process by supporting scientists to better understand the fisheries and give sound harvest and management advice, as well as supporting analysts as they evaluate the potential impacts of policy decisions made by the Council. Thus, these data ultimately allow the Council to manage fisheries accurately to avoid overfishing or exceeding bycatch limits which has a direct, positive impact on the various fleets’ ability to harvest their allocations effectively.
The North Pacific Observer Program was restructured in 2013, which changed how observer coverage is funded and the observer coverage requirements for processors and vessels. All sectors of the groundfish fishery, including previously uncovered sectors such as vessels less than 60 feet in length overall (LOA) and the commercial halibut sector, are now included in the Observer Program. All vessels and processors in the groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska fall into one of two observer coverage categories: (1) full coverage, where vessels must have at least one observer onboard 100% of the time, paid for directly by industry, and (2) partial coverage. In the partial coverage category, NMFS determines when and where to deploy observers or EM according to management and conservation needs and based on a scientifically defensible deployment plan. Funds are provided through an industry fee equal to 1.65% of the retained value of groundfish and halibut in fisheries subject to partial coverage. More information on the current observer program is also available on the NMFS website’s observer page.
More recently, in 2018, the Council took action to implement EM as a monitoring tool in the partial coverage category for fixed gear vessels. The 2021 fixed gear EM pool is 169 vessels targeting either groundfish or halibut. In June 2021, the Council took action to initiate analysis to implement EM on pollock catcher vessels using pelagic trawl gear and tender vessels transporting pollock catch in the eastern Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Pelagic trawl pollock catcher vessels carrying EM are operating under an exempted fishing permit (EFP), that combines EM systems that provide at-sea monitoring of vessels for compliance with fishery management objectives to achieve maximized retention, electronic reporting of catch and discard information, and shore side observers to monitor salmon bycatch and collect biological information.
SPECIES AFFECTED (involved/targeted)
All groundfish and halibut fisheries in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska.
Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC). The Council created the PCFMAC in October 2019 to evaluate options to address cost efficiencies and low sampling rates in the partial coverage sector. The staff contact is Sara Cleaver.
Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC). The FMAC convenes industry members, agency representatives, observers, and observer/EM coverage providers to advise the Council on issues specific to all types of monitoring in Alaskan fisheries. The staff contact is Sara Cleaver.
Trawl EM Committee. The Trawl EM Committee brings together industry members, agency representatives, and EM service providers to collaboratively design, test, and develop electronic monitoring systems in the Alaska trawl catcher vessel fisheries. The staff contact is Anna Henry.